8 Ideas for Churches Seeking an Interim Pastor

  1. Write a thoughtful job description outlining the desired leadership traits you are looking for: pastoral care, teaching gifts, conflict management and resolution skills, etc. Be prepared to articulate these traits clearly in the interview and explain why each is necessary. 

  2. Record online conversations and interviews—always ask for the candidate’s consent before doing this. When talking to many people, it's easy to forget details, take incomplete notes, or come away with differing opinions, so a recording provides a way to go back and replay the conversation later. It is also a helpful resource to share with others who did not participate in the original call.

Lessons from a Visit to Jesus' Hometown

Sermon from The Rest of Your Life series: Rested and Ready to Go  (video link) 

By, Shari Jackson Monson

Psalm 92:1-8, Mark 1:35-39

I have found that visiting the family home of someone important to me always yields interesting insights about them – things I would be unlikely to learn another way. I wonder if you have had a similar experience?

In 1996 I visited the boyhood home of an American President. In that visit I gained some insights about the 34th President that have stayed with me – things I probably would not have otherwise known: including:

This President, born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. As a mother of 2 young children at the time I marveled at the idea of 7 boys! (Guesses? Keep quiet!)

When he was 2 years old the growing family moved to Abilene, Kansas = hometown. His parents set aside specific times at breakfast and at dinner for daily family Bible reading. Chores were regularly assigned and rotated among all the children, and misbehavior was met with strict discipline

As a freshman at Abilene High School he injured his knee and developed a leg infection which his doctor diagnosed as life-threatening. The doctor insisted that the leg be amputated but the teenager refused to allow it, and miraculously recovered.

This former President is 2nd from left in this picture of the 1912 West Point football team.

Academically, his best subject by far was English. He graduated in the middle of the class of 1915. As a young officer he met and fell in love with Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, Iowa, six years his junior, while he was stationed in Texas. He proposed to her on Valentine's Day in 1916.

In 1953, just 12 days after being inaugurated as President he was baptized at National Presbyterian Church in Washington DC

Who is this American President? Dwight D Eisenhower (What’s the D for? David named after his father)

A trip to the Holy Land is a kin to visiting the family home of Jesus and his many relatives in the Bible. Since our passage tonight is set in Jesus home town of Capernaum let’s take a look at what we see there today – and see what the hometown setting says about Jesus

Capernaum is located in the region of Israel called the Lower Galilee, situated along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Jesus day it was an important center of commerce especially for the fishing industry. When Jesus was calling his first disciples he did so here – Simon and his brother Andrew, and a little further down he called James son of Zebedee and his brother John. A short time later, just outside of town…Levi later called Matthew begins to follow Jesus.


What catches your eye in an artists rendering of Jesus' hometown? Archeological discoveries of the past 30 years indicate the region was populated by the wealthy, business owners, artisans, as well as peasants. Jewish people in the area were devout – and the connection to Jerusalem and the temple was strong, as was the study of Torah in local synagogues and use immersion pools for ritual purification.

It seems to me the artist may have been generous with the size of the homes based on this picture of today’s archeological park at Capernaum. We are standing outside Simon Peter’s home, facing Capernaum’s synagogue. In between lie the foundations of 1st century homes.

From this vantage point listen to the Gospel of Mark chapter 1:22-39

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Synagogue close to Simon Peter’s house. Rabbinic literature of the 1st c attests to the Galilean practice of pilgrimage to Jerusalem and its temple. Some Sages from Jerusalem taught their disciples in Galilee. Strictness in observing Torah.

A church stands today over the remains of Peter’s house where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

Our text says:

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

The whole city was gathered around the door of Peter’s door – imagine! Did they sort of parade by, did they approach one by one, family by family, was there pushing and shoving? Was their quiet respect, a hush over the place? Were kids running in the streets? Jesus must have been exhausted!

Early in the morning, at the height of his popularity, Jesus heads out to a solitary place by himself – to pray.

Physically worn out by crowds – he needed to orient himself to his mission. He prays, talking with his Father, Abba, Daddy.

Last mention of God’s voice was at Jesus’ baptism – You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Longing to hear that voice again, Jesus prays. He communes with God, his Father.

One of the unique things about spending time in the Middle East is hearing the Muslim call to prayer – early in the morning, about 5 am. Loud speakers blare – Get up, Get up, Prayer is better than sleep.

I’ve often thought as I hear it – that’s true!  It accurately reflects Jesus habit of nurturing his interior life.

At the point at which ‘the whole town’ is looking for him, eager for more wonders and healings – Jesus has slipped away for prayer. He’s never been busier. And what does he do? Seeks a quiet place to pray.

What do we do when life gets busy? Honestly? Our prayer life probably suffers.

We do not know the words to his prayer – but we do know the result. He tells his disciples it is time to head out of town. To head for lesser known places. It is time to return to his mission – proclaiming the Gospel message.

If I had been following Jesus at that time I am pretty sure I would be shaking my head in disbelief. Why in the world would Jesus choose not to return to the crowds? Sure,  crowds are  exhausting.  But it is such heady stuff – the fame, the glory, the notoriety. It is hard as Americans to walk away from adoring crowds. We tend to idolize celebrity status. Most of us, in truth, long to be famous.

Jesus knows what we so often forget – to change the world one needs an interior life oriented to the Father.

Let’s Pray.

Interim Ministry Note: author had just returned from leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during her study leave. To learn more visit CCI Trip to the Holy Land on Facebook.

Day 8: Seeing

MTI - Chios, Greece - November 20, 2015 Do you see her?

The young refugee woman with the baby?

She is fleeing violence. She is heartbroken. Crying. Nothing has prepared her for what lies ahead.

Genesis chapter 21 reminds us God hears the voice of the boy Ishmael crying, and sees his other mother Hagar weeping, and says 'get up'. God opens her eyes and she sees life-giving provisions. God was with them.

Question to ponder: if our God is a seeing God and we are to be seeing people, what are we to do about what we see in the world?

Prayer focus: today, may we walk with eyes wide open, asking 'what is wrong?'. Saying, 'do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of weeping.

Exercise: If she were moving into your neighborhood, in what way might you welcome her? Write a note of welcome to new neighbors from another culture.

For faith based resources on responding to the Syrian Refugee crisis globally visit Medical Teams International. To learn more about welcoming refugees in the US visit World Relief.





Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, a sermon series based on the book by Mark Labberton First in series: Called to be Living Stones, 1 Peter 2:1-10

Rev. Shari Jackson Monson

8 March 2015

On planet Earth in 1988, young Peter Quill sits in the waiting room of a hospital, listening with headphones to "Awesome Mix tape no. 1" on his Walkman. His grandpa comes out and gets him so he can say goodbye to his mom, who is dying of cancer. At the time of her death a distraught young Peter runs outside and is abducted by a spaceship. Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, an adult Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-lord (Chris Pratt) finds a mysterious Orb. Peter is soon joined by an assassin named Gamora (voice: Zoe Saldana), a mercenary named Rocket Raccoon (voice: Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voice: Vin Diesel). The rest of the story revolves around the misadventures of these cosmic misfits. Eventually they become something of a new family. Each is quite different from the other. They squabble. They make up. They fight off the bad guys and become known as…….

Anyone know this story?

Answer: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

You could say the Guardians are called to save the galaxy from extinction. Oddly, they sort of bumble along finding their way one step at a time. There is no grand scheme or map to point the way. There is one primary call – to keep the Orb out of the wrong hands and thus save the galaxy from destruction.

So, how in the world is this messed up bunch of characters going to pull it off?

Simple: they learn to count on each other’s unique strengths. Through thick and thin, through ambushes, trickery, and a dance-off, they ultimately survive because of costly personal sacrifices. Despite starting out selfish these broken individuals become loving interdependent friends.

1 Peter 2:1-10 (NRSV) The Living Stone and a Chosen People

2 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This is the Word of the LORD ~ thanks be to God.

Let’s pray: Holy God, when we were unholy, thoroughly messed up people, you claimed us as your own. You call us precious and you invite us to be built into a spiritual house filled with priestly activity. Help us to understand what this means. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Such a rich passage demonstrating our interconnectedness with Christ and with one another, focus on verse 5: like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter calls Christ followers living stones. We are those living stones. And our brothers and sisters around the world are too. Our lives and our witness are ‘stones’ being fitted together. Living stones may sound odd until you think of it this way – we live as people of faith on top of the shoulders of others who came before us. In our pews this morning we can see these generations. If you’ve been around awhile you know the impact of these storied lives. (Preaching idea: in some fashion illustrate the impact of generations by families standing up, coming forward, possibly interviewing one family with 3 or 4 generations present in the congregation).

At Hamblen we are wrapping up a project known as the Mission Study. At its heart the Mission Study asks and attempts to answer what it means for us today to be people being built into a spiritual house.

Among our findings:

  • Our spiritual household values hospitality – the warm heart of Hamblen extends welcome inside these doors and beyond.
  • This household of faith cherishes the sense of family built over these many years.
  • Members who are struggling can count on help and comfort showing up in visits, meals, babysitting, and other tangible means
  • Hamblen-ites value living out Christian faith in hands-on service

These are stable building blocks grounded in Biblical values.

Also in the Church Mission Study findings are areas for growth and imagination:

  • more evening opportunities for families
  • new forms of hospitality to encourage conversation among our diverse members
  • increased programs for youth and young adults fostering greater connection with the congregation

I dare not give away too much more as the Mission Study is in rough draft form but believe me it is exciting as pastors to see that Spirit is at work among us fashioning a vision for our future.

Living stone upon living stone we are being built up into a spiritual house as Peter imagined it. Living stone beside living stone we are meant to care about the well-fare of each other. Honoring our past and the shoulders we stand on while delighting as we link arms with those near to us.

A word about holy priesthood – in the Old Testament role of priests was to stand before God advocating for the needs of the people. But now we have a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, our cornerstone. He does this on our behalf before the Father. Illustration – on the darkest dark night in Peter’s life Jesus said, you will betray me Peter. Not I Lord!  Yes, you will but I have prayed for you. It will be hard as Satan will want to sift you, but you will turn to me.  (Luke chapter 22)

A word about being priests and a holy nation – Peter’s letter was written during a time of persecution to the ‘scattered’ churches. It must have been hard for them to feel like much of a nation or a people any longer. So Peter reminds them about the truth of being God’s people with imagery we might miss –

In Hebrew worship the high priest wore a breast shield-like vestment adorned with 12 precious stones on which the names of the of Israel’s tribes were inscribed. That means when Jesus serves as our high priest he stands before the Father with our names inscribed across his chest. When the Father looks at us he sees us as precious. Know this, let it sink in.

Priests pray for the people. We are holy priesthood. Therefore our prayers for people are impactful. Later on in the service Betsey/Katie will lead us in a time of prayer inviting our spoken responses. May we as priests lift up the prayers of the people with joy.

Associated Press headline Nov 13, 2008, Moscow: Church Disappears

Orthodox Church officials have discovered one of their church buildings has disappeared. Poof—gone! The 200-year-old building northeast of Moscow had gone unused for a decade. But recently the Orthodox Church was experiencing growth and was considering reopening the church building only to discover their building wasn't there.

They had to get to the bottom of this. After investigating the matter, the church officials did not blame aliens from outer space for the missing structure. Rather, they said the perpetrators were villagers from a nearby town. Brick by brick over the past decade these villagers had taken and sold bricks from the building to a businessman. For each brick, the thieves received one ruble (about 4 cents).

This two-story church facility did not go from being a building to not being a building in one bulldozing stroke. Rather, the bricks were apparently chiseled out one by one by lots of people. In the same way, some churches—built not of bricks but of "living stones," that is of Christians—are not reduced in one fatal stroke but rather by Christians one by one choosing not to be involved.

Each living stone separated from the church is like a brick chiseled away. Conversely, each person who gets involved helps to build a holy temple made up of living bricks, where Christ is glorified. Amen.

Stand and sing linked up with the living stones around you… Great is Thy Faithfulness #276

Sermon Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt as though you were part of a ‘misfits’ group akin to the Guardians of the Galaxy? If so, what happened as a result of your time together? (Note: this question may will be easier to answer if you have seen the movie. Feel free to insert the plot of similar book or movie)
  2. In what way do you function like a ‘living stone’ that is precious to God? Precious to your family? Precious to others?
  3. Considering your role as a royal priest think of someone near you who could use your prayers right now. How might you commit to stand before God on their behalf?
  4. Read Psalm 118:5-10, and 21-25. Consider in what way the image of the rejected cornerstone of Psalm 118 relates to 1 Peter 2:1-10. How might the early readers of Peter’s letter relate to this ‘hymn’ or psalm of the church? Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!  21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it 25 Save us; we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Reflection Questions for Interim Ministry:

  • Interim Ministry Task: Mission study/Appreciative inquiry - use findings in sermons. This illustrates the role of the congregation in imagining their future together and demonstrates progress being made toward the call of a new pastor.
  • Interim Ministry Task: Coming to Terms with the Past - sermon series on Philippians or another early church epistle lends itself to this important task.
  • Hint: See Pinterest Board  Interim By Design for ideas to engage congregations in celebrating their church history.