For those who are gardeners, pruning is a process that is useful in producing beautiful gardens. It seems counter-intuitive, but the results speak for themselves – cutting back creates growth. In our personal lives, we know God also uses this method intangibly to help us become who He wants us to be. We often feel His presence trimming and snipping those areas that need attention. As leaders, however, pruning in terms of a staff as demonstrated in God’s dealing with Gideon may never have crossed our minds.
Most women in church leadership oversee a ministry with few paid staff. In fact, many are unpaid as well. So the question of “thinning out” those who regularly give their time is difficult to even consider. Many volunteers serve from an abundance of love for the Lord and a sincere desire to further His Kingdom. Yet, just as with a garden and our personal lives, our ministries can become unhealthy, stagnant, ineffective or weak. Most of the time these issues are attributed to other outside influences without considering it may be the result of an issue with those leading under us. It is not something we want to acknowledge and often ignore the obvious in an effort to avoid confrontation or guilt. As a result, our ministry suffers.
In John 15:1-2 (NIV) Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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.” In these verses there is clear teaching about spiritual growth being produced by cutting back. Applying this pruning principal to our ministry staff may be difficult to consider yet also could mean the difference between the status quo and an abundant harvest.
If your ministry seems to be at a standstill, it may be a good time to pray about pruning. God knows what is needed and as indicated in James 1:5, we can ask Him for wisdom in discerning what cutbacks — if any — should be made. Trimming your leadership staff will be a tough task but could be the very thing it needs. A smaller force can often be more effective than a large one. Just as the Lord clearly led Gideon in determining the right people for his “staff” of warriors, we can trust Him to lead us in making wise decisions that will result in greater fruitfulness to further His Kingdom.