When thinking about leadership strategy for pastors, something came to me the other night as I was recalling some of the churches we’ve worked with over the years. It comes from a familiar passage of Scripture.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. – John 15:2
Notice that both the fruitful and the unfruitful branches face the pruning shears. Of course we expect Jesus to remove things that aren’t fruitful. But notice that even with the fruitful branches He is actively pruning things away.
As many of you know, I consider Andy Stanley one of my mentors, even though we’ve never met. I read and listen to as much of his stuff – especially his leadership materials – as I can get my hands on. One of his communication mantras is “Teach Less For More.” This verse shows a different application of the same principle. I would call it Jesus’ “Do Less To Achieve More” principle. Jesus doesn’t add things to the branch. He actually REMOVES things from it! But His express purpose in doing so is that it would be able to produce MORE fruit. I know this is counterintuitive; but the implications for churches are HUGE!
In most churches leaders are quick to add new things. They reason that if they do more they will attract more people. But the Do Less To Achieve More principle says the exact opposite. If you want to reach more people, you need to do less.
I’m not just talking about killing things off for sake of killing them. I’m instead referring to strategic pruning of programs, projects and maybe even people that may be siphoning energy, momentum, resources and volunteers from the things that really matter. If a program/event is not leading you toward the fulfillment of the vision it’s a waste of precious resources.
Leaders can’t afford to be tentative with the shears. We have to be willing to make hard decisions, knowing that it will make us unpopular for a season. People expect changes in business, but not in churches. Programs and events have such emotional ties that people believe they are sacred. But in the long run, our churches will be healthier and situated to produce MUCH more fruit if we’ll do what needs to be done.
What “fruitful branches” in your church could use some pruning? Are you willing to make the hard call?