Understanding interim ministry
Why might we benefit from Interim Ministry (IM)?
All churches and parishes have their own unique history. They will have experienced numerous changes in this time. The period between one minister and another is always a time of transition; of saying goodbye to the past with thanks and gratitude for what has been good (and learning from what has not been good), and preparing to welcome and embrace the next phase of what God has in store. IM provides a tool for using this time intentionally for reflection, rediscovery of vocation, and even healing, to bring about fruitful change. The goal is to help the people of a church (or parish or benefice) connect afresh with their calling as followers of Jesus, with renewed clarity about their part in God’s mission and the kind of person who will be able to lead and accompany them in fulfilling it.
What is IM?
IM was introduced in the Church of England in 2015 as a specifically authorised ministry, and so is relatively new (having evolved from pioneering work in several dioceses over a number of years). It is used to make relatively short-term appointments for strategic or pastoral reasons – in other words, where there is a specific mission opportunity or pastoral need requiring focussed work, so that the parish or benefice is subsequently better-placed to make a successful appointment for the longer term. An interim appointment is made for a specified period of up to 3 years. This could be followed by a second term of up to 3 years if there is more work to be done (with the same or a new interim minister, and subject to the agreement of all involved).
IM is primarily about helping a parish/benefice through the process of transition to bring about change. For this reason, it’s been suggested that a better name might be ‘transitional ministry’, though for now IM is the chosen term. But don’t be misled! IM is not about making a ‘holding appointment’ or simply covering a gap. Nor is it a ‘trial period’, for the clergy person and the parish to see if they get on together! Those called to IM will usually be people with particular gifts, skills and experience in transition and change management.
How is IM used?
The key principles behind an IM appointment are as follows:<ul> <li>
It is in response to a parish/benefice’s pastoral need or mission opportunity (not the need of the minister);</li><li>
There should be clear understanding and articulation of the benefits of the interim post before an appointment is made;</li><li>
The parish/benefice should be consulted and have accepted that the post supports transition;</li><li>
An IM appointment is not a substitute for a full-time appointment (eg ‘to see if it works’)</li></ul>
When might IM be used?
There are a wide range of circumstances when IM might be used. IM provides the opportunity for a parish/benefice to come to terms with the past (and if necessary discover a fresh identity); to consider its future witness, mission and ministry; to see where and how it needs to change, and to make plans and prepare for the next chapter of its life.
What are the tasks of IM?
The specific tasks will vary according to the particular circumstances in which IM is being considered. But the following are likely to be needed in most cases:<ul> <li>
Helping the parish/benefice to understand and articulate its history;</li><li>
Enabling it to explore its identity and future direction;</li><li>
Bringing about necessary changes in leadership, roles and structures;</li><li>
Helping it to renew its links to the diocese and wider Church;</li><li>
Pointing the way to a new direction</li></ul>
How does IM relate to Oversight Ministry?
Part of the IM’s remit will be to support the parish/benefice as it transitions to being part of a Mission Area under the oversight of its one or more Oversight Ministers (OMs). This will therefore be the background against which the specific tasks of IM are carried out in pursuit of the agreed IM objectives.
Where can I find out more about IM?
If you are interested in understanding more about IM, there is a lot of really helpful information at <font color="#0563c1">www.interimministry.org.uk</font>.
Revd. Julie Bacon
Associate Archdeacon-Transition Enabler for the deaneries of Rotherham and Laughton
Prior to appointment to her current role, Julie was an interim minister in the diocese of Leeds and belongs to an informal national network of IM practitioners.