What is divine pruning?
Intentionally cutting back the elements of our church that no longer serve the people is an example of pruning. When done right, it allows room for growth so flowers may bloom where decay once was. The initial feeling might be one of loss, as you end programs and cancel events. But remember – when God closes a door, He always opens a window.
Instead of holding on, we need to clear space for new possibilities and new opportunities through God’s pruning process. The need to prune in the Bible is clear. For example, scripture like John 15:1-17 which highlights that we must prune that which does not bear fruit, as instructed by God. He guides us toward the spiritual pruning we need to live fruitful lives, as we must prune within the church to focus our resources on what matters to God.
Refresh your church vision.
Intentional pruning always starts with a review. Otherwise, your church could genuinely be on the decline, but you can brush it off as pruning. Pruning is a thoughtful, logical process – you have to be an active participant in the journey. Start by asking the big questions like what is our church's purpose? Where are we headed? How are we going to get there?
Reassessing the divine purpose of your church is necessary every so often. Each church has a unique calling, and regular reflection is the only way you can achieve this. Actively listen to the guidance of God to ensure your church is fulfilling the role He intended. Then, create a clear and concise vision for your church, whether it’s the overall vision or focuses on goals for the coming year.
Reviewing your ministry programs.
Choosing which programs to cut and which to keep isn’t always easy. If you have been a part of the ministry for several years, gaining an outsider's perspective to see what the people need is difficult. All of our judgments are clouded, and sometimes, cutting anything at all feels unnecessary. Follow these four principles to gain clarity over the program pruning process.
Does it incite excitement?
Write a list of all the programs and events you offer at your church. Do they align with your church vision? Are your community members excited to attend? Or are numbers slowly dwindling? We must purge that which no longer bears fruit, but this can be hard when sentimental ties connect us to longstanding, traditional programs. Try ranking your programs from most to least important to get a clearer view.
Is it based on sentimentality?
If you don't want to ditch a program, but you can’t quite figure out why you think it has value, it might be your instinct toward program hoarding kicking in. Generally, people dislike change and prefer the security of regularity and things staying the same. It feels like home, and it is comfortable. So try and be mindful of this when choosing what to prune – does this program actually help the community anymore?
Does the data support your beliefs?
Steer away from feelings-based assessments to get the clearest insight possible into how successful your programs are. Assess the fruit of your programs in the form of data to equip you with the knowledge needed to make the right decisions. Ask: how many people does this program reach? Does it produce a tangible result we can measure? How much money and effort does it cost?
How valuable is this program?
Then, consider it from a different viewpoint. How valuable is this program to the community? Though this question is much harder to turn into data, it is vital. If you only consider the number of people who attend, you might end up closing a niche program that acts as a lifeline for some, like grief support groups or programs that feed hungry families in the area. For that reason, a lot of thought must go into making the pruning decisions.
Redirect the resources.
Now you have successfully pruned some programs, there is inevitably a void to be filled. This is an exciting opportunity to start new programs or funnel more time into your popular programs that are already flourishing. Keep your church vision at the forefront of it all when choosing how to redirect.
Making timelines is an effective way to keep your ministry on track and accountable. Consider your annual pruning process as a part of a yearly plan, and make milestones and goals a priority when setting up a new plan. Does this new program direct your ministry closer to God? Will it serve your community? Does your ministry need it right now?
Though many would rather avoid it entirely, pruning is an incredible opportunity for growth and development. Keep your church on track by practicing an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ philosophy to ensure your resources are being used where they are needed. Your ministry is a living thing, so be flexible and allow it to change, grow, flourish, and bear fruits.