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Interim Ministry Network Conference lends ideas

Ann Eidson, intentional interim at Northshore UCC, recently reported on the 35th Annual Interim Ministry Network Conference she attended in June.

ann eidson

Ann Eidson reports on interim ministry conference.

“Why did I wait so long to do this?” was a question I asked myself several times earlier this month.  I was in Baltimore attending the annual conference of the Interim Ministry Network (IMN).  Since starting as an intentional interim minister in 2009, I’ve had yearly opportunities to attend the national conference, but I didn’t.  This year, I did! I won’t miss another one if I can help it.

The Interim Ministry Network has existed for 35 years, an offshoot of the Alban Institute.  Its mission is to “strengthen the spiritual and organizational health of the church-at-large by equipping and supporting those who lead during times of transition.”  Its vision is that its work should make church bodies “stronger because they have effectively managed transition and are better able to share with their members and society God’s love that brings hope and joy in times of change.”

Intentional interim ministers, trained through the IMN, work with churches to strengthen congregational health, working through intentional phases, setting the stage for a new settled pastor/congregational match and the opportunity for long-term success.   

An intentional interim is defined by the UCC national offices as: “a called position for a temporary term of congregational preparation for a settled pastor search, in which the minister does not typically move church membership…or move standing.” The intentional interim may not be called as the new settled pastor.”

The IMN is the primary source of training and mentoring for interim ministers.  I became aware of their programs during my first interim call.  There are three tiers of training.   

Two courses in the Fundamentals of Interim Ministry, the Work of the Congregation (three days) and the Work of the Interim Leader (five days) are required to be certified as an intentional interim minister.  With experience and mentoring, the minister can then achieve designation as a professional transition specialist.   

Now well into my third intentional interim call, I’m working on that designation.

Over the four days at the IMN annual meeting, I learned new information and skills to enhance the future interim work I do.   

The conference began with a highlight right from the start.  The Rev. Loren Mead, an Episcopal priest and founder of The Alban Institute, spoke to the assembly of about 200 ministers on the current state of “church” in this world and specifically about the critical role he sees interim ministers playing in that world.   

He talked about the major shift in attitudes and expectations of society and how that translates into necessary changes in the ways we “do” church.  There is a major shift going on, but it isn’t the first and won’t be the last.   

The Christian Church has survived for several thousand years and will survive this, albeit in a different fashion to meet the cultural expectations of changing societies.   

Part of an interim minister’s responsibility is to challenge congregations to adapt and become the church of today.  I recommend the documentary, “When God Left the Building.”

The pre-conference included a full day of three sessions on the work of a congregational “Transition Team” when an interim is in place.   

In congregations of less than 40 members, the congregation itself or the governing body (council) acts in this role.   

Together, the transition team and the intentional interim minister work in a process that leads to congregational readiness to call their next settled pastor.  The United Church of Canada requires churches and IIM’s to use transition teams.  They’re used sporadically in the U.S.

A highlight was meeting the Rev. Malcolm Himschoot, the minister for ministerial transitions with Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) Ministry Team, at the national UCC offices.   

He’s working on more standardization in training and use of interims in the UCC.  He spearheaded UCC reduction of titles used for ministry from more than 40 to four:  settled, intentional interim, designated minister and supply.  The first three are considered calls from the congregation to the minister.  Also, he’s working with the existing leadership of the Association of UCC Intentional Interim Ministers (AUCCIIM…”awesome”) to reinvigorate the association.   

The third day was a series of sessions with storyteller and speaker Hannah Harvey, who worked with us on the value of telling and sharing personal stories with “value added” when stories are used to make points, inspire, elicit forward movement.   

I attended several workshops on dealing with grief in congregations.  The most meaningful was the last one “Purposeful Life, Which Emerges Beyond Loss, Mourning, and Grief.”   

Ivan Marable spoke about was how images of the last or most significant traumatic experience are most often the ones that pop into mind when we think about a congregation or a particular member or minister.  A large part of healing and necessary for moving forward is consciously creating opportunities to change or replace those images so that when we speak our voice is filled with the excitement of looking forward, not laced with the pain of the past.   

It was a time of learning and connections with UCC colleagues and others from different faith traditions.   

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Copyright © September/October 2015 - Pacific Northwest UCC Conference News


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