Historic Black Baptist Church Selects New Senior Pastor After 49 Years
This succession process required immense prayer and discernment, as well as guidance through the transition of leadership. After a long journey and a thorough search process, Union Baptist Church appointed Andre Bradley as its next Senior Pastor.
“The Vanderbloemen process was objective, took us out of our comfort zone, and opened us up to things we never would have found through our normal channels. I strongly recommend this process.”Wanda Hill
Search Committee Co-Chair, Union Baptist Church
Replacing a legacy pastor is a massive undertaking. Since 1972, Reverend Dr. Robert W. Perry served as the pastor of Union Baptist Church, a church with an incredibly rich history and commitment to the Lord. Union Baptist was founded by twenty-five former descendants of enslaved people who came together to worship, and the church has only grown since then. Dr. Perry was a pillar of this incredible church body, but after 49 years in leadership, he decided it was time for him to retire and hand off the reins of Senior Pastor.
After telling his church leadership that he would be retiring soon, Union Baptist formed a search committee to take on the mammoth task of replacing such an integral part of their church. Using a search firm is far from typical for them when it came to replacing a leadership role. Some members felt that such a process would remove prayer and trust in the sovereignty of God from the equation. But the search committee began to feel that a thorough, objective, nationwide search would be an important investment, so they invited the church to prayerfully consider a search process as a both/and rather than an either/or: if even Jesse was presented with a slate of candidates before anointing David as king, then surely God would still be the guiding factor in a search process. They presented the idea to the church, and after prayerful consideration of the committee and the congregation, they decided to hire Vanderbloemen.
When deciding who to retain for this critical search, there were a few things that the search committee was looking for. They wanted people who were specialists when it came to churches, rather than just corporate. They wanted thought leaders with a nationwide reach that could create a thorough slate of candidates. They wanted a well-defined process that would guide them through the transition. And critically, they wanted an organization that understood the Black experience and could truly equip a Black church. When Vanderbloemen consultants and recruiters visited Union Baptist, met members and leaders alike, and got to know the DNA of the church, the committee knew that they could trust them with the future of their church leadership.
Andre Bradley was serving as a senior pastor in Kentucky when he felt the Lord tugging at his heart, and he felt that there would soon be a change in his ministry. After Vanderbloemen reached out to him to see if he would be interested in being considered for the role at Union baptist, a friend of his who had been part of a Vanderbloemen search encouraged him to take the possibility into serious consideration. He decided to give it a chance, and the rest was history. Ultimately, he spent prayerful time ensuring that this was not just a desire of the flesh, but that the Lord was truly calling him to be the next shepherd of the Lord’s people at Union Baptist, and he has been humbled not only be the welcoming from the Union Baptist body, but also by the support and encouragement of the members of the church he stepped away from. In his words, “it has been humbling and exciting, and it feels like home.”
Throughout the Vanderbloemen process, Pastor Bradley felt warmed and welcomed. He had never been through a search firm process before, and wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since it isn’t a typical practice of Black churches. But he felt that the process married pastor and people together, creating a clear path forward rather than creating instability within a church seeking a new leader. The connection to a church outside of his state, whom he never would have heard of otherwise and that never could have found them on their own, clearly indicated to him that Vanderbloemen was doing ministry alongside them as well.
During the search process, Vanderbloemen was able to provide more than just a slate of candidates to Union Baptist, also providing guidance on managing a church through a transition. Union baptist was encouraged by Vanderbloemen to have constant transparency and communication with the church body, and ultimately, presenting Pastor Bradley was a success.
“Vanderbloemen was able to shepherd Union Church through this process, connecting a church in Connecticut to a pastor in Kentucky and bringing them together. It spoke volumes to me that God was in the process. Trust this process, be encouraged by it, and know that different does not always mean wrong or dysfunctional. Sometimes different can be a step towards your destiny,” shared Pastor Bradley.
The executive search process is a short-term investment with incredible long-term dividends. It is an honor as professionals in this field to be trusted with the work of planting and watering these connections so that God can bring about a harvest in church communities such as Union Baptist.