I have a wooden desk. Actually it was an unfinished table that I stained and then put a piece of glass on top of in order to protect it from scratches and pen marks and such. It has held up nicely 25+ years, so it turned out to be a pretty good investment – although at the time, $60.00 sounded like a lot of money.

Shortly after I moved the desk to my office and placed it in the appropriate space, my wife gave me a panoramic photo of a sunrise at the beach. I slipped the photo under the glass to remind me that the sun will rise every day, no matter how poorly or well I do what I do. Later, she gave me another photo – it is a picture of a sign that reads, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” I also have slipped that photo under the glass, right next to the sunrise. This seems like a pretty healthy way to not only begin, but to live out each day.

I must admit that the sunrise is easier to see and connect with than the sign. After all, we live in an extremely competitive society. Everything becomes a contest, and of course everyone wants to be the winner.

So several weeks ago it was very difficult for me to read an article written for a national publication about a new start up ministry. It was an interview, and the startup founder makes the following comment in reference to the Center’s work with interim ministry (and its connection to Wake Forest Baptist Health): “The old traditional training events for intentional interim work will remain as an offering of the medical center. The (new start up) will be working to identify and develop a new and more relevant approach to interim work that acknowledges the new realities of the congregational landscape.”

This suggests that the “old traditional training” is irrelevant.

Irrelevant? Really?

Since 1992, the Center has worked with hundreds of congregations and thousands of clergy and lay leaders, across 29 faith groups, in 44states, directly in four foreign countries, indirectly in two other foreign countries, and have partnered with the primary national and international organizations that work with interim ministry. Equally as important, the Center initiated a research project in 2004, using an independent consultant, to gather data about the effectiveness of interim ministry in these widely diverse congregations and settings. At the conclusion of the project, we decided to build on this research and make it a longitudinal study. Each year, leaders in faith communities who engaged the intentional interim ministry process are asked a series of questions. All are important, but perhaps the 3 most important/telling questions and the 9-year cumulative results (which now include several hundred congregations and several thousand lay leader responses) are:

  1. Would you recommend the Intentional Interim Ministry process to another congregation? 90% answered “yes” – this is up from the initial results of 87%.
  2. From my perspective, the overall health of the congregation significantly improved during the interim period. 93% agreed with that statement – this is up from the initial results of 88%.
  3. From my perspective, the overall health of the congregation continues to improve since the end of the interim period. 92% agreed with that statement – this is up from the initial results of 85%.

Irrelevant? Really?

I am serious about wanting all of us “to make it.” I think it is important, however, that we make it on our own track records, performance, and reputation, not by trying to make someone else’s work look poor or ineffective.

Okay, I promise, I will look at, and take seriously, my two photos again in the morning!

Les Robinson is in his 19th year as manager of interim ministry resources for the Center.