Archive for February, 2011

Guidelines for Living and Ministering in the UK (updated 5/26/12)

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Prepared 5/10/01 by Chuck and Pat McComb (Last Revised June 19, 2014)


Advice and Guidance for the American Interim Pastor
Airlines Tickets
Baptist Union of Great Britain
Children’s Workers
Church Relationships
Church Services
Computers and Internet service
Cultural Differences
Financial Business
HOME (manse = parsonage)
Medical Care
Passports, Visas and Overseas Travel
Places to See
Planning for Ministry
School Work
Terms of Reference
Things to take with you
Youth Workers


These comments will be used to help provide an orientation for Americans going to the UK to serve in interim ministry for the first time. Generally we refer to interim pastors but most of the comments also apply to interim youth workers and interim children’s workers. We hope we have covered most of the important issues but doubt that we have. This document will remain evergreen and we will appreciate suggestions for improvement from all those who serve in this ministry.

The first draft only addressed the northeast of England. Subsequently, AIPM has been given opportunities to serve in other parts of the UK. We are trying now to make the comments fit multiple locations. Although England, Scotland and Wales are not large, they are on an island and there are enormous regional variations—in weather, lifestyle and traditions. Even within just a few miles the way people live can be very different and it really does have to be experienced to be understood.

We suggest that American Interim Pastors take these comments with a grain of salt. Please go to the UK with a mindset that the local people know their church, community, area and country best and be prepared to learn from them. They will love you and take very good care of you.

Advice and Guidance for the American Interim Pastor

Two key sources for advice are available to Interim Pastors working as volunteers in the UK. One source will be a local minister and the other will be someone from the Baptist Association.

The local minister source may be a pastor who has been called by the church to serve in an advisory or oversight capacity (Moderator). The Moderator may be serving as pastor of a nearby church or may be a retired minister. Find a local Baptist minister that you get on well with and trust and use that person as the “go to” person for questions. AIPM, Inc. will maintain a list of names and phone numbers of people of this type once we get experience in the areas where we have people serving.

The association of area churches source may be the Regional Minister or some other executive of the association. The Regional Minister has a liaison role with local churches similar to that of a Director of Missions in an association in the USA. One Regional Minister described his role as, “A pastor to pastors and a friend of the church.” AIPM, Inc. will maintain a current list of names and phone numbers of Regional Ministers in the associations where we have people serving. Each interim pastor is encouraged to phone the Regional Minister within the first week or so of arriving in England and try to arrange a meeting for introductions and an orientation to the assigned church and to the Baptist Association. Depending on the schedule, the Regional Minister may be able to participate in an “Induction Service” for the newly arrived American interim pastor. Not all UK Baptist churches hold induction services for our volunteers for various reasons, but they are very meaningful services to which all church members and pastors and members of other local churches are invited.

Obviously, an American Interim Pastor who has served in the church before will be a great source of information about whom to turn to for advice and guidance as well as questions. For that reason, we encourage the couple going over to arrive a few days before the departing couple leave for on-the-scene orientation. If there is a gap between assignments, emails and phone calls or face-to-face visits are strongly encouraged

Airline Ticket Reimbursement

The church will pay for round trip travel for interim pastors from their home in the USA to the manse (parsonage) in the UK. Ask the church how they want you to handle ticket costs. It may be best for you to purchase the airlines tickets here and let the church reimburse you after you get there. The amount reimbursed for the tickets in GBP (Great Britain Pounds-UK money) will meet your cash needs for quite a while depending on how much you use your credit card [see Financial Business below]. You may want to take payment from the church treasurer over a period of time and avoid having a large amount of cash around.


The airlines usually allow each person to check 2 bags and take one bag as carry-on. Additionally women are sometimes allowed a purse of any size and men may be allowed a laptop bag or briefcase, but check with the airline before packing. The bags that are checked should have wheels and must weigh no more than 50 pounds each. Some airlines may charge for the second checked bag per passenger. We hope interim workers will be able to manage with 2 checked bags per person to avoid extra cost to the church.

Baptist Union of Great Britain

The Baptist Union of Great Britain is similar to the national or state conventions in the USA. There are about 2100 Baptist churches in the BUGB with most in England and a few in Wales and Scotland. The Welsh and Scottish Baptist churches that belong to the BUGB may be aligned with two Unions. The BUGB provides support for these churches similar to USA conventions. The Union is made up of 13 regional Associations who have regional teams have a pastoral oversight of the ministers and their family and also work strategically for mission in the region.


If you can manage it, take a digital camera to the UK to make emailing photos back home to family and friends easy and inexpensive. AIPM would appreciate copies of photos of the area and the people of the church. These are of great interest to others couples that come to the church to serve.


The church will provide a car for the American Interim Pastor and spouse to drive. The church will ensure that the car is fully insured at church expense and will pay the repair bills and annual inspection costs (MOT). The church will reimburse the American Interim Pastor for the use of the car on church business at the rate of 15 pence per mile. If the church does not already have the car, please encourage them to get a car with 4 doors to make it easier to give folk a lift to church.

The American Interim Pastor and spouse will need to provide a record of insurance claims (from your USA insurance company) and driving records (from your state department of public safety). The church will also need the date of birth and the number of years that a driver’s license has been held. This is extremely important because car insurance for an American driver can be very expensive.

The way the insurance policy is written is extremely important. The American Interim Pastor and spouse will be the main drivers and the insurance application and certificate must list them as such. It would not be “proper” to list a church member as main driver while the American couple is serving. Also, the application and certificate must list the car as being kept at the manse and not at the home of a member who may hold title to the car. The insurance policy must state that the car use is Class 1 plus Business Use. If incorrect information is given to the insurance company it could invalidate the insurance coverage! Get a copy of the insurance certificate to have with you when you are operating the church-owned car.

Depending on the age and condition of the car and the trips the American Interim Pastor plans to take, the Automobile Association (AA), Royal Automobile Club (RAC), Green Flag or similar emergency road service insurance may be a good idea. (Some insurance companies include emergency road service as part of the policy.) The “Terms of Reference” which lists expectations of the church and the interim pastor may address this [see Appendix below].


British law is very strict regarding the well-being of children. The Baptist Union of Great Britain has a major section on their web site with comprehensive information on what they call “Safeguarding.” This site provides information on policies and procedures for working with children and young people. This is a “must read” for AIPM volunteers before the assignment begins. Each church may have its own version of a safeguarding policy, based on information from the Baptist Union or elsewhere. It may be customized to its own situation. This document should be studied thoroughly, too. Additionally, the AIPM volunteer should meet with a member of the association leadership team (one of the Regional Ministers will be an expert on safeguarding) and ask for a detailed orientation. The church should have someone named as the safeguarding contact person (child or youth advocate) and it might be good for that person to attend the orientation session with the Regional Minister as well. This is important for the protection of children and youth, for the church and for the American volunteer religious worker.
The church may have designated some member as the person to turn to if there are questions about the rules. This could be a school teacher who should be thoroughly familiar with the requirements or the church may have sent a member for special training. Be very careful to follow all the rules—don’t hesitate to ask questions. A police check will be conducted on each AIPM volunteer and spouse before they report for service in the UK. The candidate and spouse will complete a consent form for the police background check and send to AIPM, Inc. AIPM, Inc. will have the police check made through the Protect My Ministry organization for a fee. The confirmation of “No Record” will be forwarded to the church secretary and to David Hunt of Gateshead International Ministries by AIPM, Inc. One American volunteer religious worker was told that an “Enhanced Criminal Records Check” is required in the UK for work with children. The value of this is not clear since the candidate will not likely have lived in England, but the local church rules must be followed. AIPM will try to keep up with any changes and follow any new rules.
We have been told that recent rules require children less than 4 ft. in height or under 12 years old to be in a booster seat when riding in a car. This could have an effect on giving families with children a lift to and form church services.
In recent times we heard discussion of protection of “vulnerable adults.” The BUGB may be working on “safeguarding” instructions to cover vulnerable adults as well as minor children, but it appears that their web site currently focuses on children and youth. AIPM will try to stay abreast of developments for vulnerable adults and notify our volunteers when information is available.

Children’s Workers

Sadly, many UK Baptist churches have no children attending services or in any way connected to the church. Since work with children has a high energy demand some congregations with only elderly members may find the prospects of personally working with children daunting. AIPM, Inc. may be able to recruit retired Children’s Ministers in the USA to work in those churches that have a sincere desire to reach younger families and minister to their children. Such churches would need to have a vision and strategy to provide ministry to children via British persons after a period of interim children’s ministers from America. Details of such an arrangement would have to be worked out on a case-by-case basis, but it is envisioned that the Terms of Reference for such a position would be similar to that of an interim pastor (see appendix).

AIPM has also had good success in recruiting university students and recent graduates for volunteer work with children and youth in British Baptist churches. Assignments of anywhere from 2 weeks (good for help with holiday club (VBS) to 2 years are possible. A summer session of around 10 weeks seems to fit a lot of university students well.

Church Relationships

Generally, Baptist churches in the UK do not use committees to the extent that Baptist churches in the USA use them. The deacon body does much of the work of keeping the church operating. A deacon’s involvement in pastoral ministries, quite like the USA, depends on the individual deacon and his or her pastor’s leadership.

A key position in an English Baptist church is “Church Secretary.” This is not the pastor’s secretary, as the title might imply in America. It is the official lay position that handles the church’s business. This business includes making denominational reports, handling official correspondence, keeping track of membership, scheduling supply preachers when the pulpit is vacant, etc. The Church Secretary does many of the duties that a business administrator might do in a church in the USA. One British Baptist pastor said, tongue-in-cheek, “First there is God and then there is the CHURCH SECRETARY.”

Many UK Baptist churches do not have a “minister of music” or praise and worship leader. This is especially true of the smaller churches. UK pastors generally lead the entire service including the praise and worship. Some simply announce the hymns or choruses and let the instruments or a worshipper with a strong voice lead the congregational singing. Others also lead the singing depending on talents and gifts. If the Interim Pastor were not able to serve in this capacity, arrangements should be made with members of the congregation to lead the “praise and worship” portion of each service. If the members are willing, this is an excellent way to get broader participation in the worship service. AIPM, Inc. will try to find out what kind of worship and praise music the church prefers and try to avoid a miss-fit, that is, an interim pastor who can’t tolerate the church’s preference of music. It is hoped that interim pastor candidates can be flexible in this regard because it is unrealistic to expect the church to change their preference to suit a short-term pastor.

The mindset of the Interim Pastor should not be to import methods and programs from America. A preferred approach would be to learn what works well in the local culture and capitalize on those things. The local people generally are not lacking in ideas for ministries to do or how to do them. Their primary need is for resources to implement the ideas they already have. They will have developed ideas for ministry from their own experiences and from the experiences of local churches that are seen to be successful. It would be a good idea to wait until asked, “How do you do it in your church in America?” before offering very many American approaches.

Generally, the local church will have already designated someone to lead the church’s deacons’ meetings and church business meetings before American interim pastor ministry begins. This leader could be a member of the congregation or the pastor of a nearby Baptist church or a retired pastor may serve as leader (Moderator). If meetings are lead by a church member, it is probably a good idea to encourage this arrangement to continue as the people of the church know best how business is conducted and communicated. If meetings are currently being led by an outside moderator, it may be best that the arrangement be terminated in favor of either a church member or the American interim pastor serving as moderator. There are likely exceptions to this recommendation such as the church being in a building program, etc. Deacon and Church Meeting leadership should be addressed before the first interim pastor begins serving that church and it should not be a contentious issue. In either case, the Interim Pastor will likely be expected to bring a short devotional and prayer at the start of the meetings. It may be a good idea to have a passage of Scripture that deals with any agenda item that is seen to be particularly important.

The interim pastor is well advised to communicate to the entire congregation from the pulpit information about important issues under consideration by the interim pastor and church leaders. The pastor’s support and enthusiasm for the actions taken by the church are just as valuable in the UK as in the USA. Moreover, it is very difficult to over communicate! People want to know what is going on or in the thinking stage and it is perfectly okay for the interim pastor to keep them in the loop.

The interim pastor and spouse may choose to move their church membership to the UK church. However, considering the limited time involved an alternative is to come under the “watch-care” of the church. The watch-care arrangement grants the interim pastor and spouse all the rights and privileges of membership except the right to vote on church business.

The process for becoming a member of a British Baptist church is substantially different than entry into a Baptist church in America. The standard approach in Britain seems to be: a prospective member applies for membership by letting the Church Secretary know in writing of the interest. The Church Secretary takes the matter to the deacons meeting. Deacons may appoint a deacon and a non-deacon member to visit the prospect. The results of the visit are reported to the deacons and the deacons then vote on admitting the prospect into membership. The next step is for the Church Meeting to hear a recommendation from the deacons and then vote on membership. If the church votes for membership, the pastor or interim pastor will welcome the new member into the fellowship at the next communion service. The new member may be invited to sit on the front row of seats and he or she may be served the Lord’s Supper as the deacons are being served.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with other Christian churches in the community is important to UK Baptist churches and recognizes the fact that the community is watching to see how we treat one another. Some communities have Churches Together, an official national organization with certain criteria for membership. The deacons will advise the interim pastor of the church’s membership in Churches Together or any other similar organization and any background on the subject. Also, often the season of Lent involves cooperation and sometime shared services with other churches in the community. This may include holding services on weeknights at each of the participating churches during Lent. Some Baptist churches have combined services on Maundy Thursday evening and Good Friday morning.

Church Services

American interim pastors are permitted to conduct funeral services both at the Baptist church and at the local crematorium. Beware—the schedule is very tight at the crematorium (about 30 minutes) and the service must be concluded on time. Get the funeral director or the manager of the crematorium to explain the buttons to start the recorded music during the service and the button to close the curtains at the end of the service. Do not get these buttons mixed up! The family may want special music played during the service. They will need to give you an audio cassette of the music and you will probably need to take the tape to the crematorium about 24 hours before the service so they can check that it plays properly and have it cued up.
American interim pastors are allowed to conduct weddings in the UK. The legal requirement is that an official “Registrar” be present and handle the paperwork. Most UK Baptist churches seem to have someone designated at the Wedding Registrar but you must check before proceeding. Certain questions must be asked and there are rules regarding the wedding ceremony so you will need to see an instruction sheet before you conduct a wedding ceremony.
The Lord’s Supper may be served in a different way from Baptist churches in America. Some UK Baptist pastors announce, “We will eat the bread as it is served symbolizing that we come to faith in Christ as individuals. We will hold the cup and all drink together symbolizing that the church in one body in Jesus Christ.” Taking the Lord’s Supper to people who can’t get to the church can be a real blessing. Portable communion kits are available and very helpful for this meaningful ministry.

At the end of most meetings and services many UK Baptists say “The Grace.” This is a direct quote of 2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” The congregation will look at each person present as they say The Grace. It is a great way to end the meeting!

The interim pastor should adjust to the UK church’s preference for style of praise and worship music. Many Baptist churches use blended but no assumptions should be made. Also, many British hymns are not the same as their American counterparts; either the melody may be different for familiar lyrics, or the lyrics may be different for a familiar melody. Many of the songs will be totally unfamiliar to one from a traditional American Baptist church. Most of the song books (hymnals) in the pews do not have the music – only the words.

Prayer meetings may have extended periods of silent prayer. If folk stop praying audibly, this may not mean the prayer meeting is over, but rather that folk have decided to pray silently and may resume praying aloud later on.

Mother’s Day in GB comes in March instead of May as in America. We seem to recall that it is the 3rd. Sunday in March. It is called “Mothering Sunday” and is often celebrated in the worship service by having the children pass out flowers to the mothers present. An American interim pastor should ask the UK church leaders what their tradition is and follow their lead. On both sides of the ocean, this is not a day to overlook someone.


See “weather” below. You will need water-resistant outerwear to deal with the frequent rainfall ranging from a drizzle to a downpour. You will need to be able to add layers for warmth when the sun goes behind the clouds and to remove layers when it warms up.

You will need a good umbrella for each person. An alternative to an umbrella for the more rainy and windy locations is a waterproof jacket with a hood—umbrellas and wind don’t go well together. A long all-weather coat with removable liner can serve as a nice overcoat for cold days and a raincoat for wet days.

Wool sweaters are good to keep the cold out and you will sometimes find British people sitting in their homes with a heavy shirt and fairly heavy sweater on. That should tell you something about where they like the thermostat set. The thermostat may be set low because of the cost of fuel or personal preference—it is best to not prejudge their reason. Wool trousers are very comfortable in the winter. You may find that our lightweight wool and manmade fibers are just not that warm for you but your British friends may be quite comfortable in them. It would be a good idea to take a pair of thermal underwear for the coldest days, especially until you get acclimated. A good fleece pullover or zip up jacket is a good thing to have. You might find these at a clothing resale shop in the UK.

Dress for Sunday worship service varies church to church so it is best to ask what they expect the minister to wear before packing. Most mature women will wear a skirt to church, but many will also wear trousers. For the minister’s wife a skirt or nice trousers will be acceptable in most churches.

Take clothing for whatever outdoor activities you enjoy. Many British people love to go for walks and there are some beautiful places to walk all over Britain. The British may have invested in really good walking shoes and heavy wool socks or they may go walking in everyday shoes or tennis shoes (called “trainers”). A walk is another occasion when it is absolutely essential to be able to add or remove layers of clothing. A small backpack is useful for carrying water, sandwiches, camera, etc. on walks.

Computers and Internet service

Being able to send emails back to America is extremely helpful. Also, being able to “talk” to folk back home via either instant messages or a “chat room” shortens the apparent distance between the UK and home. There is a free way to communicate overseas via the Internet. Go to and get the details. Other services are available as well. Check your computer’s microphone, built-in camera and speakers before you leave the USA as that equipment is less expensive here.

A lap top computer would be ideal to take with you. If you own a laptop, its battery charger will likely handle a range of voltages from 100 to 240 volts—look on the back of the charger for voltage details. If so, all you need to operate the laptop in the UK is a plug to convert from USA 2-pin to UK 3-pin.

If you do not own a laptop computer, perhaps your home church would be interested in supporting your ministry by purchasing a computer for you and future American Interim Pastors to use. When the last American returns home, your church might wish to donate the computer to either the UK church or the UK Baptist Pastor. You will be able to learn the approximate cost of computers, etc., from the Internet by going to sites such as or

If you use dial-up, you will need a special adapter for plugging the UK phone line into your USA built laptop computer. The plug for the phone jack in the UK is similar but larger than our plugs. You can buy these at electronics stores in the UK.

As in the USA, there are multiple providers of Internet services. It would be good to get help from some knowledgeable church member on which service is best. If you can find a good Internet service, you might consider subscribing and putting it in the name of the church [with permission from the church] so that future American Interim Pastors can use it without going through the hassle of shopping around. NTL gave me no end of grief in canceling my contract at Thornaby so it is critically important that the service NOT be in the interim pastor’s name (provided the church agrees that it be in the name of the church). A new Internet service has been introduced by and they do not require a 12 month contract. Also, payment of monthly bills via direct debit could be a way of dealing with Internet providers who refuse to accept cancellation notices. In that case, notifying the bank to stop allowing the debit might suffice. About 2 weeks is required to establish Internet services so we will try to get the church to set that up before the first American interim pastor arrives. The terms of reference document will outline the financial arrangements for internet service at the manse.

Cultural Differences

A considerable amount of “orientation” is expected before the Interim Pastor reports to serve a church in UK. This is usually handled by the interim pastor and spouse spending a day or two in our home after the invitation to serve has been extended by the UK church and accepted by the interim pastor candidate. Some examples of cultural differences at this stage may be helpful. Following are some of our insights but we are not optimistic that we have covered either a very large percentage of them or the most important ones.

The Interim Pastor and spouse would be well advised to keep in mind that they are living overseas and many things are different. We wouldn’t recommend spending time analyzing which is best but concentrate on the adjustments that you will need to make to be effective. You may be there only six-months and your British friends will remain there a lifetime.

The “British reserve” is talked about widely. Here’s what it means in practice. Typically, a British person respects another person’s right to privacy at all cost. This may make the British person seem aloof or unfriendly. Experience has shown that British people love Americans and enjoy chatting with Americans. A simple comment about the weather may open up an interesting conversation and can even lead to a lasting friendship, and possibly the opportunity to share the Gospel.

Another cultural difference that can affect church work in Britain is the way decisions are made. Generally, British people take a long time to make decisions. Seldom will they make important decisions on the spot. This means that “relationship evangelism” may work far better than “cold calls” to share the Gospel message. In fact, making calls at homes without prior appointments may not result in an invitation to come into the home. A visit at the door is about as much as one can expect when making cold calls.

On a more positive note, the American accent is sometimes sufficient to gain a person permission to make a visit in the home. A call in advance to make arrangements for a visit in the home may result in a very pleasant time spent with a British family.

Laurence Singlehurst, a British minister, has written an excellent book, “Sowing, Reaping, Keeping” on outreach in the UK. He recognizes that all efforts to move lost people even a little bit closer to faith in Christ is truly evangelism. He says that in the British culture the first objective is to show lost people that “God is good and Christians are okay.” This book is a must read for American Interim Pastors in the UK. A copy will be made available to each AIP by AIPM, Inc. before the UK assignment begins. AIPM, Inc. MUST get the copies back after the assignment in the UK finishes. We had a dozen copies and they are all gone and we had to order more!

Two other helpful books are: “Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult” by Nick Pollard which I am told has a lot of helpful insights into the way British people tick and “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. I have read the Fox book and it is particularly insightful but there is no Christian emphasis.

Women are far more widely used in ministry in Baptist churches in UK than in the USA. It is probably fair to say that if it were not for the service and faithfulness of women in UK Baptist churches, many more would have had to shut their doors a long time ago. The deacon body may have one or more women members. Deacons in UK Baptist churches are elected and not ordained. Some churches have women as pastors. Women have been in pastoral ministry in the UK since the 1930s.

Generally, the use of alcohol does not seem to be frowned upon as much in Baptist circles in UK as in some Baptist churches in America. An offer of a glass of wine with a meal or a glass of sherry during a visit is not uncommon. It is probably best that American interim ministers not provide alcohol for guests to avoid offense or the wrong impression because the above mentioned attitude toward alcohol is not universal.


AIPM, Inc. will provide the Interim Pastor a copy of the booklet, “The Highway Code,” which is the British driver’s manual. This, too, is a must read before your departure.

If you have never driven in the UK, it might be worthwhile to pay for one or two special driver’s lessons. Professional driver’s instructors usually give a whole series of lessons so learners (a red “L” on the rear of the car designates a “learner”) can pass the driving part of the exam. Since your USA license is good for up to one year in the UK, you need not worry about taking an exam. Therefore, one or two lessons should be enough. Lessons should be taken in the church owned car.

Satellite navigation systems (“GPS”) – called “sat navs” in the UK – are well worth their cost. A “good one” that has European maps or that has the capability to download such maps is recommended. One that has a voice can speak the most comforting and reassuring words in our vocabulary, “Arriving at HOME, on right”! One American interim pastor says, “They aren’t perfect (we’ve had some amusing adventures with ours!), but I know I won’t leave home (US or UK) without mine again!”

We recommend that you allow others to drive you for the first few days that you are in the UK. That will allow time for your body to adjust to the 6-hours time change, get the feel of traffic, get accustomed to driving on the left and learn the routes. It is good to have someone with you to read the map until you learn your way around. Searching for street signs while driving can be hazardous to your health. One AIP observed, “Driving is a two-person job—one driver and one navigator.” So true! That GPS might be a good investment if a good map-reader is not available.

Before you begin driving solo go with a church member to an empty car park and practice driving for an hour or two. Especially get comfortable shifting gears with your left hand. Once you adjust to this you will love being able to keep your right hand on the steering wheel—assuming you are right handed.

Here are just a few of the things that you should know about driving in the UK:

1. Slower traffic stays on the curbside if there is more than one lane in your direction.

2. Never pass on the curb (kerb) side–always pass another vehicle on its right.

3. The cycle for electric signals is green, yellow, red, yellow and red simultaneously, green. Yellow lights seem to have a much shorter duration than ours so don’t crowd them. Some intersections have cameras so if you run the light, you’re caught! No defense. Regarding traffic lights, an online highway code can be found here:

4. Following are the rules for going through a roundabout:

a. Traffic already in the roundabout has the right-of-way—we think it is just the opposite in Europe so check before you go to the continent if you will be driving.

b. If you are on a dual carriage way (two or more lanes in same direction), keep to your left as you enter the roundabout if you are going to either turn left or go straight across. If you are going to go off to your right (270 degrees) from the roundabout, keep to your right as you approach the roundabout and move over to your left as you swing around.

c. If you are not sure where to exit, keep on going around until you sort it out.

5. People flash their headlights to signal others that they are giving permission to proceed in front of them. Beware: DO NOT FLASH YOUR LIGHTS AS A WARNING THAT YOU ARE COMING THROUGH! The Highway Code says that flashing lights makes the other motorist “aware of your presence” but does not suggest that it gives permission to proceed ahead of the driver who flashes his lights. However, the practice is to flash light to signal permission to go ahead.

6. Parking spots may be hard to find. You are not allowed to park along the curb at any time if there is a double yellow stripe on the road surface next to the curb. If there is a single yellow strip, you may be allowed to park under limited circumstances. Look on the light-posts, on walls, etc., for the parking restrictions. Some residential areas of towns restrict parking to residents only and a permit is issued to them. Do not park there!

7. Small towns sometimes use “discs” to regulate parking. You set the disc for the time that you arrived, place the disc on your dash board and you must honor the limit of 2 hours or whatever the time limit is. You can get discs from the merchants near the parking area.

8. The sidewalk (pavement) is reserved for pedestrians so don’t park your car on the pavement unless there are signs specifically allowing the practice. British people will park their cars close beside the curb, but still in the traffic lane to avoid parking on the sidewalk. Be absolutely certain to leave enough space for a person pushing a pram or child’s push chair to pass on the pavement.

9. When pulling into or crossing a street look right-left-right before entering the traffic lane.
Keep the car doors locked at all times. Don’t leave purchases or purses where they could be seen or grabbed easily if a car window were broken while you are stopped at a light. We understand that automobile insurance policies will not cover losses that are left in sight—only those items that are out of site in the car’s trunk (boot) are covered.

Gasoline (petrol) is sold in liters. (‘Liters’ is ‘litres’ in the UK, similar to ‘centre’ and ‘theatre’) Currently, gasoline in the UK is about $9.00 per US gallon. You may know this already, but a US gallon is smaller than an Imperial gallon. A US gallon of water weighs 8.33 pounds whereas an Imperial gallon of water weighs 10.0 pounds [it is 20 percent larger]. To convert from liters to US gallons, multiply liters (litres) by 3.86.

It is illegal to use a mobile phone or eat or drink anything while operating a motor vehicle even at a stop sign or light and the police are very watchful for violators.

Cameras have been installed in many locations along roadways and at intersections. They record speeding and light jumping and the fines are substantial. A driver may get a fine in the post without realizing that a traffic law was violated. Word to the wise—pay close attention to speed limits and do not crowd traffic lights!


The electric service in the house is 240 volt and plugs have 3 prongs. You should take 1 or 2 converters (transformers from 240 v. to 110 v. for your small personal appliances). Also take several plugs to adapt from our 2-prong/110 volt to their outlets. You can find these kits at Wal-Mart for about $20.00. UK electric current freot harm the motors or adversely affect the performance of the appliance. There are no electrical outlets in bathrooms except perhaps 2-prong outlets for electric shavers–safety concern and it is the law. Laptops generally operate on any voltage from 100 to 250.


The “Terms of Reference” document should be developed by the church and should be reviewed and approved by the American Interim Pastor and AIPM, Inc. before the assignment begins. This document need not be lengthy but the things that are critically important to the church and to the American Interim Pastor and to AIPM, Inc. should be addressed. The Appendix below contains a sample “Terms of Reference” document.

Financial Business

Living in the UK may be approximately 50% more expensive than in the US depending on the exchange rate. The glaring exception is petrol (gasoline) which is approximately 2.5 times higher (2008 reference). Recent reports are that groceries are about 25% more expensive in the UK.

Before you leave the USA have your local bank obtain about $300.00 worth of UK money (Pounds Sterling–“£” is the symbol like our $. Some folk use GBP for the symbol). This amount will be sufficient for a while especially if you allow the church to reimburse for airline tickets after you arrive. Also, you will be able to use a USA credit card at most businesses. The $300.00 should get you about GBP 180.00 depending on the exchange rate in effect. If you’re uncomfortable carrying currency, you can buy traveler’s checks—there is a fee for cashing traveler’s checks. (The British spell it cheques) The $300.00 will be enough for incidental expenses for the first several days. You will not likely be allowed to open a UK bank checking account since you will not have any UK income and won’t have a UK address dating back 3 years. You may be allowed to open a UK bank savings account and this could be a convenient way to convert US dollars to GBP. One American interim pastor uses Barclay’s bank for a savings account.

If the need for your own bank account arises, you might get a member of the church to introduce you to his or her bank manager and you might be allowed to open an account on their reputation. You may have some bills to pay and need to write a few checks. An alternative to a UK checking account would be to arrange with a church member to exchange one of his or her checks for your cash for the amount of your bill. As in America, never put cash in the post.

We recommend that you use your USA issued credit card for most of your purchases and expenses. You will get the very best exchange rate and avoid the bank’s commission for cashing your USA checks. The commission may be 2 or 3 percent! And, you won’t have to carry a lot of cash with you. However, British credit card companies have gone to a credit card with a chip in it and using it requires a PIN. It appears that most USA issued credit cards do not have a chip. If your credit card does not have a chip, the merchant will have to use other means to read the card such as a card reader. I would bet that British businesses will find a way to be able to use USA issued credit cards otherwise, tourists are in for a lot of trouble and businesses are in for big losses until the USA credit card companies start using chips. Before leaving the USA ask your bank about cards with chips.

Notify your credit card company that you will be living overseas for the period of time you have committed to stay so they will not suspect card theft when they see charges from England show up on your account.

Your USA issued credit card will likely have on the back the ATMs that are acceptable for cash withdrawals. These may include Pulse or Cirrus. This may be a reasonable source of cash to meet the needs that credit cards may not cover. You will need to check on the fees that your card issuer charges for ATM withdrawals of this type.

You will need to make arrangements for someone in the USA to handle your banking business at home. We arranged with our local bank that our daughter could deposit checks into our account and we signed a number of blank checks to her for paying our bills that we were not able to set up on automatic bank withdrawal. We recommend that you arrange for as many of your bills as possible to be paid by automatic bank withdrawal from your checking account or as charges on your credit card, especially if you have a credit card that returns a percentage to you at the end of the year. If the amount of automatic withdrawal is variable as with utility bills, the person who opens your mail at home can let you know the amount so that you can keep your check book balance correct.

Be very careful about displaying your money. Put it all into your purse or wallet before you leave the bank or store. Out on the street, as may happen in USA, someone might run by you and grab it out of your hand. ATM’s are available in the UK and we recommend that you use one that is located inside a building. For example, in the Middlesbrough area Morrison’s grocery store has multiple ATM machines both outside and inside their building. Use the inside ATM!

The interim pastor and spouse should follow the Holy Spirit’s leading regarding where tithes and offerings are given. They may wish to contribute to the church in UK while serving there. If so, check IRS rules regarding charitable contributions to overseas institutions. Contributions may not be allowable deductions if given directly to the church in UK. It may be possible to contribute to the home church in the USA and designate the funds to the church in UK. This has worked for some. It is also possible to donate funds to the UK church through AIPM, Inc. By IRS rules this must be an arms-length donation. When AIPs chose this method I must ask for approval from the AIPM, Inc. board of directors to forward the funds to the UK church. AIPM’s records must be clear and complete in the event that we are audited. Also, the donation must be arms-length in order for the deduction to be allowed by the IRS. Do not write the name of the designee on the check–simply put a note in the envelope to AIPM’s Treasurer.

It is probably a good idea for the interim pastor to have little, if anything, to do with the UK church’s money. The church will have already designated people to count money, make bank deposits and pay bills, etc. If the interim pastor makes purchases on behalf of the church, the expenditures should be reimbursed upon presentation of a receipt. Approvals in advance of expenditures are advisable and should be handled similar to the way church expenses are handled in America. To avoid overloading the church treasurer it is a good idea to collect a few receipts and submit them at one time rather than handling them one receipt at a time.

The financial status of church members may vary all over the map. Many churches have a number of retired persons and in that case, as in America, their income may be fixed. If the church is located in an area with high unemployment, many may be receiving government assistance. British people tend to be very generous regardless of their financial situation and their love for their minister may prompt them to do generous acts. It seems the polite thing to do to accept their generosity graciously. If the opportunity presents itself to return the favor, by all means do so without reference to their earlier act.

Home (manse = parsonage)

The manse will be furnished. The church should list the furnishings provided. Small kitchen appliances should be provided. If there is some appliance that you really need, ask the church about providing it because, quite likely, the next interim pastor will need it also.

Hot water pressure may be quite low. This is because regulations require that a break tank be installed in the attic or in a closet at a high level. This prevents any possibility of hot water flow from the home back to the water mains. Some homes now have “combi boilers” which require no storage tanks. They supply hot water on demand to the central heating radiators as well as to all sinks and the bath tub.

Hot water for showers usually comes from an electric heater mounted over the bathtub. These are “on-demand” water heaters—the water is heated just before going to the shower head and there is no stored hot water with this type shower hot water system. You can adjust the water flow rate and temperature—best to do this before you get into the shower. You turn the electric power for the on-demand heater on and off by pulling a string that is mounted on the bottom of the heater or on the ceiling.

Hot water for washing dishes and clothing usually comes from a system that is tied to the hot water boiler for home heating. There is a setting that makes hot water available during the summer when the central heating may be turned off.

Window cleaners may come around and clean the outside of the windows at a very reasonable cost of about GBP 5.00 (may be much higher now). They will come at whatever frequency you choose. We had them once per month. If you aren’t home when they wash them, they will collect from you the next time they come. This is an example of the trusting nature of many British business people.

Carpets and rugs are not part of the “structure” as they are in the USA. The owner or renter furnishes his own floor coverings. The church should provide floor coverings.

Burglaries are a serious problem in some parts of Britain so all doors and all windows must be kept locked day and night. Don’t leave valuables where they can be seen through a window. Don’t leave women’s purses on the stair, as they have been known to disappear in a heartbeat.


Hopefully the manse will be equipped with a clothes washer and dryer. If not, and if the church cannot afford these, you might consider buying them and trying to get American interim pastors who follow you to split the cost with you or your home church might consider the purchase of these items a good way to invest in your ministry. These appliances are not terribly expensive. Be sure to ask someone in the church where to get the best buy. When the last American leaves those appliances would be a great donation to the church or to their new UK minister.

A clothes dryer is important because rain showers appear suddenly and without much warning and getting clothes dry outside can be a hassle. Some people dry the washing on the heating radiators in the house but that is also a bit of hassle. The flexible vent pipe for the dryer is usually placed through an opened window near the dryer. ‘Condensing tumble dryers’ are now available on the market and do not require the vent pipe. They may be a bit more expensive.

If no clothes washer/dryer is furnished at the manse and if you decide against buying one, you should be able to find a laundry mat (launderette) nearby.

For some reason dry cleaning is far more expensive than in the USA—perhaps 3 or 4 times as expensive. Ask church members where they take their clothes for dry cleaning.


Your post (mail) will be delivered to your address at the manse. To send letters you need to locate a red mailbox in your neighborhood. There are usually boxes for mailing letters every 4 or 5 city blocks. You may find a small branch post office in the village shops area for buying stamps, sending packages, etc. but government cost cutting is making these less plentiful.

Postal codes serve the same function as our Zip Codes but give far more detail. For example, the postal code for the manse in Thornaby is TS17 8EA. The first two letters give the general area, TS stands for “Teesside” (beside the River Tees). The third digit or two-digits refer to a specific part of the larger area. The “17” for the manse covers the whole of Thornaby. The next number (fourth in order), that is, “8” for the manse, further narrows down the location. Finally, the last 2 letters give a very precise location on your street. The General Post Office has published a large book listing postal codes.

Make no assumptions about house numbers on opposite sides of the street. The Thornaby manse is at 92 Lanehouse Road. Directly opposite are not number 93 or 95 as we would expect, but numbers 155 and 157.

You may want to talk to your local USA post office about the best way to handle your mail while you are away. If you have a family member or friend who can visit your home each day to pick up your mail, that visit and the postman’s stopping every day will make your home look as if it is lived in. Arrangements could be made for that family member or friend to discard the junk mail, pay the bills and forward any important mail to you. A priority mail package every couple of weeks is not too expensive and delivery time is about 5 days. Be very careful about the weight of packages. In 2007 we priced shipment from Houston to England of 21 lbs. of Bibles at the US Postal Service and were quoted $59.00. That is almost $3.00 per lb. We tried UPS and their price was even higher. We wound up taking 200 Bibles to England in suitcases.

One American interim pastor has learned that the US Postal Service will forward first class mail to England at no charge for up to six months and that an additional six months may then be requested (may be of interest for those willing and able to serve more than six months). It will be good to check with the local post office to make sure you understand the rules.


Perhaps there are variations on what meals are called, but the noon meal may be called “dinner” or “lunch” and the evening meal that may be served around 5 PM is often called “tea.” Teas seem to be simpler meals but Sunday “dinner” at around noon is often a big deal! Sunday dinners may be elaborate, multi-course meals which the hostess (or host) will have spent hours preparing. If you get an invitation and it is not clear, it is appropriate to ask, “What does this invitation involve?” You should be told whether you will be fed or not.

We think that generally if you are invited to tea in the late afternoon, you will likely get tea and sandwiches and a bit more including a “sweet.” If you are “invited around” sometime in the late morning, you will likely get coffee and may get sandwiches, that is, lunch. If you are invited around in the early afternoon, you will likely be offered a cup of tea and a biscuit (cookie). When people call at your home (come by for a visit) it is customary to offer tea or coffee and biscuits (cookies or tea cakes). Don’t get any hang-ups about this—the British are gracious people and realize our customs are different and they will make do with what you serve them. In their homes, if they offer tea and biscuits or tea and sandwiches—enjoy! Some British families have a “supper” just before going to bed. This seems never to be a large quantity and is kept simple. Finally, home visits even for a cup of coffee or tea and a biscuit usually take a couple of hours. So, don’t schedule too many appointments in homes in one day!

Medical Care

The UK has a National Health Service that provides care for people who normally reside in the UK. The care is essentially free of charge to those who qualify. Interim pastors and their spouse and youth workers do not appear to qualify. You can get more information on the web at:

Since we seem to not be eligible for medical care, we strongly recommended that AIPM volunteers who serve in the UK procure medical insurance before leaving the USA. We have been told that medical insurance for overseas can be obtained from International Medical Global, telephone: 800-628-4664. We have no experience with this firm and are not able to make a recommendation one way or another. Also, Pastor David Hunt of Durham Road Baptist Church in Gateshead has found a source of medical insurance which seems to have very reasonable premiums. It is from a firm called Standard Life. AIPM youth workers were able to get medical insurance for husband, wife and toddler for GBP 80.00 per month. If this company is of interest, the contact person is Lee Halliwell and the toll free number is 0800-779955. Information about Standard Life is available:

In the past we understood that AIPM volunteers were eligible for free medical care and many received basic care for free. Some local medical care providers may continue to provide care free of charge, but one medical practice that we know about has issued a policy statement that overseas visitors must pay for medical care received. Their standard office visit cost is about $50.00. It appears that the rules allow the individual medical care provider to determine if UK visitors must pay or not. To be safe, some form of traveler’s medical insurance policy should be procured before departure from the USA or as soon as you arrive in the UK.

Since the beginning of AIPM we have recommended that interim workers from the USA check in at the “doctor’s surgery” (medical clinic) shortly after they arrive in the UK. Establishing this contact may be helpful in case of an emergency during the assignment in the UK. During that visit it seems appropriate to talk to the General Practitioner’s staff about your status in the UK and your traveler’s medical insurance. You should be able to find out if insurance is needed and if so, whether or not your policy is acceptable. Be sure to get a recommendation from someone in the UK church about which doctor’s surgery to check with.

Part of the protocol for obtaining certificates of sponsorship from Gateshead International Ministries that has been approved by the UK Border Agency requires our volunteers to sign affidavits committing that we will not access public funds. Therefore, our volunteers must offer to pay for any medical care received. If the offer is rejected, we have made a good faith effort to not access those state benefits.

Passports, Visas and Overseas Travel

Visas are now absolutely essential for American interim volunteers for UK trips of any length! All of our interim workers, pastors, youth workers and the spouse and any dependant children must get visas. There are several steps to the process:

1. AIPM and the UK church collects detailed information about the persons they have invited to serve.

2. The UK church requests a “Certificate of Sponsorship” (also referred to as a “license”) from Gateshead International Ministries (GIM). GIM has been approved by the UK Border Agency as a Registered Sponsoring Agency and will handle all certificates for AIPM, Inc. volunteer workers. The UK church will reimburse GIM for the cost associated with issuing certificates.

3. GIM will apply online for certificates of sponsorships for “religious workers” for the candidate and spouse. The Tier 5 religious worker classification permits both pastoral and non-pastoral work including teaching and preaching so there should be no restrictions on the type of ministry our volunteers do. We get certificates for the spouse so there will be no restrictions on the spouse’s ministry either.

4. GIM notifies the interim worker and spouse of their license numbers and provides a copy of the certificate of sponsorship. The certificate gives details of the length of stay approved, etc.

5. The interim worker and spouse then go online and apply for visas– They enter their personal details and the license number. They also must give their credit card number for the visa fee (about $225.00 per person and this includes Fed Ex charges for returning the documents to the applicant). When they submit the application online, they will be given information about locations where biometric checks can be made. These are electronic fingerprints and perhaps a bit more. An appointment is made on line and the biometrics establishment is visited as scheduled. The biometrics place will issue a certificate that establishes that they have the necessary details. That certificate is then sent to the British consulate in the USA in the regular mail or by express mail. The passport and other documents listed on the web site (AIPM has what we think is the same list of enclosures) are also included in the package to the consulate. The UK church will reimburse the interim pastor and spouse for the cost of visas. AIPM’s volunteer youth workers pay for their own visa applications.

6. The certificate of sponsorship can be issued in a day or two following the submittal of all relevant data to GIM. After that, it appears to take a few days to do the biometrics check and about 10 days for the consulate to issue visas if everything they receive is in order.

7. When the visas are in hand and ONLY when they are in hand, the interim and spouse can make airline reservations.

In case of theft, make a photocopy of the photo page and facing page of your passport and your visa and put a copy in each piece of luggage and also leave a copy with someone in the USA. AIPM and GIM also requires copies of passport photo page and visa page and we distribute these to the UK church.

The US Government’s State Department has useful information about overseas travel: The following is recommended on the site: Register your travel–It is a good idea to register your travel with the State Department so that you may be contacted if need be, whether because of a family emergency in the U.S. , or because of a crisis in the area in which you are traveling. Travel registration is a free service provided by the State Department, and is easily accomplished online at (In accordance with the Privacy Act, the Department of State may not release information on your welfare or whereabouts to inquirers without your express written authorization.)


There is a charge for all phone calls in the UK—even local calls from your home, but they are not expensive. There are plans available that include broadband and free phone calls to landlines, but not to mobile phones and certain special or premium rate numbers. You will find pay phones around and you can use them for only a few pence. Generally, a window on the pay phone will show you just how long you can talk for the coin[s] you have inserted. If it is a quick call within the UK, a 10 pence coin may be adequate. Also, phone cards are available.

To phone the USA from the UK you dial: 001+area code + number. There are phone plans in the UK with less expensive charges for calls to the USA. In early 2008 we were told that the cost of long distance calls to the USA is about $0.03 per minute. But there is a way to call home for free over the internet. One free service is via You simply download the software, register and then look up others who have Skype service. You arrange in advance for them to be on-line and click on their screen name and your computer dials their computer. Web cameras can be used to add video to the audio internet “phone call.” Great system! Hopefully, the UK church will have the telephone and internet services set up before you arrive but be sure to ask.

The UK has competition for British Telecom (BT) in the form of NTL and there may be others. NTL may have a more economical plan than BT, but the phone should be in the name of the church so you will need the church’s permission to make any changes. The “Terms of Reference” document should designate whether the AIPM volunteer or the church will pay the basic phone bill. Even if the church pays the basic bill, it seems only fair that the interim pastor pay for long distance calls to America.

UK phone numbers usually have a 5-digit area code with the first digit being “0.” The area code is followed by a 6-digit number. If you call long distance within the UK, you must dial the 5-digit area code including the “0” plus the 6-digit number. For example, to call the Thornaby manse from a local phone, you simply dial 673061. To phone the manse from outside the Thornaby/Stockton-on-Tees/Middlesbrough area, you dial 01642-673061.

If you phone that same number from the USA, you drop the “0” and use the last 4 digits of the area code plus the 6-digit number. To dial the UK from the USA you must first dial the international code, “011.” Then you dial the country code for the UK, “44.” We suggest that when you give Americans your UK phone number you write out the full dialing instructions. For example, to phone the Thornaby manse from the USA you dial 011+44+1642+673061.

There are some economical plans for calling the UK from the USA. For example, at one time AT and T had a plan with a flat $3.95 per month and with that charged about 7 cents per minute for the call. There is also a way to get AT and T low rates even if AT and T is not your long distance provider by dialing some numbers which I have forgotten but which start something like 10-10-????. Your family can phone AT and T or other long distance providers to get the best rates. Under no circumstances should they just pick up the phone and dial the UK unless they don’t mind paying about $1.50 per minute.

Cell phones (mobile phones) are very popular in the UK. Your USA cell phone may not work there or if it does, it may be very expensive to use. Check with your mobile phone company before you leave the USA. You may not be allowed to become a regular subscriber of a mobile phone in Britain because you do not have an UK address going back 3 years and you do not have an UK credit history. However economical cell phone calls can be made via “pay-as-you-talk” plans. With some services, only out-going calls are charged so you can have the other party call you back to save your pre-paid minutes. With this arrangement you will need to buy a cell phone but they are not terribly expensive.

With the “pay as you talk” cell phone plans you purchase a number of minutes and receive a card with a code. You ring your mobile phone company and enter the numbers from the card and they “top up” your account. We purchased two cell phones and left them at the Thornaby manse for future American Interim Pastors to use. A similar arrangement might be made at other locations where American Interim Pastors will be serving. You might be able to split the purchase price of the cell phones with the AIP who follows you.

You should be able to receive calls from the USA on your UK cell phone with no charge to you, however this should be checked out with your cell phone company. You may be able to call America from your cell phone but be prepared to pay a king’s ransom!

The Internet can be used for free international calls. Skype offers this feature. See Skype can be used for computer-to-computer calls for free and can be used for computer to phone calls for a nominal fee.

I received this bit of information from a visitor to our web site who had lived in England: “If you have a relatively new (less than six years old, that is, purchased in late 2010) cell phone, you may be able to simply buy a UK SIM card for very little (99 pence or so) from a local corner shop, which will allow you to “pay as you go” – that is, there is no need for a formal monthly or yearly contract. Vodafone, for instance, even has a SIM-only plan that gives you free international minutes with every 10-pound top-up, and you can top up at almost any corner shop or post office. This will allow you to call back to the States from your cell phone, which is very handy indeed. The only point to remember is that you will need to call your US cell phone provider before you leave and get the SIM unlock code from them for each phone that you plan to switch over. Also, if you plan to retain your US cell provider, DO NOT LOSE your US SIM card! Put it, along with the SIM unlock code, in a safe place, as you’ll need both when you get back to the US.

Places to See

There is beautiful scenery and interesting things to see and do in all directions all over the UK. We recommend that you talk to church members about what may be interesting locally.

Planning for Ministry

In each of the five “temporary pastor” positions I’ve held I have asked a group of 5 or 6 people to help me with planning and organizing essentially everything that the church does in both worship and activities. I ask for the deacon’s approval before I ask members to volunteer for the group. We call the group the “Worship and Activities Leadership Team” or WALT. This group functions much like a church council in the USA.

Before discussing details of “WALT” I want to mention the fact that the Baptist Union of Great Britain has developed an approach that is as good as “WALT” and probably better. It is called a Mission Consultancy. It is an organized approach to evaluating the church and its setting and doing visioning and strategy work. The individual Baptist Associations either use the BUGB material or have developed their own approach. They work with the church leaders then the entire fellowship on their analysis and then make recommendations and suggestions which the church can then consider for implementation. It would be good to talk to the UK church leadership team and the association to see what would work best. Hopefully, all will agree that some form of “study” should be done if one has not already been done, to plan the path forward. I would be very pleased if each church where American volunteers serve would do a mission consultancy before AIPM starts or just as soon as AIPM starts. We want to promote the growth and spiritual health of the church and to diligently try to move to the point that a British pastor can be called and the church can be independent of interim ministry from the USA. We will then go elsewhere and help others!

Another point needs to be made about Mission Consultancy (or WALT) implementation and that is the “pace of change.” I am most guilty of trying to take on more than is manageable and introducing change faster than desirable. My excuse is that I only have a few months to serve and then must return home. For that reason, I want to accomplish as much as possible. That seems noble, but it ignores what may well be the preferences of the local congregation. They will have been there decades before I arrived and will be there decades after I have gone. The local lay leaders may be tired from keeping all the plates spinning and taking on new initiatives may seem daunting. My advice would be to be wary of trying to introduce too much new too soon. It may be that the mission consultancy (or WALT) may help each successive American interim pastor stay focused on what the church has determined are the “main things” and avoid change overload.

I like for the Church Secretary and Treasurer to be on the team, as they know the calendar and the finances. If there are any teenagers in the church, I ask one to be on the team. I try to have a representative from each adult age group, young, median and seniors. I ask for both male and female members–an equal number of each would be ideal. I serve as chairperson and publish an agenda before each meeting. I write brief notes after each meeting and distribute them either via email or on Sunday mornings as WALT members enter the church.

If a planning team such as WALT is not already functioning, at the initial meeting I ask the group to help me develop three lists. First, we ask the group to identify those things that the church is currently doing. This list is often an eye-opener because they are likely already doing a lot more than they give themselves credit for doing. Second, we develop a list of things that the church has done in the past that worked well. This list, too, is often impressive. Third, we list the things that we might do in the future. This is in the form of “brainstorming” (called “thought showering” to be politically correct and avoid hurting people who have seizures).

We list all of the items above on a flip chart so everyone can see them and I put all the items in the minutes of the meeting. I then ask the WALT to rank the items in order of importance. We select those that get the largest number of votes to go to work on immediately. We do a bit of planning and calendar work for those items then appoint people on the WALT to head-up the effort. We encourage them to try to enlist people not on WALT to help carry out the activity. The more people that are involved in ministry the better the ministry!

At WALT meetings we spend a bit of time planning worship for the upcoming Sundays. We try to involve a large number of the congregation, especially using as many of the young people as possible. We try to plan a variety of things including special music by our own people or an outside group. I ask WALT for input on the sermon topics that both church members and un-churched people are likely to be interested in.

Some of the things that WALT at Middlesbrough Baptist Church planned in 2000 included:

1. A car treasure hunt involving a number of non-members.

2. Three church workdays for painting and fix-up.

3. Identification of a number of people that I could ask to lead worship (lead the singing), since I don’t do that! I was given 16 names and 14 agreed to help—you cannot beat that for support!

4. Establishment of a group of people in the 30-45-age range to plan activities for that age to try to enlist un-churched people.

5. Establishment of a group in the 18 to 30 age range (College and Career) to plan activities to reach out to that age group.

6. Involvement of the “Swing Band” that uses the church hall for practice on Friday nights. They served as an orchestra for a Sunday morning service. Their parents and grandparents attended!

7. Baptismal and Baby Dedication services.

8. Church outings–walks in the moors, etc.

It is important to observe that the above activities were not imported from America–they are very much British and they worked very well.

If I were king, and I am most assuredly not, I would insist that the initial American Interim Pastor organize a WALT, that future interim pastors continue WALT and that the team remain in existence for at least six-months after the new UK Pastor arrives. American interim pastors and the UK pastor can benefit from the wisdom and experience of the WALT and they should be available.

I tell the WALT at the initial meeting that one of their jobs is to tell me where the mines are laid in the minefield. Finding out the church’s sore spots by accident can be very painful on either side of the Atlantic Ocean! Moreover, most church traditions, taboos, etc., were born out of some problem or issue and the folk at the time made a commitment, “This must never be allowed to happen again!” There is wisdom there.


British people are sometimes interested in the political views of American volunteers and we, of course, are interested in their perspectives. This can lead to some interesting discussions, but there are some serious implications. Of greatest importance is the reason we serve in Britain. Obviously, we serve to advance the kingdom of God and NOT to convert people to our political view regardless of how strongly we hold that view. There is great risk that a lost person may choose to not listen to a Christian talking about Christianity who is glaringly of a different political persuasion. Many British people hold political views quite different from many evangelical Christian Americans and they often hold their political views very strongly. So, treading very lightly around political issues seems good advice.

Also important is the issue of restrictions on tax-exempt organizations regarding political activity. I think the British rules are similar to ours. My simple view of our rules is that churches must NOT take sides in politics. That would be a good guideline for AIPM volunteers serving in Britain—DO NOT TAKE SIDES, YOU ARE A GUEST. The following was passed on to me by Rev. David Hunt, Pastor of Durham Road Baptist Church and President of Gateshead International Ministries (GIM issues certificates of sponsorship so that AIPM volunteers can obtain visas for voluntary work in Britain):

“UK charity laws prohibit charities from favouring any particular political party. Here are some quotes from the Charity Commissions website:

‘The independent nature of the charitable sector is of fundamental importance to society, and is greatly valued by the public. The guiding principle of charity law in terms of elections is that charities should be, and be seen to be, independent from party politics. … Charities should be especially wary of associating, or becoming associated in the minds of the public, with a particular candidate or political party. So, if (AIPM volunteers speak about British politics), it must be to present a Christian perspective on issues of interest… (The discussion must be….fair and balanced, not partisan).

In the UK, evangelical Christians are to be found in all the major political parties, which I (David Hunt) believe is a good thing. We are called to be ‘salt and light’ throughout society, and that means Christians getting involved.

The AIPM, Inc. official position: “If an American volunteer should get an invitation to speak to a political group, that invitation should be discussed with the UK church leadership team to avoid surprises and get any guidance that may (1) help advance the cause of Christ and (2) avoid any comments that would be considered to breach UK charity laws.”

Following are some Scripture references of interest in such a situation from David Hunt:

Rom 15.1-7 for the responsibilities of those who govern. They are God’s servants for doing what’s good for the citizens they govern (v4) –

Gen. 50:20 for Joseph being a prime example from the Old Testament.

1 Tim. 2:1-4 for law and order and for praying for those in authority over us. A good example would be the church praying for the local Member of Parliament (wouldn’t it be good if he or she visited the local Baptist church?)

The Christian Institute have produced some helpful materials which I would commend:

• Wayne Gruden’s excellent presentation on Christians and political involvement: Does political involvement distract from the Gospel? (see

• The Christian Institute’s election briefing for the 2010 UK General election (Election Briefing 2010 (39327) – available as a pdf download; see

School Work

The UK church and American volunteers will want to have a good reputation in the community and helping at the local school can be great ministry. After discussions with the deacons, the interim might phone the school for an appointment with the head teacher. During the visit the interim could volunteer to help with religious education classes and school assemblies. In both cases the topic to be covered may be assigned by the RE teacher or the head teacher. Be sure to follow their guidelines about topic and timing. Be sure to check with the local Baptist Church and school officials about what is proper in their schools. Some things that come immediately to mind:

1. Ask the host teacher what topics are appropriate. For example, talking about Christianity is okay in religious education class but may not be in math class or on the playground.

2. Gum chewing is not allowed in school.

3. Denim or jeans may not be allowed in school.


Most things that we have in the USA are available in the UK. However, if you require special hair shampoo, deodorant, etc. take a six-month supply. For us southerners: “Please note that you cannot get cornbread mix in the UK – nor do they have cornmeal (they do have corn flour, which is not the same).

Very few residences are very far from small shops. These are handy but may be high priced. Most towns have a fairly large supermarket. Asda’s (Wal-Mart), Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are well-stocked supermarkets and have most food items that we have in the USA. Ask church members where the best values are—you won’t be there long enough to learn by trial and error. Most bread in the UK does not contain the preservatives like American bread so does not last as long. We discovered that keeping just what you will use for two or three days out of the freezer means less wasted bread!

The supermarkets have pots and pans but if you bake American pies, you’ll need to take a glass or metal pie pan or two with you–we looked for 5 months and never found a “proper” pie pan.

As in the USA, it pays to pay attention to prices as you go around. I paid about $6.00 for a 9-volt battery at PC World and found the same one at Morrison’s for about $3.00. I never went back to PC World!

Get church members to tell you where the specialty shops are. For example, a shop called “Rollo’s” in Borough Road in Middlesbrough is helpful for appliance parts and general knowledge. If it’s broken, they can order the part or may even have it on hand. We expect that there are similar specialty shops in every town—just ask.

Groceries seem to cost about 25% more than in America, depending on how much meat the family eats. Beef and pork are expensive in the UK so that increases the food bill. Regular groceries except for beef and pork may not be a lot more expensive than in the USA. Also, small packages of non-essentials like snack foods and cokes can be very expensive.


A license is required for the operation of a TV. The annual fee is about GBP 120.00. There are vans with electronics gear to check for addresses which are receiving a TV signal but have no license. There is a stiff penalty for violation. The income from license fees helps support British Broadcasting Company that has no commercials.

The “Terms of Reference” should state whether the American Interim Pastor or the church pays the annual TV license fee. If the interim pastor pays, some arrangement for sharing the cost with the interim pastor who follows should be made because the license is for a full year (note: if fewer than 12 months have been used, it is possible to get refund). There may be monthly payment plans available–ask a church member.

Satellite and cable TV are available in the UK and will make more channels available. Also, a new outfit called, “Freeview.Box” has recently become available giving 30 or so TV channels and 15 or so radio stations for the purchase of the “box” for about GBP 20.00. This could be a good alternative to Cable. Get a church member to advise on this before you make any commitments. Whatever is done, it should be done in the name of the church (with church permission, of course) to avoid hassle at time of cancellation.

Be aware that some TV material is not suitable for Christian viewing. Get church members advise on what to avoid.

Terms of Reference

See the appendix for a sample “Terms of Reference. A document similar, but not necessarily the same as this one should be prepared by the UK church and reviewed and agreed to by the American interim pastor and AIPM, Inc. This should help clarify expectations and help reduce the chance for confusion, a misunderstanding or hurt feelings.

Things to take with you (this list has been reduced in scope due to weight limitations)

1. Several wash cloths as our style may be difficult to find. They do have “face flannels” which you may find satisfactory. Also, take a few hand towels for the bathroom.

2. A small photo album with pictures of your family, home, church and interests so your new friends can get to know you better—this is a great coffee table piece.

3. A set of bed sheets to fit the bed in the manse’s master bedroom. Good quality sheets are very expensive in the UK and “feel” different [hope this won’t sound snooty to any UK readers!]. Get the exact length and width dimensions of the bed from the church so you won’t take the wrong size. If it is possible, consider leaving the set for the American Interim Pastors that will follow. In the UK, “King Size” is approximately the US “Queen Size.”

4. Your reference books for sermon preparation. Beware, books are heavy.

5. Your favorite cook book[s].

6. A lightweight set of USA measuring cups and measuring spoons (not metric!)—there are differences and your recipes will care which you use. Leave them in the manse if you can.

7. Any special dry mixes for salad dressings that you are particularly fond of. They are lightweight and the UK brand might not be your favorite.

8. Any special medications that might be hard to find.

9. A spare pair of prescription glasses (your last Rx perhaps) and your current glasses Rx.


Bottom of the street is one end and top of the street is the other end and we defy you to decipher which is which–folk just know.

Cars have a vocabulary of their own. Bonnet is the hood. Boot is the trunk. Wing is the fender. Silencer is the muffler. Windscreen is the windshield.

Dual Carriage Way is a four or more lane highway with a median.

Ground floor is floor at street level and the next level up is called the first floor–go figure!

High Street is the main street.

Manse is parsonage.

Mind the ____–example: mind the gap means watch out for the gap between the platform and the car on the London Underground. Always mind the step when entering or leaving a British home—the threshold is often raised higher than ours and one can trip!

Minister is the title most pastors are given and usually refers to the senior pastor and is not normally used to refer to other church staff members if there is more than one.

Nearside on the highway is the side nearest the curb (kerb).

Pavement is a sidewalk or may be called a path.

Petrol is gasoline.

Post is mail.

Postal Code is similar to our Zip Code but the format is different.

Spanner is wrench.

The toilet is the loo.

Trainers are what we call tennis shoes.

Vacations are called “holidays.”

Vestry is the pastor’s study.

Words to avoid: bloody, randy, piddle, fanny–they are not nice. Also, beware of regional differences, for example, we are told that bonny means pretty in Yorkshire, but means fat in Lincolnshire.


You’ll be in the UK in both winter and summer but you won’t find a lot of difference in the weather (ha!). The UK is quite far north. For example, Middlesbrough (nearest big town to Thornaby) is at about the same latitude as the central parts of Canada–which should be a clue that it can get cold. But Britain is an island and the surrounding ocean moderates the climate. In theory, the saying, “It never gets really cold and it never gets really warm in the UK” is almost true. The summer of 2003 is clearly an exception—London saw 100 degrees F! It gets pretty cold in January -March and doesn’t really warm up until May. The wind blows across the island and it is often damp so it often feels very cold in the winter. The summer months of June-September are mild but you probably won’t feel hot very often.

It rains a lot in UK—remember it’s an island! Someone once told us that it rains about 178 days a year there. That’s about every-other day! Quite often the rain is drizzle and it comes and goes. People go on with their plans anyway! Travel writer Rick Steves comments that there is no such thing as bad weather in England, just inappropriate clothing!

Youth Workers (American Young People Volunteers)

In recent years several American university students or recent graduates have done youth ministry in the UK. The benefit to the UK church’s youth work is being recognized by more churches and the number of invitations is increasing annually. Assignments of as little as 2 weeks may be arranged to help with Holiday Club (Vacation Bible School in America). However, longer assignments of 2 or 3 months during summer breaks are most popular. Some university students are willing to take a semester off from their studies to serve in UK youth ministry. Some universities will grant course credits or allow on-line courses. AIPM, Inc. will notify UK churches of university students that are willing to volunteer and try to arrange places for them to serve.


American Interim Pastor
For Volunteer Religious Workers in UK Churches
Typical “Terms of Reference”—Agreed to by UK Church and Interim Pastor
First Draft March 2000—(Last revision: June 11, 2014)


This volunteer religious worker arrangement has been set up to provide visionary, mission-minded leadership to churches currently unable to afford or unable to locate a full-time British pastor. It is envisaged that a series of suitable retired pastors or lay leaders from America will serve as volunteer religious workers in a church for a period of six months each.

It is expected that the church will grow through mission to the point that it is able to appoint a full-time stipendiary pastor from the UK, with help of a Home Mission grant (from the Baptist Union of Great Britain) if necessary. It might be hoped that after a period of say two to four years the receiving church might be in a position to call a British pastor.

The aim of this document is to express the formal relationship between the volunteer religious workers and the churches which call them. This does not bring about a ‘contract of service’, but rather reflects good practice arising out of good relationships built on mutual trust.


A volunteer religious worker will not be an employee of the church and no salary, stipend, or retention fee will be paid.

A volunteer religious worker will be accountable to the Church Members’ Meetings and to any authority delegated to the Church Officers (i.e. elders and/or deacons).

In recognition of the short-term nature of the position, a volunteer religious worker will not be required to become a church member, but may make application.

The volunteer religious worker will be expected to attend Church Members’ Meetings and Church Leadership Meetings (Elders/Deacons Meetings). The former will be by the consent of those present, if the interim pastor is not a church member; the latter will be by invitation of the Elders/Deacons.


The specific work a volunteer religious worker undertakes will depend on the needs of the church, but it is envisaged that it would cover the following areas:

Leadership – help a church cast its vision and establish a long-term strategy, so that successive volunteer religious workers will be able to continue to pursue the established vision and strategy, and provide as much continuity as possible in their ministry to the church and its community. It may be useful for the church and volunteer religious worker to engage their association to lead a “mission consultancy” to help them identify their potential and establish their vision and strategy.

Mission – assisting a church to reach out into its local community through networking, special events, and ‘Gateway’ activities (i.e. activities which provide a way into church life for the un-churched – such as Toddlers groups, Seniors lunch-clubs, Drop-in centers, etc.);

Evangelism– working on a one-to-one basis with church contacts to seek to bring them to faith in Christ.

Preaching and Teaching – enabling believers to grow in their faith and learn how to share it with others.

Discipleship – teaching groups and individuals so as to build people up in the faith. In particular prepare people for baptism, marriage and parent/church (“infant”) dedication.

Pastoral Care – ensuring that believers and contacts are cared for materially, emotionally and socially as well as spiritually.


Specific responsibilities of the volunteer religious worker will be worked out with the local church but it-it is envisaged that they would include:

Forming a strategy group – this would involve working with or alongside the deacons to plan the church’s outreach and ministry and to execute the actions of the mission consultancy if a mission consultancy has been done. The group should be representative of the mix within the congregation (male and female, ranging in age, where possible, from youth to seniors). The group will help the volunteer religious worker understand the local culture and provide input on how they can work together to accomplish the church’s mission.

Preaching and leading worship at Sunday Services – the frequency would be by mutual agreement with the church, but would normally be at least three weeks out of four. It is recognized that not every volunteer religious worker will feel competent (or comfortable) in leading the worship and praise portion of services. In that case, the volunteer religious worker and church leaders should look for an alternative that will meet the needs. This may be done by identifying suitably gifted members of the congregation to assist. The volunteer religious worker will normally conduct communion services and funerals. The volunteer religious worker may conduct wedding ceremonies provided that either the church’s authorized person or the local registrar is present and handles the official records. The volunteer religious worker may be asked to lead funeral, crematorium and committal of ashes services.

Leading mid-week Bible Study/Prayer Meeting – the frequency would be by mutual agreement with the church, but would normally be at least three weeks out of four. Experience has shown that many British Baptists enjoy Bible studies in a home setting and interim pastors and the spouse of volunteer religious workers have had very successful men’s, women’s and co-ed Bible studies on weeknights in addition to the mid-week prayer meeting and Bible study at the church.

Engaging in personal evangelism – this would be directed toward persons in the community and amongst church contacts.

Pastoral visiting – shared with the deacons and church members.


Although no salary, stipend, or retention fee is payable, the church is expected to cover all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for the duration of the pastorate. It is envisaged that these will include:

Transportation: Reimbursement for airline tickets and surface transportation from home in the USA to the manse for interim pastor and spouse. Generally, reimbursement is made after the volunteer religious worker arrives at the church and may be distributed over a period of time so that the volunteer religious worker does not have excess cash on hand. The church shall also reimburse the volunteer religious worker for the cost of any other approved travel and out of pocket expenses incurred on church business, including postage, stationery and attendances at Baptist Union and Association Assemblies and Area Ministers’ meetings.

Housing: The provision of accommodation with basic furnishing and payment of utility charges including gas, electricity, water and basic telephone rental and phone calls that are made for church business. The church will pay council tax and provide insurance on the contents of the house or apartment. A specific member of the church should be designated as the person to handle all matters regarding the manse including repairs, insurance, and assisting a newly arrived volunteer religious worker in getting familiar with the operation of fixtures and appliances in the manse. It is normal for the volunteer religious worker to keep the interior of the manse and its garden in a clean and tidy condition and it would be expected that an interim would fulfil this responsibility appropriately.

Certain costs associated with UK housing that individual churches will address are whether or not the church will pay for TV cable service, TV license fee and Internet service.

Automobile: A fully insured car with the volunteer religious worker named as the main driver and the spouse listed as a driver if the spouse will be driving the car. In the UK insurance industry the main driver is the person who uses the car most. Listing anyone else as the main driver could make the policy null and void. The insurance policy must note that the car will be kept at the manse. If it will be kept in a garage, this should be noted as this could impact premiums. The place where the car is kept is important because premiums are based on risk assessments in different neighborhoods. Photocopies of the car insurance certificate will be given to the volunteer religious worker and sent to AIPM, Inc.

The following for each person who will drive the church owned car may help with getting insurance:

1. Date of birth.
2. Number of years a driver’s license held.
3. A list of all claims over the past 3 years from the insurance company on their letterhead.
4. A list of all traffic violations over the past 3 years from the State’s Department of Public Safety.

The cost of MOT, road taxes and repairs will be paid by the church. Mileage for church business will be reimbursed at the rate of 25 pence per mile. The church will be responsible for maintenance and repairs of the car. A specific member of the church should be designated as the person to handle all matters regarding the car including insurance, inspections, road taxes, and repairs and assisting a newly arrived volunteer religious worker in getting familiar with the car and the local roads.

Other Expenses: Receipted expense claims for purchases made in support of the church’s mission should be submitted to the Church’s Treasurer for reimbursement. It is always appropriate to get approval before any major expenditure.

UK Visas: Because of security concerns, the British government has changed the rules regarding entry clearance. Volunteer religious workers and their spouse are now required to obtain visas as religious workers. The first step in the process is for AIPM to collect information from the volunteer religious worker and spouse. Note: the spouse will also be considered a volunteer religious worker. This is submitted to Gateshead International Ministries (GIM). GIM is a Registered Sponsoring Agency (RSA) and is authorized by the UK Border Agency to issue Certificates of Sponsorship or “licenses.” When GIM issues the license number from the UK Border Agency, the volunteer religious worker and spouse use this information in their application for visas. The application is done on-line, but paper copies must be sent to the British Consulate in the USA. Instructions for this effort are available from AIPM, Inc. The UK church reimburses GIM for their cost of applying for the certificate. The UK church also reimburses the volunteer religious worker and spouse for their costs in applying for visas. We elected to obtain a religious worker’s visa for the spouse to ensure there would be no restrictions for the spouse in teaching, leading group meetings, etc.

The protocol for issuing certificates of sponsorship worked out with the UK Border Agency requires weekly reports be submitted to Rev. David Hunt, Chairman of Gateshead International Ministries. These reports are required from all volunteer religious workers including the spouse.

Early in the assignment of AIPM volunteers a member of GIM’s Board of Trustees must visit the volunteer(s) to check passports, visas and place of residence to ensure that all are the same as in the official GIM records.

Visas issued by the British Consulate for volunteer religious workers are stamped with, “no recourse to public funds.” We interpret this to mean that medical care, which is free to British citizens, should not be accessed by our volunteers. For that reason, volunteers must ensure that their existing medical insurance policy covers them while they are overseas or they must purchase medical insurance for overseas travel before they leave the USA.


It is anticipated that the volunteer religious worker will serve for a period of six months. Longer or shorter periods of assignment may also be arranged. The start and finish dates for assignments will be by agreement with the church, the volunteer religious worker and AIPM.

During a six-month period, the volunteer religious worker will be entitled to three weeks leave and any Public Holidays falling within the period. A volunteer religious worker serving twelve months would be entitled to six weeks vacation. British pastors typically receive 5 weeks vacation and 1 week study time each year.

The nature of the appointment is such that it is not appropriate to specify fixed hours of work, but the church should ensure that the volunteer religious worker is able to retain one day a week free of all church duties for relaxation and refreshment.

It is expected that each volunteer religious worker will enjoy favorable relationships within the church fellowship. However, if problems arise and if a simple majority of the church should vote that the volunteer religious worker’s performance is unsatisfactory, AIPM, Inc. will pay for the change in airline tickets and bring the volunteer religious worker and spouse home as soon as practicable.


In agreeing to this arrangement, a church recognizes its own responsibility to be seriously committed to mission under God, through the guidance of the volunteer religious worker.

It is expected that every church member will play his/her part in fulfilling the church’s mission, according to the gifts God has given.

The committed involvement of church members will enable the fellowship to capitalize on the valuable contribution a volunteer religious worker can make in moving the church forward to the point where it is able to appoint a full or part-time pastor from within the UK. The church should aspire to this goal at the earliest, practical opportunity.

To help ensure the long-term viability of the church’s evangelical outreach, the church members and leaders should be willing to work faithfully with their volunteer religious workers and their association in doing studies and developing and implementing vision and strategy. Someone has wisely said, “If we keep on doing what we have always done, we will keep on getting what we have always gotten.” It is the hope and prayer of the Board of Directors of AIPM, Inc. that each church served will have a mindset to plan and strategize for a spiritually healthy church for the decades ahead.

Note 1: The church secretary will be responsible for arranging for others to conduct services when the volunteer religious worker is absent.

Note 2: The volunteer religious worker and church secretary will be asked to produce a report including vital statistics at the end of each quarter-year. This report is to be passed to AIPM, Inc and to the next interim. The report is intended to help ensure continuity of vision, strategy, and any action items from a mission consultancy plan for the work within the church and its local community.