Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry in The United Methodist Church

Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry in The United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Endorsing Agency offers ecclesiastical approval for specialized interim pastors who are trained to lead a church through a discernment process and prepare them for the arrival of a new permanent pastor. These Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry Specialists have been recommended by the Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry Specialists Association. UMEA maintains a roster of clergy approved for such specialized interim appointments.

A 92-hour training seminar is required for approval. Training sites available around the country and contact information are listed at tiimsa.org.

When and why is an intentional interim minister needed?

In the United Methodist process of appointing pastors, the successor often arrives the very day the departing pastor moves out. No interval of time passes; no interim pastor is needed. However, interim appointments may be made where there are special transitional needs and those appointments do not have to be clergy within the annual conference.

The appointments are made under ¶338.3 of The Book of Discipline:

Interim appointments may be made to charges that have special transitional needs.

a) Interim clergy may serve outside the annual conference where membership is held under the provisions of paragraph 346.1, with approval and consent of the bishops involved.

b) Interim appointments will be for a specified length of time, established in advance following consultation with the district superintendent, the pastor parish relations committee, and the interim pastor.         

The reality of pastoral change is not always simple. The opening may come at the wrong time. The right successor may not be presently available. The church may be so wounded by the circumstances creating the opening that healing time will be required before it can fully embrace the leadership of a regularly appointed pastor.

A transitional interim ministry specialist significantly increases the possibilities for a congregation experiencing special transitional needs to establish and maintain their positive, forward motion.

Intentional Interim Ministry History

These specialized interims are experienced, mature United Methodist pastors trained for the specialized ministry of the interim time. He or she is appointed by the bishop “for a specified length of time, established in advance” to lead the congregation through a discernment process and prepare them for the arrival of a new pastor.

Transitions may be for healing or grief processing, but they may also be times for congregational course correction, leadership development, re-assessment of mission, and/or times of re-setting the vision.  Transitions may be a time for the settled pastor to be on sabbatical or even called up to service in the military.

Interim Ministry is a not simply pulpit supply.  Supply keeps the doors open for worship and basic ministry functions.  The interim period in critical transitions – whether anticipated or unexpected - is an intentional and intensive time of analysis and re-focusing.  Planned renewal time provides an opportunity for expert guidance and stabilization.  The goal of the interim appointment is to assist the congregation as it moves toward increased health and vitality of ministry.

Possible scenarios for an intentional interim

There are many potential circumstances in which the deployment of an Intentional Interim Ministry Specialist would be especially helpful.  The most obvious ones involve sudden and unexpected trauma, often mid-appointment year, such as the death or disability of a pastor or the removal of a pastor following misconduct.

Other situations which call for specialized leadership include:

  • Departure or retirement of long-term pastor (10-15 years)
  • Observable and/or long-term congregational dysfunction and troublesome congregational conflict
  • Short-term pastoral leaves of absence for medical, family needs or military duty/
  • Any pastoral transition may open the door for the specialized ministry of a TIIMS.

Is Intentional Interim Ministry new for United Methodists?

Yes and no. Interim ministry has been referenced in The Book of Discipline since 1996. However, United Methodist clergy have always served interim appointments (annual conference to annual conference).  The movement of clergy from church to church, a common Interim Ministry characteristic, is not new either.  United Methodist clergy have always been itinerant. 

The new aspect of Intentional Interim Ministry is ministering with intention.  Churches have changed and congregational needs vary from church to church.  Intentional Interim Ministers address the specific needs of each unique congregation, for a specific time period and then move on.

There are currently more than 600 United Methodist pastors who have been introduced  to Interim Ministry, most of whom have completed an Interim Ministry Training Seminar.  Each is encouraged to develop her/his unique ministry gifts and graces – to specialize on a particular aspect of congregational life and minister to congregations in need of these gifts and then move on.  Flexibility and creativity are at the heart of intentional interim appointments and deployment.

  • Some TIIMS are pastors in active status with their conference who are experiencing a call to intentional interim ministry and regard it as a refreshing new career path.
  • Some TIIMS are early retirees or those anticipating retirement who are pleased to be able to continue in the work of ministry in short-term appointments.
  • TIIMS are able to serve full or part-time, in their own conference or across conference lines, from annual conference to annual conference or for some other period of time.
  • All TIIMS have advanced training and specialized skills useful to congregations in special transitional times. 

How does a clergyperson prepare to be available for a transitional interim appointment?

Someone who wants approval as a specialized intentional interim must be clergy in good standing, have five years of experience as a pastor and the recommendation of their district superintendent.

Then, they must complete the 92-hour seminar which is approved by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s United Methodist Endorsing Agency and is conducted by a lead trainer approved by the Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry Specialists Association.

Lead trainers are experienced specialized interim ministers who have completed a Lead Trainer program.  Lead Trainers are designated Lead Trainers by the TIIMS Association and have been approved as transitional interims by GBHEM’s United Methodist Endorsing Agency.

Information about specific training opportunities and lead trainer contact information is available at www.tiimsa.org.

Appointment as a transitional intentional interim is made under ¶338.3 and is made by a bishop.

What are the requirements for UMEA ecclesiastical approval?

  • UM clergy with at least five years of experience as the pastor of a local church.
  • Completion of the three-phase, 92-hour TIIMS training seminar lead by an approved trainer.
  • Senior/lead pastor or solo pastor experience.
  • Recommendations are needed from the bishop and district superintendent, as well as a personal reference from someone who has experienced your pastoral leadership – for example, the chair of the Staff/Parish Relations Committee.

*The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Endorsing Agency maintains the Roster of Approved TIIMS.  For information about application for approval, contact UMEA Director Tom Carter at tcarter@gbhem.org or Stephanie Sturdivant at ssturdivant@gbhem.org.

Many thanks to the original United Methodist TIIMS lead trainers, Dianne Christopher (Iowa), Diane Mitchell (Iowa), and Kenneth Lambert (Texas) for providing the initial information regarding Intentional Interim Ministry in the United Methodist tradition, as well as the support of the Intentional Growth Center (Lake Junaluska, Larry Ousley, Director).  Many thanks to the TIIMS Association for their current and ongoing leadership development.

The TIIMSA website may be accessed at: tiimsa.org.

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