For the Thompsons, interim or transitional ministry comes down to three questions: Who are we? Who is my neighbor? Why are we here?

That’s what Beverly Thompson, who, along with her husband George, work as a consulting duo. They spoke Tuesday (July 3) at the Interim/Transitional Ministry Luncheon during the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).      

Both of the Thompsons prefer to be called coaches. “We are not consultants,” she said. “We’re coaches. We can’t do the work of the congregations for them.”

And work it is. When the Thompsons work with a congregation in transition, they expect the congregation to answer the three simple, but difficult questions.

“They (the congregation) name it, they claim it, and they struggle with it,” Beverly said.

George, a seminary faculty member who has served in various pastoral roles in congregations across the United States, described their work as “not one of telling people what to do, but guiding them through a process.”

And while a congregation must answer the three questions, the congregation is working through a process—a time of discovery—that looks at spiritual, theological and analytical practices.

George, editor of the book, Alligators in the Swamp: Power, Ministry and Leadership, said that ultimately a strong congregation—or any community—can be evaluated by looking at “growth and decline as a function of a community’s ability to respond to change.”

All congregations in interim situations are either “fearful or grieving,” Beverly said. As they process through the change, taking a deep look at the three questions, they can move forward.