I Need Your Help Learning More About Intentional Interim Ministers, by Pr. Rossow

A congregation has just gone vacant. It used to be that a vacancy pastor was assigned. Now I hear of “Intentional Interim Pastors” going into vacancy congregations. I have seen the intentional interim process from a distance and have had some serious questions about it. I have recently had opportunity to view it a little more close-up and have even more reservations about it.

A congregation is in a very fragile state during a vacancy. They may have just lost a fine pastor or just gone through a difficult pastorate. Either way, it is a fragile time. Some of the stories that I have heard is that intentional interims come in and seek to make some changes during the vacancy. Does that seem right? Shouldn’t the congregation wait until its next called shepherd arrives before they think about making changes. In my recent close up look I noticed that the intentional interim led the congregation through the process of writing a new constitution. Wow! That does not seem like an interim project.

I would like the BJS readers/bloggers help in learning the history of the intentional interim program. Where did it start? Who is responsible for bringing it into the LCMS? Who gets an intentional interim? And so forth and so on. Help me out here if you know anything about this program, know of any good stories and horror stories coming out of intentional interim and any other helpful insights or resources you might have.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


I Need Your Help Learning More About Intentional Interim Ministers, by Pr. Rossow — 77 Comments

  1. @nbfzman #36
    Nobody said you were trying to shoot them down. My point is to ask what the difference is between an Intentional Interim Minister is and a run of the mill vacancy pastor. In either case, they are serving a vacancy, neither one is called to serve that parish indefinitely.

    My point is this: if the IIM program is out of line with AC XIV, how do we throw out the IIM bathwater without also throwing out the vacancy pastor baby? Or are BOTH out of line with AC XIV? Is there, in light of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, a substantive difference between IIM and a normal vacancy pastor?

  2. @Rev. Gary J. Ellul #37
    Pastor Ellul,

    1. With all the men that are CRM why would you be chosen to serve as an interim. WOuld it not be more beneficial to make use of someone who is wanting back in the ministry.?
    2. How can one be an intentional interim and still be an active parish pastor? My understanding is that the intentional interim must be ready to move to many different places as needed [this from a friend who became an intentional interim]?
    3. Why do you really think that the intentional interim might be a better choice than a pastor in the circuit–recognizing that you are in the circuit where you are also an interim?

    Let us start with these three questions. I will wait you answer.

  3. @Kebas #43
    Third time’s a charm I guess — in just one month!

    “Third time”, if I’m not mistaken is the “status” congregation in San Antonio and the hatching ground for PLI.

  4. CJ, are there reliable confessional Pastors in your area?
    They may know of someone who would be glad of a call.
    (I’m perhaps rashly assuming that your congregation would support a confessional Pastor, and that your DP might not have confessionals high on his list. It happens.)

    Ask about CRM’s in your district. If they were removed “for cause” they wouldn’t be on the roster. The reason they were asked to move on (one way or another) may be the reason you’d want them. [E.g., he’s traditional, liturgical, doesn’t preach a baptist sermon or want to instigate “alternative” worship.]

    Congregations do NOT, contray to the common belief, have to wait on the DP, (or accept an IIM.)

  5. contrary!

    I was up too late/early listening to UT play Hawaii, in Hawaii. Game started at 10.30 our time.

  6. My concern is that the IIP seems to be the DP’s idea of what’s best for the congregation, and not the congregation’s idea of what’s best for the congregation.


  7. @Todd Wilken #59

    I appreciate this sentiment, and it’s one of my concerns. One is always worried about sheep without a shepherd, but the fact remains that the DP can suggest what he wants; the call goes through the congregation.

    If the DP’s suggestion is not in accordance with the word of God, then let’s make it known. Or, if the DP is acting outside of his vocation, or abusing his vocation, by suggesting an IIP, let’s make it known.

    How does an IIP go against God’s Word–if, indeed, it does? How is a DP abusing his vocation by suggesting an IIP–if, indeed, he is?

    If neither of these is true, then perhaps we (in general) should not hunt for something to dislike about IIP. Perhaps one of the most loving things to do would be to continue to educate the flock, that they may stand firm in the faith while calling a faithful pastor. Thanks to you, Rev. Wilken, for the great job you do in this. It may also be loving to look at the guidelines and regulations we have in place regarding an IIP, and ensure that they are in place in such a way that an IIP is not easily abused.

  8. Rev. Roger D. Sterle :
    @Rev. Gary J. Ellul #37
    Pastor Ellul,
    1. With all the men that are CRM why would you be chosen to serve as an interim. WOuld it not be more beneficial to make use of someone who is wanting back in the ministry.?

    I have a question for you. How many men are in CRM status, and what is the average length of time that one is in this status? Another question, how many of the CRM people are there voluntarily, and how many of these men were “forced” out of their previous call?

  9. @David Hartung #62

    Excellent question–however, I am not sure. It could be as little as a 100 or as many as 300 and I would just be guessing. What I do know is about 40 who are CRM most because they went back for further study, a couple because their congregation[s] close[d] around them through the fault of no one in particular and maybe a few more that had ‘other’ reasons for leaving the ministry. Oh, and yes, one who left because his congregation decided that a full time vacancy would be less costly than a full time pastor. Other than that, I would suppose that your guess would be as good as mine.

  10. Here is a church in Wyandotte, MI, established in 1861, being interimed by Rev. Dr. Larsen who holds his Doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. Here is his note to the congregation in their February newsletter:

    Message from Pastor Larsen . . .
    “So, what’s happening?” “Where are we going as a church?” These and other such questions are being asked. They are both serious and appropriate questions. I am called an “Interim Pastor” here for a short time (August is the date on our agreement) to help not only carry on basic ministry but also to help address the question of the future, a serious question.

    We have become a small congregation with an aging membership. If Trinity does not make some decisions about her future, the decline which has been going on for some time will continue beyond the “point of return.” PPC has recently approved a process to address the future. I am working with a representative of both PPC & of the Elders to explore various options.

    We have scheduled 3 open congregational forums on Feb. 6 & 7 (see special article on pg. 4) to present those options and their pros & cons for congregational input. Based on all of that, at a February 28 Special Voters’ Meeting at 7 p.m., PPC will present one option to the congregation for approval. Depending on what the congregation decides, we plan to implement our action by summer or earlier. This is an urgent matter and calls for your daily prayers!!

    “You can never let a good crisis go to waste…..”

  11. Some of the questions I’ve been asking have been off topic. Sorry.

    “I would like the BJS readers/bloggers help in learning the history of the intentional interim program. Where did it start? Who is responsible for bringing it into the LCMS? Who gets an intentional interim?”

  12. Okay, finally had time to do a little research.

    Via the Interim Ministry Network webpage (www.imnedu.org) is this link to a history of the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors (NALIP), which consists of both the ELCA’s Interim Ministry Association and the LCMS’ Interim Ministry Conference (IMC-LCMS). The following link is the NALIP’s “History” Page.


    Sorry, Kebas, it still doesn’t say how many there are. Though the process for credentialing is delineated on interimministrylcms.org – if you care to know.

  13. All I know about Intentional Interim Ministers is that they have some courses at the Seminary prior to becoming an IIM, and a few things I’ve picked up around the Seminary. I recall talking about the issue of “time limits” on calls in one class, and how it is not biblical by any stretch for the congregation to say it is only calling the pastor for 2 years, but that it is somewhat more acceptable if it is a mutually agreed-upon arrangement.

    From what I understand of the concept behind the “intentional interim,” the idea is that all congregations will go through some level of stress after a pastor leaves. This could be a lot of stress if the pastor was particularly well-liked, or if the pastor was there for a long time (40-50 years or more), or if there were extenuating circumstances surrounding his departure (scandal, suicide, etc.). The intentional interim minister is supposed to be (from what I can tell) a way for the congregation to cope with its loss and move on.

    In Introduction to Pastoral Ministry, we talked about how an incoming pastor has a certain number of metaphorical “chips” (like poker chips) which represent his favor with the congregation. Various circumstances will affect how many chips the pastor starts off with, some of which have to do with the previous pastor. For example, if the previous pastor was well-liked and endorses the new pastor, then he will have a nearly unlimited supply of chips. However, if the previous pastor was there for 50 years ever since he founded the church, and died in the pulpit while preaching the best sermon the congregation had ever heard, then the next pastor will arrive with a deficit of chips because they were all buried with the previous pastor! In the latter situation, an intentional interim’s job would be to help the congregation work through its grief until it can accept that there are other pastors out there who can serve them.

    One example of a situation in which an intentional interim pastor would have been a far better idea is my dad’s first call. It was to a pair of congregations which almost always disagreed with each other: One congregation loved my dad, while the other… didn’t love him. On top of that, the previous pastor had committed suicide on a Saturday night, and no one told the congregations, so they wound up sitting in the sanctuary for hours waiting for him to arrive. The DP pulled some strings to get my dad called there (it ws close to Call Day when it happened), but my dad was only there for a couple years, after which time the two congregations were vacant for over 10 years before finally being split up. I think they could have avoided a lot of pain and difficulty if they had called an intentional interim (an experienced pastor with the knowledge, experience, and training to deal with that situation), rather than a new pastor fresh out of Seminary.

  14. @Concerned Seminarian #72

    Hey, long time… 🙂 Ouch! Your dad is to good of a guy to have gotten that. I can see Intentional Pastor sfor cedrtain situations, but not any that are really different form vacancy pastors. The one nice thing is that active pastors wouldn’t get stretch with their congregaiton and another. I am not sur eof th eneeded intentionality of the IIP.

    The church I grew up in eventually got two retired pastors attending. (one had even been a former pastor of the congregation) When we finally had a retiement and vacancy, these two guys filled in with preaching and a few hospital visits. To Concerned’s point, guys with experience.

    I guess am a lot more uncomfortable with a younger guy doing this as his vocation. I don’t think that necessarily jives with our ancient policies. (who knows anymore with our newest policies) I thought the calling was to the office of public ministry, to be a pastor, which means shepherding a congregation. So why would you want to be ordained but not want to serve the people in a congregation? We have enough buraeucratic types running around.

  15. @Jason #73

    It has been a while since I’ve been on here 🙂

    I don’t understand the idea of a young pastor becoming an intentional interim, either; I picture the “ideal” intentional interim pastor as having at least 10-20 years of ministry experience as well as being trained extensively in counseling, crisis intervention, and the like.

    I could see a good experienced pastor being able to take a regular call to a church which would otherwise need an IIM, but that would still take a lot of effort and a lot of caring.

  16. The IIM pastors in our area seem to be retired. Some are excellent and some are products of the Seminex years.

  17. I know this is an old article (2011) regarding Intentional Interim Ministers (IIM), but our DP just sprang this IIM concept on our congregation as a 2-3 year “solution” to our upcoming vacancy (due to retirement) to help us “TRANSITION.” Yeah, I said “Solution & Transition.” Words like those make me cringe. We have many more questions to ask. However, since this original posting does anyone have any recent information & experience with an IIM? If so, please share. Like many have indicated on this post, IIM doesn’t seem scriptural. Combine that with the fact that the DP also recommended we undergo a SWOT analysis and I’m as paranoid as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.