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.