Jan 11, 2016

Want to Bear More Fruit? Prune Your Ministry

Do you want to see your ministry bear more fruit?  It may require some pruning.

I have a tree in my front yard that is growing quickly.  It started just a foot tall and is now over my roof line.  One reason is because I prune it on a regular basis.

If you've grown plants or trees or other types of greenery, you know how important pruning is.

Pruning by definition means to remove dead or overgrown branches or stems...to slim down...to make reductions...to make cutbacks.

Jesus used pruning in John 15 to show us how to be more fruitful as Christ-followers and ministries.  But pruning can't be done randomly.  It involves a clear strategy.  Here's some steps to take when you're ready to prune.

Identify what is bearing fruit.  Notice what Jesus said.  He said to prune the branches that are bearing fruit.  Identify what is working well in your ministry.  Identify what God is using to reach people.  Identify what is God using to grow people's faith.  Identify what is God using to change lives.  These are the branches that you want to keep resources, volunteers, time and energy flowing into. 

Identify what is not bearing fruit.  What is not growing?  What is being perpetuated that is not effective?  What is being kept alive because sister so and so started it in 1978?  What is still happening simply because "we've always done it that way?"  What is no longer culturally relevant but is operating in a comatose state because of resistance to change? 

Explain why you need to prune.  The reason you prune is so the fruit-bearing branches can get the nutrients and minerals they need to produce even more fruit.  Bottom line...if you want to see lots of fruit, you have to send the resources to the fruit bearing branches.

The plethora of good ministries that you are trying to grow may be keeping you from growing a few great ministries.  The multiple programs you staff with a few volunteers each may be keeping you from staffing a few programs with lots of volunteers.  The long list of events you are pulling off each year with mediocrity may be keeping you from pulling off a few events with excellence.  Your budget that is spread across multiple strategies may be keeping you from adequately funding one or two great strategies.

Prune at the right time.  Timing is important in pruning.  You have to be strategic about when you prune.  For trees that bloom in spring, pruning is best done when their flowers fade.  Trees and shrubs that flower in mid-to-late summer are best pruned in winter or early spring.

The same applies to ministry pruning.  You must be wise about when and how you prune.  Don't make the mistake of rushing in and pruning without counsel or process.  I've made this mistake in the past.  In my zeal to see more fruit produced, I either ran over people or didn't take the time to bring people along and help them see the "why." 

Master pruners make pruning a process instead of a surprise.  They strategically communicate to the right people at the right time.  They get the right people on board and gather momentum before starting the pruning.  

Pruning without knowledge or due process can result in damage rather than more fruit.  Make sure you prune at the right time with the right people by your side.

Be prepared for resistance.  I also have very tall palm trees in my front yard.  They grow branch shoots at the top that have to be trimmed.  This is not always an easy task as they grow in between the larger branches and can be hard to get too.  They are also difficult to cut through at times.  Then after I cut through them, they can get hung up in the healthy branches as I try to drag them out of the tree.

One thing is for sure...when you start pruning, there will be resistance.  No matter how much you communicate the "why" there will be someone who just doesn't get it and will resist.  People simply don't like change...and pruning is change.

But you can't let the resistance stop you from pruning.  The health of the plant is at stake.  Bearing more fruit must take precedence. 

Remember that pruning isn't one and done...it's a continual process.  Pruning must be done on a regular basis if want to remain fruitful.

That's why each year you must evaluate everything you do.  That's why you must ask the hard questions about the ministry on a regular basis.  That's why you must be willing to shift and adjust often.

Be willing to prune everything...including "your" branches.  I have found that it's easy to prune something that someone else started or grew...not so easy for something that I personally started or grew.  Are you same way?  But we can't bear much fruit if we follow this mindset. 

People that bear much fruit hold the ministry with open hands.  They detach the ministry from personal agendas,  preferences or personalities.
Pruning means you must die to yourself and put the fruit bearing of the ministry first.

Get ready for more fruit!  The result of pruning?  The parts of the plant that are bearing fruit get more nutrients which results in more health and more fruit.  Check out what Jesus said in John 15.
He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  John 15:2
Years ago, I was taught that if you want to bear fruit in ministry then you need lots of branches.  The more ministry branches you had...the more fruit you would bear.  But over the years, I found the opposite to be true.  If you want to bear lots of fruit, then prune your ministry on a regular basis.

Take an inside look at the ministries across the country that are bearing more fruit and you will see that they are pouring their time, energy, volunteers and resources into a few branches that are bearing lots of fruit.

And...they are relentless pruners.

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