The Reverend Doctor THEODORE WILLIAM JOHNSON

Developmental Tasks

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The five developmental tasks of the interim period, setting the priorities for the work of the interim specialist, were formulated by 

Loren B. Mead, the founder of The Alban Institute, in his book Critical Moment of Ministry: A Change of Pastors (recently revised and published as A Change of Pastors … And How It Affects Change in the Congregation).

 

Mead also conceived the specialized ministry of the interim pastor whose job is to guide congregations through the transition in installed ordained leaders and designed the original training program for interim specialists.

 

More than anything else, however, Mead’s five developmental tasks have come to define the purposes of the interim period and the goals of the interim specialist.

 

The five developmental tasks are:

 

  • Coming to terms with the history of the congregation and its relationships with previous clergy;
  • Discovering a new identity of the congregation, what it dreams of being and doing apart from previous clergy leadership;
  • Allowing needed shifts in leadership as roles naturally evolve in times of transition, encouraging new leaders to emerge constructively, and organizing leaders into effective ministry teams appropriate to the size of the congregation;
  • Renewing and reworking linkages with the Diocese, so that each may be a more effective resource and support to the other; and
  • Building readiness for and commitment to new directions in ministry under the leadership of a new rector in order to be prepared to move into the future with trusting confidence and openness to new paradigms and possibilities.

 

The trained and experienced interim specialist knows when the developmental goals are actually being accomplished:

 

        History: When the members of the congregation can honestly select which practices of previous rectors they wish to retain and which to discard without resentment or obligation and can candidly state what they have learned positively and negatively about themselves from their relationships with previous clergy and what kind of congregation they have become under their leadership.

        New identity: When the members of the congregation can articulate its unique purpose (mission), what it will become in five or so years (vision), and the essential norms of its common life (core values).

        Shifts in leadership: When long-term leaders reduce their responsibilities, newer members assume significant duties, and more people overall are working effectively together as teams in active and meaningful leadership roles.

        Linkages with the Diocese: When the members of the congregation regard the Diocese as “us,” not “them” and more of them are actually participating in the programs, activities, and leadership of the Diocese.

        Commitment to new directions: When the members of the congregation are truly excited and eager for the spiritual transformation, innovative approaches, and new ministries that the new rector will bring to advance its mission and vision and are willing to invest their trust in that priest.

 

Obviously, work on the developmental tasks is never fully finished, but a certain amount of progress is essential before a new rector is called to the congregation. In addition, depending on the circumstances of the congregation, some of the developmental tasks may have a higher priority than others.

 

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Copyright 2007 by Theodore W. Johnson

9/15/2007

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