(440) 653-3476 Kathleen.Rolenz@gmail.com

Transitional/Interim Ministry

A Unique Opportunity for Reflection and Growth
Congregations in transition have a unique opportunity to evaluate their ministry and to prepare the ground for the new settlement. There are two metaphors that come to mind when I consider the interim/transitional tasks. The first metaphor is breaking up solid ground to allow for seeds to take root. This is not to say that an interim minister’s first job is to come in and shake everything up! However, it is to discern what needs to change. Congregations in transition are congregations in some form of crisis. Regardless whether the departure of their senior minister was smooth and expected,  tumultuous and difficult, the transition throws everything into question. The interim’s job is to discern what fields need to be overturned to permit new growth and vitality, and which ones need to lay fallow for now.

The second metaphor that comes to mind when I consider what an experienced interim minister can do is pruning. Good pruning requires careful study, sharp tools, and a knowledge of the plant as a whole. When plants are allowed to grow without pruning, they become weakened by neglect. Some programs that were started by the former minister may have run out of energy, but members may have a hard time letting it go. Worship may have become stale or overly accommodating to individual needs. The interim will have an eye for what may need to be pruned during an interim time to allow for new energy to emerge.

However, none of this is done in isolation! An interim minister consults with key leaders, discusses her thoughts and insights with the Board, and collaborates with a number of lay leaders. After all, it is your church, your congregation, but the role of the Interim can be like the real estate agent who comes into your home and notices in short order all of those things which you cannot see because you have been living comfortably with it for many years.  The interim time is not just “a holding pattern.”  It’s an important time to evaluate your past, assess the health of your present congregation, and prepare for the future.

As an Accredited Interim Minister in Training (AIM-IT), I am guided by the five primary developmental tasks of interim ministry.  They are:

 1. Coming to terms with your history.

 2. Discovering a New Identity

3. Encouraging New Leadership

 4. Renewing Denominational Ties

5. Committing to New Directions

Each one of these tasks is clearly described at the beginning of the interim time.  The interim minister engages with the leadership on these five tasks and reports on them to the Board regularly.

Serving different size congregations.  I am have served as an interim for four congregations of differing sizes:

UU Church of Glen Allen, VA (1999-2000)

The Cleveland Unitarian Universalist Society (2003-2004) (The Society has now merged with the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland to form a new congregation.)

 Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Appleton, WI  (2015 – 2017)

Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Annapolis, MD (2018 – 2020)

The UU Church of Glen Allen was under 150 members; The Cleveland Society was approximately 50 members and Fox Valley UU Fellowship is 700+ members.  While I have experience in smaller congregations, the last two congregations have been over 550 members with responsibilities for supervising eight to ten staff members.  I feel comfortable and confident in my ability to manage and navigate large and complex church systems.  For the last two years, I worked with Associate Minister Reverend Leah Hart-Landsberg (Fox Valley UU Fellowship) as both her supervisor and as part of three person Executive Team.  The Executive Team was charged with the day to day operations of the Fellowship and reported directly to the Governing Board.

At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, I was hired as the Interim Senior Executive Minister, charged with supervising the Associate Minister, Rev. John Crestwell.  It became clear to both of us that a more collaborative and less hierarchical ministry would be more beneficial to the church and for our relationship.  We began to work together as co-equals; a model of ministry with which I am well familiar from working with my husband as co-ministers for 16 years.  Working co-equally with my colleague, we have modeled cooperative, collaborative ministry. By 2019, I became simply the interim minister, and Rev. John Crestwell – the minister.  Currently UUCA is seeking a colleague of equal standing to work alongside and with Rev. Crestwell.  My contract with UUCA will be complete by July 30, 2020.