Interim Ministry, Ministry

No Such Thing as a Wrong Note

Yesterday I had a visit with a friend from college days, and we asked the sorts of questions you do when four years have gone by since the last meeting, about kids and work and pets and extended families. Her husband asked, "Don't you want your own church?"

I have to confess, that's one of the most frustrating questions to be asked, because the answers are "Yes" and "No" and "Maybe."

First, yes. There's a certain appeal to being in a settled call. You have the chance to start things and see them grow, to develop relationships of depth, to live through the cycle of the year and then another and then another, to build trust and be present. Those are all good things.

But second, no. Because the question suggests that there is something "less than" about doing Interim Ministry, and while I would welcome a settled call if that's to be, I don't see what I'm doing now as stop-gap, for me or for the churches I've served.

And third, maybe. When I consider my gifts for ministry and make a list of which suit me to settled ministry and which to transitional ministry, both lists look respectable. A career assessment tool would not answer this question.

Pete seeger "There's no such thing as a wrong note as long as you're singin'."
Pete Seeger said this at his 90th birthday celebration, showing on Public TV as I
write tonight.

Here's what he had them singing:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

I clearly can't see the answer to this question by myself.

And I am left wondering if maybe there's no such thing as a wrong ministry as long as I'm ministering.

8 thoughts on “No Such Thing as a Wrong Note”

  1. Have your “own” church…is such a complicated statment…whose “church” is it anyway? My former parish used to say, “Your organ….” or “Your fridge…” as if I owned the church and not the congregation…sigh….but I digress…

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  2. Awesome. I’m going to write down that quote and ponder it in my own, lay context (there’s no such thing as wrong ministry as long as I’m ministering). AND I’m going to see if I can find that Pete Seeger special also. LOVE. HIM.!

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  3. I can’t tell you how important a gifted interim minister is worth. In my denomination (ELCA) we’re still fighting the “retired pastor who wants to work part time” model, which almost always guarantees the church in question will desperately seek a new pastor just to get someone in the pulpit, no matter how flawed the pastor or the congregation may be. A church nearby that has been floundering for years is currently in this position and has done nothing to help themselves while their retired interim puts in his two days per week plus Sunday worship. They will be worse, not even keeping things level, for the experience. You’re more precious than gold to your congregations, trust me!

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  4. That would be “how MUCH a gifted interim minister is worth.”
    I should just stop commenting today – that’s the fourth time I’ve missed something obvious. Must be Monday…

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  5. What Scott said about the value of interim ministry. Interim ministry is not only a ministry to the congregation, but to the next pastor as well. The congregation I serve didn’t have an interim between my predecessor and me. They would have been so very well-served by having an interim pastor, and especially since this is my first call, it would have made my first year or so much easier. When I arrived, the very able lay leaders were tired, and basically said, “Here. It’s all yours now.” We’ve dealt with so many issues over a long-term period that I think would have been dealt with more quickly with a gifted interim. If I’m called elsewhere, I will absolutely lift up to them the blessing of having an interim pastor.
    As for myself, I’ve wondered about interim ministry. It seems like there would be more freedom in interim ministry to challenge and give the not-so-gentle-nudges that congregations need from time to time.

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  6. A colleague of mine often says that “all ministry is interim ministry.” Of course, there are nuances to that–some places clearly need an intentional interim period between clergy (for example it sounds like Rev Kim’s setting was one). But overall, even for those with settled calls, they are not forever. Nor should they be, I think. I work with a senior pastor who has been here for seventeen years; I’ve been here six. I think it’s getting to be too long for both of us–in terms of being good for the congregation. I think there is a sense that we need to help congregations realize that it’s God’s church and their context for ministry. And so, I agree with you–there’s no such thing as a wrong ministry if we are truly ministering.

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  7. You do have a church of your own. You find hurting people who have lost a minister, and you go in and take care of them until they are ready do move ahead with a new minister. This is an awesome ministry in itself. For over a year we had to make do with just ourselves, and while we kept things going, we could have used a songbird right about then. Don’t think what you are doing is less than something else. It is exactly right for you.

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  8. I think there’s no such thing as a wrong ministry, and sometimes when you can’t decide between two directions you just have to believe that the opportunity that presents itself is the right one. (Like a good detective, I believe there’s no such thing as a coincidence!)

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