Author Archive for Daniel DeBlock

Bendroth, Norman B. Interim Ministry In Action

Bendroth, Norman B.  Interim Ministry In Action: A Handbook for Churches in Transition.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & LIttlefield, 2018.  203 pages, paperback.

A review by the Rev. Richard K. Klafehn

Like the bestselling book for over 25 years for pregnant mothers, this book offers “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Pastor.”  It is a thorough and practical step-by-step guide for congregations in an interim period from beginning to end when a new pastor is called and a new ministry together begins.

Bendroth is a seasoned transitional pastor and teacher of interim pastors in the Interim Ministry Network.  His book benefits from his 25 years of experience.

He wrote this book to teach congregation lay leaders, interim pastor call committees, and transition teams about the interim process.

Ten chapters take readers through the entire intentional interim transition.  Each chapter concludes with questions for group reflection and discussion.

The book begins with a chapter on the realization that “it’s not your parent’s church anymore”.  The culture, the church, and how to fulfill the church’s mission have changed.

Subsequent chapters describe the process of transition and interim ministry, the benefits of a trained intentional interim minister and an intentional interim ministry period, and what the congregation and intentional interim pastor together will do.  Bendroth introduces the five focus points for the transition, and the central concepts and discussion points within them.

He addresses the fear of change that can short-circuit a productive interim period.  He encourages this to be a time to reflect and then to try new things or do familiar things better.

An interim pastor can play the role of shepherd, coach, consultant, or cheerleader, and sometimes all four.

Bendroth encourages congregations to be like a shark, that is, to move forward or die.  He identifies three ways forward a congregation may consider: revitalization, renewal, or redevelopment.

The guide concludes with the final steps of saying good-bye to the intentional interim pastor and giving a smooth and healthy welcome to the new settled pastor.

Bendroth includes nine helpful appendices of tools and resources for congregations in transition, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

I found this book to be a superb overview of my own interim ministry training.  I found reading it to be an opportunity to reflect thoughtfully on my work in my own current setting.

At one point I feared Bendroth was providing lay leaders an impossibly high set of expectations for interim pastors and ministries.  Thankfully, he concedes in the final pages that no interim pastor can do everything suggested.

He hopes his book does not overwhelm readers but excites them for the possibilities of an interim ministry.

If congregation leaders read this book in preparation or alongside the interim period, it can facilitate useful discussions about priorities for the intentional interim period, so it is as constructive as possible.

This book belongs in the personal library of bishops for their own reference.

This book belongs in the libraries of synods and districts, for sharing with congregational leaders approaching and entering an intentional interim period.

It provides a greater appreciation for intentional interim pastors and the ministry they can provide.


Constitution IMA 2018 draft

Constitution IMA 2018 draft edits ver 2

Lehr, J. Fred. Becoming a 21st-Century Church: A Transformational Manual.

Lehr, J. Fred.  Becoming a 21st-Century Church: A Transformational Manual.  Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017.  88 pages, paperback.

Richard K. Klafehn

Writers such as Phyllis Tickle identified the need for the church to adapt to the significant cultural shifts of this era.  However, congregations and their leaders often do not acknowledge, understand, or accept them.   Consequently 80% of the congregations across mainline Christianity are stagnant or dying.

J. Fred Lehr wrote this clear and helpful guide to illumine the cultural shifts and how the emerging 21st century church may respond and yet be faithful to the Gospel. Based on personal research and 45 years of ordained ministry, including 5 interim pastor positions, Lehr seeks to help leaders find real and practical applications for their setting.

The 11 chapters have discussion questions at the end, so that adult study groups, congregation councils, or vision and strategic mission planning teams may read it together and find directions suitable for their mission context.

After “500 years of a sola Scriptura church,” Lehr writes, “the new authority of the church is now the Holy Spirit.  The key question now is not what is in the book, but where is the Holy Spirit leading the church?” (pp. 5-6)  Lehr names the shift as from sola Scriptura to sola Spiritus.

The 21st century church will be more relational and less didactic: focused on knowing Jesus and one another on our faith journeys, rather than about Jesus, the Bible, or catechism.

The 21st century church will be flexible rather than uniform, provide experiences of the Holy through worship, community service, and outreach, open ended, and responsive to the needs of the community and beyond.

The role of clergy shifts from resident theologian or expert to companion on the spiritual journey.

The 21st century church will see itself less as “institution” with a focus on policies, constitution, bylaws, and the like.   The church will seek to be more a “movement”, people in action together, alive, driven to make a difference for the cause of Jesus.  “Orthodoxy”, knowing and believing the right stuff, is not as important as “orthopraxy”, living rightly what is said to be believed.

Lehr’s third chapter offers a “Spiritual Life Survey” for congregation members to assess their own spiritual maturity.  Lehr charts four levels of spiritual maturity based on the New Testament.  The first level is “crowd religion”.  The 21st century church, Lehr says, will challenge individuals to step out of the crowd and become disciples.  Discipleship, however, is only the beginning of the journey to spiritual maturity.

The final chapter offers a practical step-by-step process for implementation.  Given the state of unrelenting violence and tragic mass shootings in our country, the title of step 6, “Ready-Fire-Aim” is regrettable and poorly chosen.  Lehr’s worthy goal, though, is for congregations to be willing to make changes, experiment with new ministries, and even fail.

How is the 21st century church faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The church will continue to offer the good news that we are already saved by Jesus, hope, conditional love, and an open future that does not depend on one’s past.  The church will continue to keep the main thing the main thing (Steven Covey) and be excited and faithful to the gospel of Jesus.

Entry into a New Congregation – The “25 Interviews” Approach

How do you enter a new congregation quickly? My personal method is the “25 Interviews” Approach.

It includes my normal research, reading ten years of Annual Reports and ten years of Council minutes. Then, at an early Council meeting, I announce my plan to visit a representative sample of about twenty-five families, old, young, new, old, etc. I request Council’s assistance in suggesting families to visit. For each family suggested, I ask whether council would rank that family as a priority A, B or C. I usually have a prioritized list of suggested families (priority A, B, or C) within about 30 to 40 minutes. I add or subtract names later as that seems advisable.

I make an appointment with the 25 families I’ve selected, either at their home (preferred) or in the church. My interview consists of only two questions (which I tell them in advance if they ask.) Question #1 is “Tell me about yourself,” i.e., getting to know each other. Question #2 is “Tell me about St. Nowhere’s.”  I schedule two hours. The interviews average about 90 minutes, although some are shorter and some go much longer. I can usually complete all 25 interviews within about 4 – 6 weeks.

My goal is to hear from the members themselves how they perceive their church, because I don’t want to depend on possibly biased sources of information, such as the previous pastor. (I speak with the pastor after the 25 interviews.) During the interviews, I try to keep my mouth shut (really!), because one key piece of information is what subjects they choose to voluntarily bring up. I sometimes refer to this as “taking the emotional temperature of the congregation.”

I’ve found this method to be very helpful. It’s fast and it provides me with face time with key members of the congregation, which usually includes most movers and shakers. By the end of the 25 interviews (and my reading), I have a fairly good idea of the emotional mood of the congregation and what’s on their minds, as well as face-to-face relationships with most of the key players. Of course, that’s when the difficult work begins!

Dick Mathisen

Rev. Richard A. Mathisen is an Intentional Interim Pastor in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod ELCA, where he has served 12 congregations in 16 years. He also serves on the board of the Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA (IMA-ELCA).

Meet the IMA Board Members Richard (Rick) K. Klafehn

Three things to bring to your attention:

Three things to bring to your attention:

1.  The current NALIP training schedule is on our website. The Basic Education for Intentional Interim Ministry classes currently are scheduled for the NorthEast Ohio Synod at Stow, Ohio and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in April and the East Central Synod of Wisconsin in September. The annual training at Luther Seminary will start October 29. Registration information about each of these venues is on the NALIP website. Please share this information with others you think have interest and skills for intentional interim ministry. We will add information on our website about other training sites as soon as they are finalized. Meanwhile, if you think your synod or district might be interested in hosting a training event, contact the NALIP office.

2.  The NALIP annual conference information is on our website. Consider attending this great annual event. We will meet June 21-22 at the Sheraton Westport Hotel, St Louis, MO. Join us and presenter Dr. Israel Galindo as we explore the theme: Perspectives on Congregational Leadership. The Conference Planning Committee is working on the final details of the conference. We look forward to another successful gathering. Book your room early to insure the conference hotel rate.

3.  The future of NALIP will be a topic of discussion at the conference. At the 2017 conference the annual meeting directed the Coordinating Council to move forward to implement the recommendations of the Membership and Governance Task Force. This year we will seek final approval of the process and lay out remaining details for the changes in name, membership and other details.

Thanks for your interest in Intentional interim Ministry.



Rev. Ken Ruppar

Executive Director – NALIP

(804) 564-5389



Meet the IMA Board Members Dick Mathisen

Meet the IMA Board Members

Dick Mathisen is an Intentional Interim Pastor in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, where he has served 11 individual congregations in 16 years, in addition to serving most recently as Transitional Pastor of a 3-church collaboration. He has served three terms on the Interim Ministry Association board and is currently Secretary. He has also served IMN as Membership Chairperson and NALIP on its Coordinating Council. He lives in Ambler PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Training Dates for NALIP 2018 – 2020

Interim Videos

Training dates for NALIP 2017-2020