Appointing a Transition Minister

Documenting the appointment

Once you have selected a transition minister, and they have accepted the appointment, the parish must document what has been agreed between them and the transition minister.  The first step is to decide which will be the best form of documentation.

Terms of call/letter of appointment for a transition minister

This form of documentation is suitable for a locally or nationally ordained minister who is eligible to receive a stipend.  The parish would draw up a standard terms of call/letter of appointment with the following adjustments:

  • The tenure will always be fixed-term and for the purpose of assisting the parish through change or deal with a specific issue
  • The minister may be accountable to the parish, the presbytery or another minister (where they are working alongside the parish’s minister)
  • The ministry expectations area will clearly set out the objectives the parish wishes to achieve and these will be focused on either particular issues or more general change (NB: if pastoral care, preaching or other “regular” parish ministry tasks are prominent here it would be a good time to reconsider whether the parish is actually seeking a transition minister)
  • A review section that gives the parish the ability to review progress being made and, if need be, to reset objectives (especially important in longer-term appointments)
  • The code of ethics or a confidentiality section as the parish may be dealing with some particularly sensitive issues

Employment agreement for a transition minister

This agreement is suitable for non-ordained transition ministers.  The parish and transition minister negotiate and agree on the usual terms and conditions such as salary, hours of work etc with the tasks agreed to in an attached job description. Again, the parish should give consideration to a confidentiality clause. The parish must consult with presbytery early on where the expectation is that the transition minister will perform the sacraments or weddings during their appointment. 

A warning - this arrangement potentially gives the parish the ability to performance manage the transition minister through regular reviews as it would any other employees so consideration needs to be given as to whether this gives the transition minister enough autonomy to do their job.  The parish treasurer would be responsible for paying the transition minister their salary, making PAYE payments and tracking leave entitlements.

Contract for services for a transition minister

Under this arrangement the transition minister would be a contractor, contracted by the parish for a specific period to perform particular tasks.  The terms and conditions are still negotiated as for an employment agreement but there is greater emphasis on the transition minister being “external” to the parish rather than being apart of the parish which, depending on the work being done, could benefit the process. 

The parish would not be able to performance manage the transition minister as they could an employee but they could still build in regular progress reviews, as they would with an ordained transition minister.  The treasurer would pay the contractor on receipt of invoice freeing them up from payroll duties.

This type of document could be used for non-ordained transition ministers as well as ordained ministers where they are undertaking these duties on a part-time basis in addition to their own parish ministry.  However ordained ministers need to be aware that payment for a contract for services would not attract a parish contribution to the Beneficiary Fund.

Approval of terms and conditions for a transition minister

Where the parish is vacant, it is likely that the initiative for a transition minister has come from the Interim Moderator or the ministry settlement board – in which case parish and presbytery approval is required.

If a minister is already in place and there is no vacancy, the parish is free to make arrangements as it thinks appropriate where the tasks relate strictly to dealing with change or specific issues.  However, if the parish wants an ordained transition minister to perform the tasks of a parish minister during the appointment then they need presbytery approval as it has authority over the provision of word and sacrament in parishes.