Speaking Truth in Love

Zoom interim pastor training preps men to help churches in transition

May 8th, 2020 / By: Rob Collingsworth / comments

Zoom interim pastor training preps men to help churches in transition

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recently held an online Today’s Interim Pastor Training, a program that trains and certifies interim pastors for work at churches throughout the state. 

Tony Wolfe, Director of Pastor/Church Relations for the SBTC, opened the nearly four-hour training that was led by Pastor/Church Relations Associate Alex Gonzales.

Drawing from the example of Titus, whom he referred to as “the New Testament’s interim pastor,” Wolfe encouraged the attendees that they should follow Paul’s instructions to “set right what was left undone and appoint elders in every town.”

“Every pastorless church is pastorless for a reason,” Wolfe said. “Every church has problems, but there’s beauty in that she’s still the bride of Christ. We want you to walk into these churches with the utmost confidence that God is the one who’s going to lead you to set right what’s been left undone with a positive, encouraging attitude, being sent there for this season of interim pastoral transition. 

“You’ll have to make difficult decisions. You’ll have to do the right thing. And you’ll have to do it in an attitude of grace, all the time.”

Today’s Interim Pastor equips men to pastor, preach, shepherd and guide a church through the process of transitioning between pastors, which can often be fraught with difficult emotions and decisions. The SBTC keeps a list of certified pastors to give to churches looking to find an interim pastor, while the decision to choose an interim pastor is left to the autonomous church.

Gonzales said that the half-day trainings, such as the one held last week, provides certification that last for three years before participants must re-certify to remain on the SBTC’s list of approved interim pastors. 

“This keeps the list of interims up-to-date and our potential interims keenly aware of new methods and philosophies of interim pastoral work,” he added.

Gonzales credited SBTC prayer strategist Ted Elmore, who developed much of the curriculum currently used.

“Today’s Interim Pastor normally leads the church to focus on four major issues: authority, governance, unity and mission,” Gonzales said. “Interwoven in those areas leads the interim pastor to help them assess strengths and weaknesses, mend relationships, encourage the spiritual process of revitalization, and spiritual development.”

According to statistics from the SBTC, the average time between pastors in a Baptist church is between nine and eighteen months. This training seeks to better equip men for the task by outfitting them with skills in spiritual discernment, leadership, pastoral care, proclamation, relationships and conflict management.

“There is a sense when you go into an interim where they’re going to look to you for some guidance. And if we don’t channel that responsibility well, there is a sense where we can abuse that,” he said. “Modeling servant leadership is huge.”

Part of a successful interim, Gonzales said, is walking the fine line between successfully leading the church toward closure from the previous pastor while also building a sense of anticipation for the future pastor.

“Leading toward closure should be handled delicately and respectfully and prayerfully, but always thinking about the next guy,” he said. “We view [interim pastorates] as a segue, a preparation, if you will, for the next guy. Everything you do is in preparation for the next pastor. 

“You may find yourself in a church where the church is strong, things are going well, and you may find that there’s not much for you to do other than preaching. Or you may find yourself in a church where there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Gonzales emphasized that two of the requirements for participation in the SBTC’s Today’s Interim Pastor are a one hundred percent commitment to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and membership in an SBTC church.

He also said that, while the convention is important, it ultimately exists to serve the churches.

“This is vital for us to consider at the onset,” he said. “We exist at the pleasure of the church, and we want to make sure the church body is aware of all the benefits and resources available through their affiliation [with the SBTC].”

Like any program, the training provided by the SBTC must continue to adapt to meet the changing needs of churches in our culture.

“The SBTC is always looking for ways to enhance our program,” Gonzales added. “So, prayerfully, in the future we should expect to see some changes to the way we do things.”