The landscape of the American church is littered with the wreckage of church successions gone bad. While some pastors have planned for who will come in and assume the position once they are gone, there are too many situations where the unexpected like death or sexual indiscretions have wreaked havoc on a church. There have been situations where pastors came to what they thought would be the end of their tenure only to find that they were uncertain as to where they might go next. Succession, although an uncomfortable and risky topic, needs to be part of the conversation had between every pastor and his/her church.
With pastoral succession and the creation of a new culture in mind, William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird wrote, “Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.” The authors say early on in the book that, “Healthy succession is much more art than science. The plan and details must be tailored to each situation.” They claim that it is never too early to start planning for one’s succession, citing the corporate world where many CEOs talk about their own succession plan as soon as they take their position. Essentially, the authors state, every pastor is simply an interim pastor, it’s only their length of stay that varies.
Vanderbloemen and Bird walk the reader through some essential questions to be asked by both pastors and church boards or search committees. They give helpful hints and steps that can be taken to outline a succession plan, conversations to have with key leaders. They ask questions that can help pastors probe deep into who they are, digging deep to find out where their passion lies and what else they might pursue if they were to leave their current position.
The authors spent years compiling information and conducting interviews regarding church successions. This book was birthed out of the countless hours spent researching successions. The book is full of case studies of both successful and unsuccessful successions that have taken place. Over and over again, I felt myself relating to these stories, having either experienced similar situations myself or having heard of these situations experienced by someone that I know. In the midst of laying out and sharing their research, the authors simply put the information out there, not criticizing or judging, but simply sharing insights.
As I read through this book, I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “I wish that I had this book a few years ago” or “I wish that I could give this book to [fill in name here].” It’s a book that is helpful for anyone who holds a position of leadership in the church, be it as a pastor, an elder, a deacon, or any other position of authority. What the authors share is information that needs to be brought out into the open, discussed, and then act as a catalyst to make a change moving forward.
The only criticism that I had for the book was that there were moments when I felt that they were unashamedly promoting one of their companies. While those moments were few and far between, I think that the research and findings as well as the compilation of them could easily have stood themselves as a testimony to the companies rather than requiring a few strategically placed self-promotions.
Other than that, I have high praise for this book. It belongs on the bookshelf of every pastor who wants to be taken seriously and who wants to remain effective for as long as God would allow. This is a worthwhile resource that’s worth your time to read.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)