I’m not sure how it is with most denominations, but in the PCUSA, it seems to take forever to call a new pastor. We have watched it happen in our neck of the woods over and over again lately. A church—a really good, healthy church—goes without a pastor for two to three years.
What’s going on? I often hear different reasons for the delay.
Often, the church has had some trauma, and they have to go through a long period of self-examination and reflection before they can call another pastor.
Or it’s just hard for the nominating committee to find the time to do what they need to do, considering that they’re volunteers.
Sometimes, the committee is overwhelmed by the number of applicants. They look at the huge stack of resumes and they don’t even know where to begin.
Other times, they are completely underwhelmed by the quality of candidates (a complaint that I have very little patience with when I consider my colleagues…).
The upshot is that committees are often taking two to three years to fill a position in which most pastors only stay for two to three years. I understand the logic of having a long interim, but I’m not sure that I agree with it. Why is an extended interim important for healing? Why can’t healing take place with an installed pastor? What is it doing to our congregations to have as much time with an interim as they have with an installed pastor?
A gifted interim is a real treasure, and not always easy to come by. I have followed a couple of interims who were just filling up their retirement hours, using the church for a little something to do. A chance to dust off their sermon file. And their To-Do List did not include any robust transition work at the church. It was more of a hobby job for them.
One man in our congregation, after hearing the travails of a search committee, has talked about starting a head-hunting business for our denomination. Not a bad idea, considering how long it takes for a match to occur, and how often mismatches occur….
So, what could we be doing better? Is an extended interim a healthy solution? How could we make this turn-around time quicker?