Time for a Change


Roy Lobenhofer

Our interim pastor is completing his contract with our church, and we are bringing in a new pastor. During a recent after service coffee hour, another old-timer and I were talking about how it’s going to be difficult for the new pastor. His problem will be how much the interim we’re losing is liked and appreciated. I should explain that because of church regulations, the interim cannot remain although the entire church would like him to do so.

Our conversation got me to thinking about leaving jobs. No one gets to be my age without having lost a boss or two for whatever reason and we’ve all been in organizations when there were changes in leadership. Of course, this isn’t the first transition of ministers we’ve experienced. It seems changes at the top always evoke emotions.

I remember the first time I experienced a change in leadership where I was working. We knew it was coming, he’d announced his pending retirement well in advance. In all honesty, most of us were looking forward to his leaving. He had been head honcho for a long time and developed his way of doing things. Many on staff chaffed under some of his ways of doing things. Ironically, while his replacement did away with some of the things that bothered us, it wasn’t long before many of us realized the new man wasn’t anyway near the leader of the predecessor. We longed for what we had.

Conversely, the first change of pastor I remember, wasn’t looked forward to by many of the congregation. It was understood why the minister was retiring – his wife had health concerns. We all knew his leadership, compassion and sermons were going to be missed. In that case, there was an interim who helped with the transition by being so much less. By the time a replacement pastor was found, many of us were ready for the change even if the new dude didn’t match the original.

This time I’m afraid the circumstances are completely different. The interim replaced a minister who didn’t really meet the needs of many of the congregation. The interim not only answered those needs but also brought leadership that has been missing from the church for many years. In other words, he’s going to be a very tough act to follow. What will the congregation’s reaction to the new pastor be? Time will tell.

I think the important thing for each of us to think about is how will we be viewed when it’s time for us to move on. Will the organization you chaired this year be looking forward to your replacement, or worry if someone is going to be able to do as well as you have? I don’t know how my exiting various positions of leadership was viewed by the organizations, but I’d be honored if any of them had the concerns we have about this interim pastor leaving.

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