Why should we hire an interim pastor?

By Steve Rice

Published: August 1, 2019

When a pastor resigns or retires, a church begins a process of transition. This process can be a challenging time for a church even when the pastor's departure is expected and healthy. For success during the transition period, most churches should hire a seasoned, interim pastor.

The KBC Church Consulting & Revitalization Team has produced an excellent Search Team Handbook to help a church begin the process of seeking a pastor. If the church needs information about the Search Team process or about hiring an interim pastor, contact their KBC Regional Consultant or contact me by email at steve.rice@kybaptist.org or by phone at 502-489-3434.

8 reasons to hire an interim pastor

1. The church needs consistency. When a church chooses to use guest preachers every week during this time of transition there is no consistency in the pulpit. This approach often leads to tension and confusion in the church. An interim pastor will provide consistent preaching with encouragement, direction and vision.

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2. Protects the doctrine of the church. It is much easier to vet one interim pastor than to vet a different guest preacher every weekend. A church is more open for doctrinal errors when using guest preachers, especially when they consist of laity from the church who have no formal theological training.

3. The church needs time to grieve. When a beloved pastor leaves there is a time of grieving. Church members may not recognize that they are dealing with grief, but they are. It is important for them to work through that process before the new pastor begins so they will be emotionally ready to embrace him once he arrives.

4. There is a leadership void. When a pastor leaves it creates a leadership void. If the church does not hire an interim pastor, two dangers exist. First, the void does not get filled and the church lacks direction. Second, the void does get filled with church members who should not be leading and who are reluctant to relinquish the role once the new pastor is in place.

5. Gives the search team breathing room. The search team looking for the new pastor is under a great deal of pressure. The church has asked them to find their next pastor which is a huge responsibility. Having a good interim in place will relieve some of that pressure and help them to not feel as rushed.

6. Fresh eyes. An interim pastor will have "fresh eyes." He will have the ability and authority to address issues that exist with the facility, worship services, staffing, etc.

7. New ideas. Most interim pastors have years of successful ministry. As a result, they will have lots of new ideas that can help the church continue to move forward during this interim period.

8. Staff guidance. Even the most capable church staff will find it very awkward if nobody is filling the office of "pastor." An interim pastor gives them someone with whom they can talk, plan and consult.


Steve Rice is team leader of Church Consulting and Revitalization of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.