September 21st, 2009 at 10:03 am
An empty pulpit doesn’t have to mean an empty sanctuary, according to long-time ministers.
At any given time, roughly 600 Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated churches are without a pastor for any of numerous reasons. A pastor may have retired or moved to serve another congregation. The church may have terminated the pastor. Or it simply may not have enough money to pay someone to permanently fill the pulpit.
Many churches, according to BGCT Pastorless Church Consultant Karl Fickling, view these pastorless periods as times between leaders, but they can be much more.
“They view the interim period as a time to do nothing but tread water and look for a new pastor,” Fickling said. “That means the next pastor will have to face those issues. What we’re saying is that needs to be a time when churches work through their issues, clarify their call and begin to grow.”
If congregations will use times when they do not have a pastor to reflect on who they are and what God is calling them to be, they will be in a much healthier place when they are ready to call a pastor, Fickling noted. They can begin to create a ministry plan for how to accomplish what God is asking of them.
When churches understand who they are, they have a better idea what they want in a pastor, Fickling said. They know their talents, desires and callings. In turn, they have an idea of the type of leader that can get them there.
The BGCT’s Intentional Interim Ministry provides an excellent tool for pastorless churches to use to assess their history, leadership, connections and mission, Fickling noted. Trained, experienced ministers lead the congregations to systematically look at themselves, at their respective communities and to God in laying the groundwork for the future.
Long-time intentional interim minister Jan Daehnert recently praised the intentional interim program for helping revive numerous churches. Though the congregations had to make some tough decisions, churches were brought together under one vision and able to move forward to reach people in the name of Christ.
The intentional interim pastor is a “peacemaker,” a gift Daehnert said he reluctantly has accepted that he has. Interims step in when pastors are under attack and churches are in conflict. They find a way to reunify congregations.
Daehnert and fellow intentional interim statesmen Charles Lee Williamson and Dick Maples recently received the inaugural Dick Maples-Charles Lee Williamson-Jan Daehnert Intentional Interim Award.
If a church is willing to examine itself when it doesn’t have a pastor, it will increase the chances of it hiring the correct person when it is time to call a pastor, Fickling said.
“One of the biggest issues is the pastor and the church were not a good match to begin with,” Fickling said. “Search committees, often all they know is the look for the best preacher they can afford. Pastors often make the mistake of thinking they have a vision for what a church should do and roam from church to church to church looking for a place where that vision will work.”
For more information about the BGCT’s Intentional Interim Ministry program, contact Fickling at 888-244-9400.