The Intentional Interim Ministry Process

What does Intentional Interim Process look like?

The goal is to create an atmosphere in which everyone is able to express freely what they think and how they feel without the fear of rejection. This allows everyone to feel safe in the exchange of ideas. The Intentional Interim provides a “non-anxious presence” that leads the participants toward this safe place.   An Intentional Interim is able to be far less anxious than a full-time leader because he/she is simply here to help the organization become fully functional and healthy without any hidden agendas or desire to become the permanent leader.

A major problem in most ministries is that the real discussion of major issues most often occurs in the parking lot after a meeting, in telephone conversations, or in small informal gatherings. These discussions usually begin with the phrase, “What I really wanted to say….” It takes time, trust and many examples to create a place where people are no longer afraid to enter into honest and open dialogue.

How is this achieved? A part of the reason this can be accomplished is that the Intentional Interim can act as something of a referee in order to keep the discussion on target. They are not on anyone’s “side” and don’t have a “dog in this hunt” when it comes to past issues. They become a catalyst to help everyone express their heart felt feelings and encourage the group to listen to points of view other than their own. No one is ever allowed a “put down” rebuttal – everyone is given respect.

This is how a Christian organization should act anyway, don’t you agree? We’re talking about a sense of real community and authentic caring. A part of what is attempted during the Intentional Interim process is to remind us of what we’re like at our best, and help us live out our best selves. What surprises most people about our self-identity study are how much they enjoy the process. I think that is because everyone is empowered to be their best self and in doing so we all grow toward Christian maturity.

What is the Transition Team and what does it do?

The Transition Team leads the organization through the five developmental tasks of the organization’s Self Study. These tasks are Heritage, Mission, Leadership, Connection and Future. They determine how best to involve the organization to engage in working through these tasks. The Transition Team is also responsible for recommending to the organization when the self-study process should be concluded and when the search for a new leader is to begin.

Will the Transition Team be perfect? No, it’s not about perfection – it’s about progress and direction. The Transition Team’s focus is not to play it “safe.” Rather, to ask the right and hard questions. That includes identifying the “elephants” we are aware of, feed, and clean up after – and yet deny their existence. It is vital to do so before calling a new leader because the new leader’s effectiveness is often derailed by these unresolved issues.

The Transition Team will keep information flowing to the organization and will make reports on a regular basis. They will keep their work confidential (when applicable) until the appropriate time to share with the whole organization. 

THE FIVE DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS OF THE SELF-STUDY

1. HERITAGE (Coming to terms with your history)

It is vital to make time for healing within the organization and for putting the service of the former leader in perspective. There must be a time of letting go of the former leader, discarding old expectation, wounds, patterns, and baggage of the past. At the same time, the organization also needs to celebrate those things that have made his ministry strong and significant in the Kingdom. Only when the organization has let go of the former leader, can a new leader be fully accepted. The Transition Team will lead in putting together a ministry wide way to accomplish the task.

2. MISSION (Clarifying the Organization’s Identity)

An organization must periodically redefine a sense of core values, purpose, direction, and what distinguishes it from other organizations in the community. The Intentional Interim is an appropriate time to do this. It is also an ideal time to conduct membership and ministry studies to find out how effectively the organization is reaching and serving its target community. A ministry that fails to connect and serve its community through mission and ministry becomes an endangered ministry. Many groups today have turned inward to serve their own members. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

3. LEADERSHP (Examining Leadership and Decision-Making Concerns)

Every organization must be conscious of developing new leadership for the tasks of ministry and for incorporating younger and newer members into its Body. The Intentional Interim is a prime time for reviewing the membership, its needs, and its ways of organizing, and for making decisions on how to best use its resources. It is an occasion to review all documents, bylaws, policies and procedures, structure, lay and staff leadership and identify spiritual health of members.

4. CONNECTIONS (Looking at External Relationships)

An organization has often learned to see its relationship to other external connections through the eyes of its former leader. It is crucial that each ministry organization clarify its basic theological belief. An organization that does not deal with this aspect of its life runs a strong risk of calling leaders who do not align theologically with the ministry. This can be a devastating experience for the leader and the organization and can lead to sever conflict.

5. FUTURE (Commitment to new Leadership and the Future)

When an organization has completed the four preceding tasks, it is ready to form a Search Team to talk with candidates who can be a good match for the organization. During this phase of the Intentional Interim, the organization prepares to receive a new leader and makes arrangements for calling and installing its new Leader.

How is this Self-Study Different from other Studies?

Two words you will hear repeatedly are relationship and process. Relationship is the big “R” word with God. Jesus’ ministry focused on bringing people into a healthy relationship with God and a healthy relationship with other people. When asked about the most important commandment, he was the first to join together two portions of Hebrew Scripture (Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18): “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these. 

Biblically, faith is ALWAYS about relationships – my relationship with God and my relationship with other people. These two cannot be separated. The Self-Study is based on “family systems,” a concept familiar to many of you. Many organizations fail to understand themselves and what is going on, because they want to quickly find out what the “problem” is and then decide who is to blame and often don’t thank about how to “fix” it. In systems thinking, we look at the situation as a whole, we don’t look at isolated parts.

Many people are totally unaware of how much baggage they carry around that influences their feelings and responses to current situations. All too often, past hurt, frustrations, disappointments, unrealized expectations, unfinished grief, and perceptions, etc. play a major rule in what is currently happening in the organization. What all this basically means is that we will be talking about issues, models, and processes that apply to ALL relationships – that apply to all of life, that apply to our Christian pilgrimage and our spiritual journey.

I hope this answers many of your questions and that the Lord will use this time to bring about healing and health.

In Christ’s Service,

Nolan Duck, D. Min.

Additional information can be found at: IntentionalInterim.org