PASTOR TRANSITION & Thoughts from a Conversation w/ William Vanderbloemen

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/28/15.

Tonight I had dinner with William Vanderbloemen, founder of one of the most successful pastoral search firms and co-author with respected researcher Warren Bird of NEXT: Pastoral Successful That Works. As the former pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Houston (the oldest Presbyterian church in Texas) he learned from a colleague how Christian hospitals had effective succession plans. Out of these two careers came one of today’s most effective pastoral succession firms.

We were discussing how churches branch out with different cultural worship expressions. Knowing Bill was from Texas, I mentioned that a colleague of mine in Texas was branching out with a “Cowboy Church.” If you know about Cowboy Churches, these churches often hold worship at rodeos or under a tent, where boots and cowboy hats are welcomed, even expected at church (see Cowboy Church with Rodeo Arena, They do Church Different).

William responded, “The key for success is if the preacher is really from the cowboy culture. You can’t fake that in Texas. There is one Cowboy Church pastor and he is missing two fingers. He lost those riding in the rodeo. That is a signal that he is part of your culture.”

William’s response reminded me of what I had heard about his firm from my client, Vineyard of Cincinnati, that had used him with their pastoral search.

The key is authentic cultural relevance. The cowboy pastor with two missing figures was a sign to his cowboy culture that he was committed and authentic.

As a man who leads probably the largest pastoral placement firm in America, I’ve heard from my clients that he stresses the importance of matching a pastor to the authentic culture of the organization. “So do you have a place on your questionnaire that asks, ‘How many fingers do you have’?” May be we should he replied.