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  • Becky Ykema

Dear Interim Leader

I'm turning Episode 16 of my podcast, Darling: Confessions of a Former Megachurch Singer into written form here. Please share with anyone who finds themselves in the middle space of holding things together while an organization is between leaders.

Dear Interim Leader,

You are cut from a special cloth. You are one who has the ability to step into the place where another left their mark, and lead.

Your job is not to rock the boat, but to keep her moving forward, steady as she goes.

These team members were not yours. You did not know the bonds formed between the former leader and them. The laughs shared, the inside jokes formed when Joe missed a lighting cue. Or that time when Cindy played a prank on the keys player and transposed their keyboard down a half step. You may be interim preaching and aren’t sure if any jokes or metaphors are “taboo” to this community!

You aren’t aware of the dashed hopes of worship members who wanted to get to sing lead on that one song, and it never came to be. You don’t know the personal and intentional rhythms of scheduling that were put together with care, by the former leader in order to make everyone feel seen and valued. You don’t know who wants to serve more, or who wants to serve less. You don’t know.

Or maybe you do. Maybe there’s a team member who has graciously wrapped their arms around you, Interim Leader, and walked you through what the past few years were like before you entered the picture. Maybe you are being well supported and as you entered this team with blurry eyes, where everything is murky and unknown, you have a guide. Someone who is holding up glasses to you that make everything clearer about the culture you stepped into. I pray this you.

Or maybe you’re on your own to figure it out. You’ve been dumped a pile of passwords that the staff thinks are the right passwords, and given the keys to the church and production booth, told to go make sure Sundays happen without many hitches. Maybe the leaders around you think you’re a tech guy, or a worship gal, so surely you’ll know what to do to make it all keep carrying on.

Hi there. I see you.

I see the unknowns and the question marks. The questions in the back of your mind like, “how do I fit into this culture well?” or “How can I meet expectations that I don’t know exist?”

I see you taking on unexpected conversations with team members, who maybe harbored wounds from former leaders that were left unexpressed. I see you bearing the weight and sin of what was done or left undone by a former leader, and how you, Interim Leader, shoulder that weight. You carry a cross that was not yours to carry.

I see you, Interim Leader, as congregants and team members come up to you with hopeful eyes and prayerfully ask if you’ll be their next leader. I see you fumbling in how to answer with grace, while you may be still discerning this very question deep in the recesses of your heart.

Dear Interim Leader, your work is worthy and so needed.

In the era of the Great Resignation, now more than ever some who have led for a longtime have stepped away to take a breath, a beat. There’s a musical term for a sudden break in the song, caesura. The break can be of any length, and is held and released at the discretion of the conductor. Many caesuras are being held these days.

Meanwhile, the work must go on and you, Interim Leader, may find yourself in a season that feels like a fermata, holding out a very long note. The duration of this long note may be extended as long as the conductor wills it to be, or until one simply cannot hold on any longer.

Hi. I see you.

Interim Leader, your work is worthy and so needed. God sees you. Your volunteers and the organization sees you. But you know what matters even more than your performance within your interim role? Your soul.

And so, interim leader, lean into the rhythms of rest that Jesus speaks of. Daily, bring your burdens to him. The burdens that were rightly placed on you to carry and be responsible for, and the burdens that you adopted from others in this transitional time. Give it to him. Let him carry it. Daily.

Interim Leader, remember that Jesus cares more about your soul than He does the fruit of your labor. You are a child of God, loved and wanted. Nothing more, nothing less.

And whenever or however your season of interim-ing completes, may you graciously pass the baton in the best way you are able. In a manner that honors the people you have served and prepares well for the person stepping in now to fill your shoes.

And may you leave with a whisper from God upon your heart saying, “My child, well done. You honored the call.”

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