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[PCUSANEWS] Interim Ministry Consortium looks toward future

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Date Tue, 24 Feb 2009 17:30:32 -0500

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Interim Ministry Consortium looks toward future

In era of constant change, transitional ministry takes many

>by Bethany Furkin
>Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - The Interim Ministry Consortium (IMC) of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) marks its 10th anniversary
this year, but the group is more focused on the future than
on its past.

At its annual meeting earlier this month, faculty and
members of the consortium met to discuss policies and
procedures as well as ways for educators to address changes
in interim ministry.

Founded in 1999, the consortium is a cooperative and
consultative gathering of interim ministry educators. Its
purpose is to work together to coordinate and improve the
education and training of interim ministers in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Through the consortium, ministers complete two 30-hour
educational sessions at any of 11 sites across the country,
with a practicum between sessions. Last year, about 400
people went through one or both of the sessions.

When the consortium started, the general concept of interim
ministry followed the pattern of stability, interim,
stability: A church was stable, its minister left, it went
through a time of instability with an interim minister, and
then it found a new minister and was stable again.

That idea is gone, said the Rev. Carol McDonald,
co-executive of the Synod of Lincoln Trails and one of the
coordinators of the consortium site hosted by the synods of
Lincoln Trails and Mid-America.  "There's a changing vision
for the future of interim ministry education," she said.
"How do we equip leaders to be part of that team?"

Now, interim ministry leaders see that all of life is
constantly changing and that churches are in a continuous
state of transition. Figuring out how to address this
outlook and how to make sure curriculum reflects reality
was a major focus of the meeting, held at Zephyr Point
Presbyterian Conference Center in Zephyr Cove, NV.

Another layer to this changing perspective is realizing
that the skills of interim ministers can be applied to
churches in all kinds of transition, said IMC moderator
Carolyn Jones. In addition to pastoral changes, interim
ministers can help congregations deal with shifts in
mission, demographics or size, she said.

This year, IMC sites were encouraged to consider including
this perspective of interim ministry in course materials.

Looking at interim ministry in new ways also means that
interim ministry education must be re-examined.

"Education needs to transform from simply providing tools ...
to coaching for resiliency," McDonald said.

At the conference, faculty worked with "life coach" the
Rev. Laurie Ferguson to learn coaching skills. This is an
important role of interim ministers, who have to work with
congregations trying to find of new way of being.

"If one of our goals is to help folks move forward,
coaching can help that," McDonald said. "It's more about
asking questions than giving answers."

Knowing how to ask questions is important for interim
ministers because they come into new situations and must
quickly learn how the system works, how decisions are made
and who the leaders are. Good analytical skills are
critical to entering a congregation and helping to lead it

Often, congregations are sad or mad after their minister
leaves. Interim ministers must come in and build trust with
members to understand the dynamics of a congregation. One
way to do that is to just be present at the church,
McDonald said.

The demands of being an interim minister are not for
everyone, she said. Interims must be willing to live an
unsettled life and need to have the ability to lay the
foundation for a congregation to have success with its next

"It's a desire to do the groundwork, but not having the
need to see the crops grow," she said.


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