Small Churches, Leadership And Culture: Karl Vaters Interviews William Vanderbloemen
"You are the green berets in the Kingdom. You're on the frontline. You're doing the job that is often thankless but is perhaps most important."

KV: Vanderbloemen was awarded first place in the Small Company category in's Top Company Culture list in 2015. I've always said that three of the biggest principles a small church pastor needs to pay attention to are relationships, culture, and history. Culture is usually the most mysterious of those three. As an expert at creating a great culture, what do you mean by “culture”?

WV: I don't know that anyone is an expert on creating culture. Culture in a workplace or a church already exists. Culture may need to be shaped or maximized, but it's already there.

People talk about the vision of their congregation, and that's what they think God's calling them to do: “We're going there, in that direction. That's where God's calling us.” Culture is how we behave while we're getting there. If you think you don't have a culture, if you're in a church where you've ever heard anyone say, "Well, we don't do it that way around here," you have a culture.

It’s just that a negative perspective has defined culture, so it's not whether a culture exists or not. It's figuring out what that culture is, how do we behave, what's our common set of behaviors as we're doing the work God's called us to do, and then how do we own that and leverage it to do God's work faster and better.

KV: Your latest book is entitled Culture Wins. What does it win?

WV: It's a double-meaning in the title. First, culture wins because people who are a cultural fit on your staff are better than people who are more talented. They're better than people who can do the job faster.

I'll take somebody who's a cultural fit on our team long before I'll worry about competency. I wouldn't have said that as a younger person. I made some real mistakes hiring people who were super talented, but they didn't match the team, and the cultural fit wasn't there.

I'll take somebody who's a cultural fit on our team long before I'll worry about competency.

The second meaning of the title is the book is full of stories about where culture is winning in the organization. I think back to the story of the Tower of Babel. God looks down from the heavens and at the people building a tower going all the way up to heaven. God says to the angels around him, "You know, if those people all worked together, there's nothing they can't do," so he dispersed us with different languages. Humanity was misbehaving, and he got us back in line. However you want to interpret the story, the truth is still there.

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June 06, 2018 at 1:00 AM

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