Archive for Newsletter Article

Interim Work in a Global Pandemic

Interim Work in a Global Pandemic

Pastor Sherman Bishop, IMA-ELCA Board Member

Intentional Interim Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church of Vermilion Ohio

You are familiar with the tasks of Intentional Interim Ministry, familiar because you live them day by day. Like the “Stages of Grief” those tasks are not so much a set of items to be checked off a list when completed, but the description of a journey.  They are the signposts we hope to pass while we journey with a congregation, but no two faith communities will have a matching route for each must walk at its own pace through its own terrain.

Now all of us are experiencing a major detour in that journey.  There seems to be nothing like a Global Pandemic to throw one off course.  How many of you have said in the last weeks of March, “There was nothing in my seminary curriculum or my Interim Ministry training on how to deal with this!”?  I imagine the tasks of the Interim Ministry process have slipped down your “to do” list to make room for those skills needed to pastor a church that cannot gather, to connect with a church whose members you cannot visit while working with leaders who cannot meet together all the while trying to figure out how to provide meaningful worship moments, services, sermons on platforms you may have never used for that purpose.  And let’s not forget about the issue of finances, and how to keep the congregation’s fiscal health at a level that it can pick up and move forward once the worst of this pandemic is behind us.

Let me offer, or perhaps at this point merely reinforce for you some things that are becoming part of a “best practices for ministry during a pandemic” list.  By the time you read this newsletter, you may have items of your own to add.  As we are all “learning to fly this plane while we’re building it”, I encourage you to improve this list through your own experience.

Best Practices for Ministry during a Pandemic

  1. Do what’s important right now, and it isn’t everything. The learning curve on how to be a virtual pastor is steep for many of us. If that’s what you need to do now, give yourself permission, even if other things slip.  Every week reflects on what is now “most important”, for it will change as we go through this.
  2. Transform Pastoral Care to Congregational Care. You are most likely a pastor because you care about people. All of the members of our congregations need some caring touch right now, but you can’t provide it (see item 1 above). Let the church be the church, and encourage members to reach out to everyone they can think of.  Also, recruit someone to organize the task in your place to keep regular contact with those most in need.  We asked our Stephen Ministry leaders to do that, and they have organized people (Stephen Ministers and others) to daily make calls or if someone cannot benefit from a call to weekly send cards (i.e. homebound members with dementia).  “Congregational Care” allows you to focus on other critical tasks.
  3. Don’t make the mistake of trying to ‘go it alone’, imitate, or just plain steal good ideas from your colleagues. Locally, this is a time to build on the collegial relationships you have. Do tasks together to spread out the workload and expand the benefits. For example, several pastors in the county in which I serve have each taken a day to write a daily devotional. It is then shared with all of the churches involved so that a “daily word” comes to each member’s email box. Locally with two ecumenical partners, we have covenanted with one another to be on-call if one of us is the one diagnosed with COVID-19.   In the past I only occasionally glanced at “clergy Facebook pages”, to read a thread that interests me or ask for some ideas from others.  I am now finding them to be a good source of ideas and a good place to test out ideas.  Many of us are designing the same wheel, and it’s refreshing how many are better designers than me.  Of course, there are those who seem to be stuck wanting to argue about items that are adiaphora.  Feel free to ignore them, but don’t forget to pray for them.
  4. If you are working from home, use the power of routine. Build a schedule for your week to keep you focused. Years ago a very effective pastor shared with me a few things he lived by. One was, “he (or she) who plans, wins”.  That is very important for a moment like this.  It is so easy to just allow the latest headline to pull us toward despair, or distract us from our task.  If you are working from home I am guessing that you have more than enough to do to keep your days full.  I am serving in a part-time interim (75% of FTE), but find myself now working full time. That’s because this moment demands that.  I have filled my week with needed tasks that enable me to 1) engage with the congregation and 2) keep in mind what I need to do in order to allow enough time for our church secretary to do what she needs to do without getting stressed out.  To make that happen I have a daily list of must-do tasks (see item 1 above) and keeping them enables me to get everything finished in a timely way. “Plan your work, then work your plan”.
  5. Love your neighbor as yourself – just don’t forget about loving yourself. Much of what I’ve already said falls into the category of “loving your neighbor”. You need also to be aware of the need to love yourself.  Interim work, because it normally involves helping a congregation consider needed change, exists with tension in the air. In that midst, we seek to be a non-anxious presence. To maintain that emotional balance you must allow your own spirit to be fed.  Daily devotions, prayer (I’m thinking contemplative more than intercessory), and the intentional nurture of your soul are essential.  I suggest that it is a daily #1 (see above) as you pastor through the chaos this pandemic can stir up. For me, music and good sound preaching attend to those tasks, and once more the internet is a valuable tool to fill my daily plate with good spiritual food.
  6. Linked with that is Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy, and TAKE IT! My full-time work schedule keeps me busy 51/2 to 6 days a week.  My wife, who is the CEO of a non-profit is also working from home, and her days too are filled with meetings and tough decisions. We have both found a “day off” to be necessary and so for the first time in our married life, we are able to take the same day off on a regular basis.  Taking that day of rest goes a long way toward the refreshment of my spirit.  Take that day for yourself so that you can give yourself to the important tasks of ministry.
  7. Finally, not to be least, but to be the last thing you are thinking about You are a minister of the Word. Trust in the power of the Word to work through you to bring comfort, hope, and assurance of grace. You are necessary to the people of God in your community at this moment. Your vocation calls you out in unprecedented ways at this moment. Luther said that when the wolf threatens the flock, that is when the shepherd is needed, to step forward and defend against the threat.  Thank you for what you are doing to make the promise of all God has done for us in Christ be known in new, powerful, and comforting ways to the people God loves in the community you serve.

2020 Annual Conference of LuTMA

2020 Annual Conference of LuTMA

(formerly NALIP)

June 23 – 25, 2020 Denver, Colorado

By Rev. Lois Van Orden

The 2020 Annual Conference of the Lutheran Transitional Ministry Association (LuTMA) will be held in Denver CO on June 23-25. LuTMA was formerly known as NALIP, the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors. The Denver conference will begin at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, June 23, and conclude by noon on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

LuTMA is the newly formed association that has transitioned from the two primary Lutheran church bodies: The Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA (IMA- ELCA) and the Interim Ministry Conference of the LCMS (IMC-LCMS), to support and renew Lutheran congregations, school, camps, and other institutions in transition.

The Conference Planning Committee and LuTMA Transitional Leadership are excited about engaging a dynamic keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Reggie McNeal. Reggie, as he prefers to be called, enjoys helping people, leaders, and Christian organizations determine and experience epic wins with Kingdom impact. He currently serves as City Coach for GoodCities of Minneapolis MN.

As City Coach Reggie works with community leaders around the country to build cross-domain collaborative efforts that can move the needle on big societal issues. He provides coaching and consultation for individuals and teams in becoming more missional-focused and Kingdom-biased in their ministry approaches. Reggie has helped to shape the church leadership conversation through his extensive speaking schedule and work as an author.

Attendees are encouraged to read two of his books in preparation for the conference:

Kingdom Come: Why We Must Quit Our Obsession Over Fixing the Church and What We Should Do Instead (Tyndale, 2015) challenges the church to shift its narrative from a church-centric to a kingdom-centric ministry agenda.

The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2003)

All pastors, those serving interim and permanent calls, are encouraged to register for the conference. Go to the LuTMA website ( to learn more about the conference, to benefit from early registration, and to book with the hotel (link at the bottom of the “Additional Information” page).

We look forward to seeing you in Denver and engaging in a challenging learning experience with Reggie McNeal. Questions may be directed to the LuTMA Executive Director, the Rev. Lois Van Orden, at 717-579-1875 or by email, [email protected].

LuTMA Training Event

LuTMA Training Events


Northeast Ohio Synod – Stow, OH

Registration is open.

Contact The Rev. Karl Biermann, Assistant to the Bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod

(330) 929-9022, ext 31

[email protected]

  • Phase I — November 9-13, 2020
  • Phase III — Rescheduled date to be announced

Open Enrollment – Minnesota

Registration is open. Click here.

Link to use:

  • Phase 1 – October 12-16, 2020 (Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN)
  • Phase III — April 26-30, 2021 (Mt. Olivet Retreat Center, Farmington, MN)

Concordia Seminary – St. Louis, MO

Registration is open.

  • Phase I — October 19-23, 2020
  • Phase III — April 12-16, 2021

PSD/Pacifica Synod – Irvine & Santa Ana, CA

Registration is open.

  • Phase I — September 21-25, 2020
  • Phase III — April 19-23, 2021

New LuTMA Executive Director

Photos from the NALIP Conference 2019

2019 NALIP Conference Attendees Celebrate 25th Anniversary





Pete Alexander (IMC-LCMS) and Dick Mathisen (IMA-ELCA) cut the 25th Anniversary Cake at the NALIP 2019 Annual Conference.










Interim Ministry “Alphabet Soup”

Interim Ministry “Alphabet Soup”

Most training for Lutheran intentional interim pastors is provided by two organizations, the Interim Ministry Network (IMN) and the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors (NALIP). Both groups run training classes for interim pastors and hold an annual conference.

IMN is the larger group. It runs about 12 training courses a year, consisting of a 3-day course, “The Work of the Leader” and a 5-day course, “The Work of the Congregation”, with practical experience in-between. It is ecumenical and inter-faith, with members from Christian denominations as well as Jewish rabbis and Unitarian Universalists.

NALIP serves primarily Lutheran pastors from the ELCA and Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, although it is open to other persons. NALIP runs about 4 training classes each year, consisting of two 5-day courses with practical experience in-between. Both the LCMS and the ELCA have an association of interim pastors. IMA is the Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA. IMC is the Interim Ministry Conference of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. NALIP has been, a joint activity of IMA and IMC, with a 4-member board composed of 2 members from IMA and 2 from IMC, but is in the process of re-structuring as LuTMA (Lutheran Transitional Ministry Association).

2019 NALIP Conference Reflections

2019 NALIP Conference Reflections

By Lois Van Orden, Chair, NALIP Conference Planning Committee

The 2019 NALIP Conference was held at the Maritime Conference Center in Baltimore, Maryland June 18-20. Overall, the evaluations reflected a positive reception of the conference site and the workshop format with the NALIP educators presenting the topics. Additionally, offering two workshops at the same time and repeating the topics was a well-received venue for encouraging greater participation.

We give thanks for the educators who presented the following workshop topics: Peter Alexander: “Contracting, Covenants and Pre-entry Practices” and “The Big Transition: Discovering a Missional Mindset for a Post-Christian Church”; Beth Marie Halvorsen: “Using ‘Centered Flexibility’ in Crisis or Major Transitions”; Rev. Martin E. (Schroeder) Lee: “Organizational Learning and the Intentional Interim Pastor (Theory)” and “Cultivating Learning during the IIM Assignment” (Practicum); and Timm Griffin:   “FOC-US”

We appreciate Fred Poeppel who once again served as MC – with humor and as an efficient time-keeper, and for the chaplaincy leadership of Susan Williamson who offered humorous devotions based on the wit of Martin Luther. We express gratitude for the Rev. Dr. John Denninger, LCMS Southeastern District President who became the solo judicatory guest because of a very last-minute family emergency for ELCA Bishop of the Delaware Maryland Synod, Bill (William) Gohl.

Plans are already underway for the 2020 Conference to be held June 23-25 in a western U.S. location (Denver? San Diego? Other possibilities?). Excellent suggestions were offered by the conference participants for a keynote speaker. The Conference Planning Committee is engaged in contacts to determine availability, etc.

The Conference Planning Committee was presented with unique challenges this year with the unexpected illness of Executive Director Ken Ruppar. We greatly missed his expertise but thanks to his excellent leadership for past conferences, the committee regrouped, delegated tasks, and offered a well-received conference for the NALIP members. We thank the committee members: Lois Van Orden, Chair, Tom Schoech, Fred Poeppel, and Martin Haeger; and Acting Executive Director Sherrie Hofmann. We also a welcome new committee member Orinda Hawkins-Brinkley who volunteered to serve at the 2019 conference.

We look forward to the 2020 Conference and trust that all of you who could not attend the 2019 Conference, will save the date (June 23-25) for next year.

IMA Newsletter Fall 2019

IMA Newsletter Fall 2019

  1. NALIP Separates Officially from IMA-ELCA, Celebrates 25th Anniversary

At its 25th Annual Conference, the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors (NALIP) officially approved its re-structuring and separation from the Interim Ministry Association of the ELCA (IMA-ELCA) and the Interim Ministry Conference of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (IMC-LCMS). NALIP will be re-named the Lutheran Transitional Ministry Association (LuTMA). Its activities remain unchanged, the training courses for intentional interim ministers and its annual conference. For details on upcoming NALIP activities, see the NALIP website (

  1. Interim Ministry Network (IMN) Annual Conference – November 11-14 2019

The Interim Ministry Network will hold its 2019 Annual Conference November 11 to 14 in Baltimore MD at the Maritime Conference Center. For details see, the IMN website (

[If anyone is uncertain about terms such as NALIP, IMN, IMA or IMC, please see “Interim Ministry Alphabet Soup” elsewhere in this newsletter!]

  1. NALIP Restructuring to LuTMA

The NALIP Coordinating Council (NALIP’s Board of Directors) has been extended for one year, from June 2019 to June 2020 to oversee the transition to LuTMA. LuTMA will become effective at the NALIP / LuTMA Annual Conference June 21-23 2020.

  1. NALIP / LuTMA Executive Director Position

This fall there will be a search for an Executive Director to serve LuTMA. Watch for more information in future publications. Ken Ruppar, who was formerly the Executive Director of NALIP, is being treated for leukemia. Continuing prayers are requested for Ken. The Executive Director position is being temporarily filled by Sherrie Hofmann.


  1. IMA Board Actions

The IMA Board appointed two ELCA interim pastors, Lois Van Orden and Sherman Bishop, to one-year terms on the NALIP Coordinating Council (NALIP’s Board of Directors), and another pastor, Orinda Hawkins-Brinkle, to the NALIP Conference Planning Committee.

  1. NALIP Misconduct Workshop in Ohio August 12-14 2019

NALIP held a very successful “Misconduct in Congregations Workshop” in Stow OH August 12-14, with 27 attendees. It was sponsored by the ELCA, NALIP, and the Northeastern Ohio Synod. Presenters were: Barbara Keller, Therapist and ELCA Consultant for the Prevention of Misconduct; Beth Marie Halvorsen, Interim Pastor and NALIP Faculty Member; and Marcus Lohrmann, Interim Pastor and former bishop of the Northwestern Ohio Synod.

  1. Portico Contact for Intentional Interims Changes

IMA members thank Portico for providing a dedicated expert in dealing with changes for 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].

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  The members of the IMA Board are: Richard Klafehn, Chair; Robert Hansen, Treasurer; Richard Mathisen, Acting Secretary; Dan DeBlock, Newsletter Editor; Sherrie Hofmann; and Dwight Wascom.

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

Challenges Facing The Area Parish By Dan DeBlock

What is an area parish? Although churches are more often simply called congregations and have no geographic boundaries, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregations are called parishes if four or more congregations are organized together under the care of a pastoral staff. Area parishes have been used most often to group rural congregations that are often small and or declining. The purpose of grouping congregations together is to help congregations that cannot afford a full-time pastor. In most cases, the hope is to avoid closing the congregation.

There is also a secondary purpose that is most often expressed but difficult to accomplish. Congregations join pooling resources in the hopes of bringing about vitality and energy in the congregation for its mission.

With some of the smaller congregations’ in an area parish, conversations have had to focus on setting up a living will. This helps to answer the questions: “At what point do we close the church? And what do we do with the remaining building, resources, and artifacts? How best to honor the service that has been done?”

The formation of an area parish of four of more congregations can result in a parish with all the components of a large congregation. The Sunday worship community and the weekly offering can be substantial, allowing for the calling of a senior or lead pastor and an associate to include the hiring of additional administrative staff. Yet, all five basic leadership systems that need to be in an alliance can be out of balance for this newly formed large congregation.

More to come. Please feel free to comment.