Pastor Ron Vietti is the Lead Pastor of Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, California. Ron and his wife Debbie, of 43 years, pioneered Valley Bible Fellowship in 1974 with ten teenagers. It is now a church of over 10,000 people. Outside of the main campus, VBF has successful satellite campuses that meet within Bakersfield and throughout California, flourishing church plants in Las Vegas, Nevada and Ventura, California, and additional thousands of viewers that tune in every Sunday and Wednesday throughout the world for services that are live on the internet. He is the author of four books, Conspiracy of Silence, Polyester People, Tribal Influence, and a children’s book, Oreo Finds a Friend. To find out more about Ron Vietti, visit www.RonVietti.com or www.VBF.org. PastorResources.com is lucky to have gotten the chance to do a Q&A with this all around excellent guy
What is your title in the church?
I am the Lead Pastor.
How far in advance to you prepare for services?
We are not like most churches. We are last minute led, simply because I think I have ADHD. LOL… Really, I am passion led, and I don’t like to plan a series too far in advance simply because I may not be passionate about that subject 6 weeks later. I am well aware that this is not the most efficient way to lead a congregation, and it creates havoc with the tech team and hinders us from doing a lot of things we want to do. We have tried on several occasions to do it differently, but after 40 years, it just doesn’t work for me. As far as Sunday services go, the worship agenda and list is in by Thursday and practice is done on Thursday for Sunday. I normally start planning on Thursday also for a Sunday series, if I am doing a series. If I do a series, I will usually never go beyond 3 weeks. I feel that if I stay on a series any longer than that, I burn the congregation out and do not personally have the ability to keep them focused on any one subject for a longer than that. Also remember my ADHD?
I prefer to teach verse by verse as the Calvary Chapel movement has done for years. We have done this on Wednesday nights for decades and have averaged 2 to 3 thousand people through the years. Sometimes we will do this on Sunday mornings. This style of teaching does three things for me: 1. It fits my personality and using the shotgun approach allows me to actually minister to a variety of needs within the congregation in a single service. 2. It is so much easier for me to plan and not be redundant with hitting the same overlapping subjects when you sometimes do series teachings, although teaching verse by verse also has its redundancy at times. 3. It causes me to hit subjects that I would never preach on in a series. It forces me to look outside my comfort zone and talk about things that I would not talk about intentionally. We rotate back and forth with series teachings and verse by verse.
What do you do if you feel stuck, creatively?
When I feel stuck creatively, I turn to the young guys on staff to get a fresh perspective. I have found through the years that there is a pretty wide gap between the way the millennials and baby boomers think about issues. We have some pretty creative young men on staff. We might call a meeting at the beach or the mountains and just spend a day together. I also go to go to other large churches and see what they are preaching on to see if it resonates with me. I also will sometimes read secular books or go to secular sites on the internet to see what issues people are struggling with.
What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on the pulpit and how did you recover?
The worst thing that has ever happened to me in the pulpit is a “no brainer.” I am not sure if I should even mention it. It is very embarrassing to even talk about, but it might serve as a lesson to both young and especially older pastors to not assume that they know what certain things mean, especially if they are not in tune with the world and the terminology it uses. I was speaking in Las Vegas years ago and trying to find a way to describe a loose living lady in the Bible and I referred to her as a “MILF.” Yes, you heard that right. I thought that it was a slang word referring to loose living women. I am not even sure where I had heard it. You can just imagine the look that came over the congregation, especially the young crowd. Jaws dropped and hands immediately went to their mouths. By the shocked look on the faces of the crowd, I knew that I had just said something horrible. I responded, “I am not sure what that word means. By the look on your faces I assume you do. Forgive me if I said something wrong.” As you can imagine, I had someone waiting backstage to greet me as I came from the pulpit after the service. When told what it meant, I was totally humiliated and didn’t even know if I wanted to do the next service. I learned a great lesson that day.
What is one ritual that keeps you sane in busy times?
To keep my sanity, I like to go to the mountains or the beach and kick back. I also joined a hunting club, and occasionally I just have to go kill something and eat it. Getting away from all the reminders of the things that are stressing me out really helps me.
If you could give one piece of advice to those graduating from seminary school, what would it be?
If I had to give one piece of advice to graduating seminary students, it would be to maintain a healthy and vibrant walk with God. Go into the world determined to not get caught up in the “church machine.” It is so easy to lose focus and get caught up in the corporate world of Christianity. We can so easily become something we weren’t called to be, and instead of feeding sheep, we end up building a corporation that uses sheep in a selfish way. We end up building a religious dynasty that feeds our ego and puts a spiritual feather in our cap. Our focus becomes all about the books we want to write and the speaking conferences we want to be invited to and how we can make a name for ourselves. This is a trap that so many fall into. The fact is that if you just stay true to serving the people, you might end up at the same places, but for the right reasons and God will get all the glory.
Be true to who God made you to be and DON’T try to be a cheap imitation of the people you admire most. They are them and you are you. Learn from them but don’t copy them. I know of one pastor who started emulating another big name pastor who always laughed with a deep and resounding “ha ha ha.” When the original pastor did it, it was very organic and rich, but when the imitating pastor did it, it served as a distraction more than an edification. God made you, you! Be the best “you” you can be.