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Revitalizing Congregations: Refocusing and Healing Through Pastoral Transitions

This is a book about church health, pastoral leadership and the value of intentional interims. If a congregation is about to experience a pastoral transition, this book should be a must-read for the parish leadership.

The author, William O. Avery, is an experienced denominational leader and professor from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Gettysburg, Pa. Avery does not detail a program but gives a candid snapshot of how leadership modes may impact church health during pastoral transitions.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
In the foreword, Loren Mead describes three models of leadership: 1) the great man theory; 2) the technological model; and 3) the dialogical model.
 
The intentional interim process in each of the book’s six case studies represents the dialogical model.
 
The value of a trained, experienced and gifted interim pastor is modeled well in the book. Avery gives a documented overview of how effectively a well-trained interim can assist congregations in healthy revitalization.
 
The interim pastor skilled in conflict resolution, visioning and pulpit ministry can have a strong influence on process without becoming a candidate for permanent pastor.
 
One of the interim pastors from the Baptist tradition defined the experience as a process and not a program. The focus was on assisting the congregation to engage in open dialogue about its identity, history, future and preparing for new leadership as opposed to waiting for new leadership to give an agenda.
 
A key lesson for me that stood out in the book was the example of how disruptive a transition in pastoral leadership can be following long, tenured pastors or forced terminations. Either can produce conflict, which can undermine church health for years.
 
The book builds a strong case for congregations to use transition as a time to refocus and find healing while developing a vision for the future. It would appear that reclaiming of congregational identity, redreaming of vision and charting a future will help the local parish to call pastoral leadership that “fits” well.
 
I would recommend this book to lay leaders, pastors and denominational leaders because the book offers a fine model for building a foundation for congregational health during transitions.
 
This is a book about church health, pastoral leadership and the value of intentional interims. If a congregation is about to experience a pastoral transition, this book should be a must-read for the parish leadership.
 
Jim Royston is executive director/treasurer of the BaptistState Convention of North Carolina.

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