Author Archive for Daniel DeBlock

Letter to Membership June 2019

IMA Newsletter June 2019

Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA (IMA-ELCA)

The Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA is a non-profit organization of ELCA Interim Ministers. We send our newsletter to our list of about 1500 ELCA ministers who have taken interim training from IMN, NALIP or other qualified organizations or who have served a synod call to interim ministry. Our website is

IMA Annual Meeting at NALIP Conference (June 18 2019)

In the past, the IMA Annual Meeting has been held only at the NALIP Conference. After NALIP completes some restructuring changes (see below), the location of any Annual Meetings will be flexible. This year’s meeting at the NALIP Conference will be held 4:45 pm on Wednesday, June 18, 2019.

  1. Last Call for NALIP Interim Ministry Conference 2019

The annual conference of the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors will be held June 18-20 at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights MD. For information, go to

  1. NALIP Restructuring to LuTMA

The NALIP governing body has proposed a set of changes that will make NALIP a membership organization. These changes are expected to be approved at the June 2019 NALIP Conference. The impact of this transition will involve the official separation of IMA from NALIP when it is complete, because LuTMA will be a membership organization rather than being wholly-owned by IMA (ELCA interims) and IMC (LCMS interims).

  1. Effect of NALIP Restructuring on IMA Constitution

The IMA Constitution has already been modified in expectation of the NALIP Restructuring Changes. The IMA Constitution changes will take effect when the NALIP Restructuring is completed. Copies of the new IMA Constitution have been sent out.

  1. Survey of ELCA Interim Ministers

The IMA Board has requested comments from ELCA Interim Ministers about the future of IMA and the location of future IMA Annual Meetings. The possible location of future IMA Annual Meetings is at the LuTMA (previously NALIP) Conference, at the IMN Conference, or at both conferences. We encourage all ELCA interims to respond to this questionnaire. Comments may also be sent to Pastor Rick Klafehn, Chairperson, IMA Board, at Richard Klafehn <[email protected]>,

  1. IMA Board Openings

The IMA Board has openings for additional members of the Board. IMA Board Members are usually elected at IMA Annual Meetings, but there are other ways to become involved as a board member. For more information, please contact Richard Klafehn <[email protected]>,

  1. IMN Conference November 11-14 2019

The Annual Conference of the Interim Ministry Network will be held November 11-14 2019 at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights MD. This is the first year that the IMN Conference will be held separately from the NALIP Conference. For information on the IMN Conference, go to:

  1. Possible IMA Annual Meeting at IMN Conference

The IMA Board has approved the possible occurrence of an IMA Annual Meeting at the IMN Conference November 11-14, if arrangements can be made. This would allow the election of new IMA Board members at that conference.

  1. Prayers for Ken Ruppar

We request prayers for Ken Ruppar. Ken is undergoing treatment for leukemia diagnosed in March. His home address is 14615 Houghton St., Chesterfield VA 23832. (Ken resigned as Executive Director of NALIP due to illness.)

  1. Portico Contact to Intentional Interims

IMA members are very pleased with Portico for providing a dedicated expert in dealing with intentional interim pastors since January 2017.  Andrew Feller can be reached at 612.752.4060, or 800.352.2876 ext. 4060, fax 612.752.5060, or [email protected]. The original Portico announcement is attached. (Dan, in case you don’t have it handy.

The IMA Board

Richard Klafehn, Chair

Robert Hansen, Treasurer

Richard Mathisen, Acting Secretary

Dan DeBlock, Newsletter Editor

Sherrie Hofmann

Dwight Wascom


[See Attached Questionnaire]



  1. Do you favor holding the IMA Annual Membership Meeting at
  2. The Annual LutMA / NALIP conference?
  3. The Annual IMN Conference?
  4. At both conferences?
  5. At neither conference?


  1. What are the most important issues facing ELCA Interim Ministers?

[Open-ended question allowing for write-in answers]


  1. Are you willing to consider involvement with IMA as a board member or a committee member?
  2. iMA Board
  3. Membership Committee
  4. Publicity Committee

Galindo, Israel, ed.  Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

Galindo, Israel, ed.  Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.  Didache Press, 2017.  292 pages, paperback.

A review by the Rev. Richard K. Klafehn

The training for Interim Ministry provides an important introduction to the concepts of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), but there is simply not enough time to digest it, let it sink in and develop, and become skilled enough to use it.  And as the adage says, practice makes perfect.

That’s why this worthwhile collection of 21 essays, written by those who have applied and used BFST in their personal lives and congregations, is so very helpful.

This volume contains 21 essays by Israel Galindo, faculty members from the Leadership in Ministry Workshops (Columbia Theological Seminary) which he directs, presenters, and participants.

It is an immersion experience into the language and thought process of BFST as practitioners have applied it and experienced it in their own lives and congregations.

It is a practical tutorial provided by capable coaches and gifted mentors, who have used it in their own leadership roles within congregations.

The benefit of reading this book can be increased comfort with the concepts of BFST, improved ease at applying them, and stronger, less anxious, more confident, and courageous leadership.  I was able to put several illustrations and quotations immediately to use.

The 21 essays appear in a variety of styles and voices.  This feature adds to the book’s readability, enjoyment, and interest, whether one reads the work straight through or pauses after each essays for some intentional and deliberate reflection.  Some essays are shorter and serve as personal reflections.  Others are more directly instructional, including one extended case study in a congregational context.  Some are more practical.  Others are more theoretical.  Some seek to relate BFST to theology and others to science.  One rather winsome essay is written by an interim pastor who is also a cattle farmer and is titled “Herding in the Bovine and the Human.”

Essay topics include, among others: leadership through a BFST lens, navigating triangles, sibling position, common misunderstandings of systems theory, self-differentiated leadership, reciprocity in the emotional field, the possibility of change, letting go of outcomes, anxiety, and empowerment.

Edwin Friedman is quoted throughout.  A four-page bibliography is included at the end.

IMA report to the Conference of Bishops

IMA-ELCA Report to Bishops 2019.2

Portico Benefits Contact

Portico-Interim-Ministry-info PDF

Synod-Sponsored Interim Ministry Training

IMA Board Meets with Bishop Eaton, Secretary Boerger

IMA Newsletter May 31 2019

IMA Board Meets with Bishop Eaton, Secretary Boerger

On February 19, the IMA Board met in Chicago with ELCA Secretary Chris Boerger, who had formerly been IMA’s Advisory Bishop (a advisory bishop is appointed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops to certain organizations in the ELCA). Later that same afternoon, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was kind enough to join the IMA Board for another meeting.

Photo of IMA Board Members in Chicago 2019: L to R Daniel DeBlock; Sherrie Hoffman; Richard Klafehn and Richard Mathisen.

2019 Dues are Due! IMA Dues are $60 per year. Dues may be paid by check mailed to the IMA Treasurer: Rev. Robert Hansen, 601 N. Sagehorn Dr, P.O.Box 535, Hartford SD 57033 or paid by PayPal or credit card through the NALIP website, www.NALIP.NET. On that website, click on IMA, then click on Membership, then click on Online.

Meeting with Secretary Boerger. The IMA Board has a traditional once-a-year IMA Board meeting in Chicago, going back at least to 2006. The annual Chicago conference has always included a meeting with the Secretary or top assistant (except 2018). In our meeting, Secretary Boerger covered a large number of topics. Two seem of particular relevance to Interim Pastors. The ELCA continues to have a serious shortage of pastors coming out of our seminaries. The number graduating is less that half the number needed to fill the fully-funded openings in our 65 synods. According to Secretary Boerger, this means that interim terms tend to be longer, because of the lack of full-time candidates available. The other major problem is that more and more congregations are becoming fragile financially. They may not be able to afford a full-time interim. Which means, in many cases, that they cannot afford a full-time pastor at the completion of the interim period. The Board agreed that these problems are being faced in many synods.

Meeting with Presiding Bishop Eaton. This year was the first time that the Presiding Bishop had joined us. It was a pleasure to meet with Bishop Eaton and discuss intentional interim ministry. She mentioned  that she herself had one poor experience in her synod before becoming Presiding Bishop with a particular interim pastor. That experience had made a bad impression on her at the time, but she realized that it shouldn’t be generalized to other interim pastors. She was very supportive of interim ministry and would be happy to be of assistance to us.

Conference of Bishops. IMA Board Chair Rick Klafehn also spoke to The Rev. Walter May, Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive, Synodical Relations, about IMA’s desire to have another advisory bishop appointed, if that was possible. Pastor May functions as the main contact between the churchwide office and the Conference of Bishops. Pastor Klafehn also prepared a note to the Synod Bishops for the biennial meeting of the Conference of Bishops, which was occurring the following week.

Separation from NALIP. The IMA Board discussed the progress of the planned separation of IMA from NALIP. The IMA Board has approved the separation. The remaining step is the approval by the Board of the Interim Ministry Conference (the similar group in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). Once their approval is secured, the NALIP reorganization plan can be completed. NALIP plans to re-name itself the Lutheran Transitional Ministry Association and become an association of individual Lutheran pastors instead of a group formed from two associations (IMA and IMC).

Separate Conferences of IMN and NALIP in 2019. For the first time, the two national interim pastor conferences (IMA and NALIP) will be held separately in 2019. The NALIP Conference will be held at the usual time in June (June 18-20) at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum MD. The IMN Conference will be held November 11-14 2019, also at the Maritime Institute. IMN decided to change the timing of its conference to avoid conflicts with other church conferences.

Annual Meeting of IMA-ELCA. The official Annual Membership Meeting of the Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA must be held at the June 2019 NALIP Conference. However, the IMA Board will find a way to elect IMA Board Members at both conferences in 2019. Assuming the separation occurs between IMA and NALIP, the location of future Annual Membership Meetings will be changed in an appropriate way.

NALIP Executive Director Ken Ruppar Hospitalized. The IMA Board prayed for Ken Ruppar, who has recently been hospitalized. No further information is available at this time.

Portico Program for Intentional Interim Pastors. IMA members are very pleased with Portico for providing a dedicated expert in dealing with intentional interim pastors since January 2017.  Andrew Feller can be reached at 612.752.4060, or 800.352.2876 ext. 4060, fax 612.752.5060, or [email protected]. The original Portico announcement is attached. (Dan, in case you don’t have it handy.

The IMA Board

Richard Klafehn, Chair

Robert Hansen, Treasurer

Richard Mathisen, Acting Secretary

Dan DeBlock, Newsletter Editor

Sherrie Hoffman

Dwight Wascom

{It would be good to identify IMA board members by synod. However, I’m not sure right now where everybody is located!]

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).