CNLP 019: How to Replace Yourself: Why Every Leader (Even Young Leaders) Need a Succession Plan to be Successful—An Interview with William Vanderbloemen

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Why on earth would you think about succession, especially if you’re a young leader?

Well, one of the hallmarks of great leadership is replacing yourself. Second, there is no success without a succession plan for any leadership role.

William Vandenbloemen explains why finding your replacement is an essential part of great leadership at all ages in all positions, and explains how to do it.

Whether you’re leading a small business, a large corporation, a church or a non-profit, replacing yourself and finding a successor are keys to any leader’s success.

Welcome to Episode 19 of the Podcast.



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3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Discussing succession within church leadership doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

There are many stories in the Bible that are catered around succession – Even Jesus spent his last days with those he wanted to spread the Gospel.

Here are three things you can do to be prepared:

1. Start the conversation. From day one, leadership in the church needs to start thinking about what succession looks like in all areas of ministry. According to research conducted by William’s firm, U.S. and Canadian pastors, on average, go through 3 or 4 pastoral transitions throughout their careers. In fact, William points out that every pastor is technically an interim pastor, no matter what position they hold.

Keep this in mind – Having a successor in place doesn’t make you less valuable; it makes you more valuable to the church.  If you’re concerned that succession planning could cause conflict among church leadership, or if your pastor isn’t willing to have the conversation, look for an outside source that may have greater leverage to get the process started.

2. Develop a plan for picking a successor. There is an age curve in the work force that’s described as the “double humped camel.” The large hump represents the Baby Boomers, many of whom are retiring. The people in the middle represent the Gen-Y’ers, and the second hump is representative of Millennials. This generation gap has created a scarcity of people for upcoming opportunities, something William compares to finding a match for an organ transplant. It’s like hiring an outsider to come inside the body to run a major organ system, and the trick is finding a “donor list” (candidates) of good tissue matches.

Have a plan for what this process looks like within your church, because William emphasizes that it’s really easy to find the wrong person.

3. Don’t overstay because you’re afraid to tackle the issue. While there are exceptions, pastors tend to stay too long in their position. That trend is most common among senior leadership. Not only will pride sometimes hinder a pastor’s succession, but board members don’t want to go into “ministry battle.”

The reasons for overstaying are myriad. Many times, the senior pastor has married or baptized the family of his fellow board members, and to avoid conflict, succession is never discussed.  Senior pastors also struggle with losing their identity and losing their income. They can’t afford to retire, and they have no other way to identify themselves. William says that the smartest young professionals are those who spend their younger years creating options for their later years. Smart pastors will start to develop an avocation, and smart church boards will free up the pastor to pursue that.

It all begins with starting the conversation.

Quotes from William

It's not that it's hard to find good people. It's just easy to hire bad people. @wvanderbloemen. Click To Tweet CNLP 019: How to Replace Yourself: Why Every Leader (Even Young Leaders) Need a Succession Plan to be Successful—An Interview with William Vanderbloemen Click To Tweet CNLP 019: How to Replace Yourself: Why Every Leader (Even Young Leaders) Need a Succession Plan to be Successful—An Interview with William Vanderbloemen Click To Tweet CNLP 019: How to Replace Yourself: Why Every Leader (Even Young Leaders) Need a Succession Plan to be Successful—An Interview with William Vanderbloemen Click To Tweet People will remember how you leave longer than they'll remember what you did while there. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Frank Bealer

Feel like nobody owns the mission like you do? Frank Bealer from Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina shares how they have motivated thousands of volunteers to own the mission as much as staff do to help grow the church to over 18,000 people in 8 years.

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Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to an online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.