“There Is No Success Without Succession.”

Next — Pastoral Succession that Works by William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird:  A Book Review

In the spirit of the old proverb about planting a tree, the authors’ advice about succession planning could be summarized:  “The second best time to start succession planning is TODAY.  The best time to begin was ten years ago.”

Vanderbloemen and Bird open the board room door and invite the average pew-sitter and, quite wisely, the pastoral staff into the discussion of “What happens next?” when a church’s senior staff person moves on.  Bringing strategies and realism to a process often muddied with over-spiritualization, they also have their feet firmly planted in a scriptural understanding of the church and the pastor’s role.

Although they bring to the table a wealth of experience and research, they are not hawking iron-clad rules and quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions.  In fact, according to them “the one cardinal rule for pastoral succession is that there is no cardinal rule.”  However, they go on to say:

 . . . leaders who continually plan and pray for the next chapter for their church will almost always have a better ending and a brighter future than those who do not.

There is wisdom here, and in case you don’t believe it, Vanderbloemen and Bird provide case study after case study to illustrate the pros and cons for staying long, the unique troubles around replacing founding pastors, the pastor’s wife and her ties to the church, as well as traumatic and forced terminations.  They offer advice for avoiding law suits related to succession, and, while they’re at it, a list of candidates to consider avoiding.

The book is very readable with a good blend of narrative style accounts and outline style bullet points, charts and diagrams.  The mindset that “every pastor is an interim pastor” is a healthy one, not only for clergy, but also for the faithful sheep.  It occurred to me that a careful reading of I Peter 5:1-4 supports an additional  truth:  “every pastor is an assistant pastor” to the Chief Shepherd.  After all, as the authors point out, “God is never caught by surprise (even if we are).”  Therefore, to bring us into step with Him,  they have given us Next which is a realistic but very positive guidebook for thinking long term, honoring the past, and anticipating the future.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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