When your congregation’s regularly called pastor leaves, it enters into the “interim period” – a time for saying goodbye, reflecting on your faith community’s past and discerning God’s purpose for future ministry, and calling a new spiritual leader to guide the congregation into this new season. This can be a very positive and productive time for your congregation.
A congregation whose pastor is leaving is not alone. The Synod has resources to help your congregation journey through a carefully-designed interim process with a specially-trained intentional interim pastor, and using tools and approaches based on current research and the best methods available.
The Synod has developed a comprehensive guide to the Pastoral Transition Process. This guide should be made available to members of the Congregation Council to refer to throughout the process. This guide includes a detailed description of the process, sample communications, checklists, agreements and litanies to accompany leaders through the process.
The flow of the call process in our Synod includes four phases.
Phase One of the interim process begins when a pastor resigns or departs for any reason. As a pastor leaves, it is important to find a way to say goodbye and to begin to define appropriate boundaries so that the congregation is able to receive another individual as the pastor. Phase One ends in the selection of a qualified Interim Pastor.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod has for many years benefited from the collective wisdom, experiences and skills of specially trained Intentional Interim Pastors, who are called by the Synod Council to serve congregations in transition.
Phase Two of the interim process begins with the welcoming of the Interim Pastor. The Intentional Interim Pastor will carry out the work of interim ministry by following a widely-accepted process known as the Five Developmental Tasks for a congregation in transition. Phase Two concludes with the preparation of a package of material called the Congregational Profile, and its submission to and approval by the Synod’s Office of the Bishop.
At this point, the congregation selects a Call Committee. That Call Committee receives the names of possible pastoral candidates in a highly confidential process. After the Call Committee interviews pastoral candidate(s) and hears them preach, it eventually recommends one pastoral candidate to the Council. If the Council agrees, the Council calls a special congregational meeting arranged in cooperation with the Office of the Bishop. If the congregation decides to issue a call to the pastoral candidate, and the pastoral candidate accepts, then he or she becomes the next regularly-called pastor of the congregation.
Throughout the process the congregation has worked to develop its vision of the future to which God is calling it and has called the pastor it believes will lead it in pursuing this vision. Now the congregation welcomes this new pastor. Rather than set aside the work of the transition process, it is important for the pastor and congregation to work on implementation together. The arrival of the next pastor is not a time when “things return to normal,” but is a continuing part of transition.
For more information about the call process contact your conference dean.