Summary: HOw the secrets that grow a Bonsai tree will kill a church.
Pruning and Pinching
(On Not Becoming a Bonsai Church- Part 2)
Recap: What is the first secret to keeping a Bonsai tree small?
Keep the pot small.
This week I want to share with you two more secrets for keeping the Bonsai small. They are things that sound unhealthy for the tree and perhaps you would say, “Why would you possibly do that to a tree?” Well, we should ask, “Are we doing these things to our church?” and if we are… “Why would we possibly do that to our church?”
The first one is…
Pruning the roots.
That is right… cutting away some of the roots.
Annually… or bi-annually… the tree has to be removed from its pot, the dirt shaken and combed off the roots and the roots are to be cut back.
Why would you do that? Remember: the first secret… keep the pot small? Well, the small pot means the roots would have a tendency to grow to the edge of the pot and curl up. The tree would become root bound. When a plant becomes root bound, it begins to starve and die. The way to avoid becoming root bound is to cut the roots back.
Result: the tree will remain small and healthy.
How does this relate to churches? Many churches regularly go through the process of pruning the roots.
I love this picture.
How do churches prune their roots?
1. Enrollment Pruning
Many years ago… back in the 1950s… Baptist churches were very big on records. Members were given tithing envelopes and on the front they checked off boxes like… present, attending worship, bible brought, bible read, lesson studied. They also began to give out attendance banners to the class that had the highest percentage of its members present.
Some classes began to realize they had some “dead wood,” some members who did not come and those members were hurting the percentage. So, in order to increase their attendance percentage, they would remove or prune members from the roll. Some churches even performed annual pruning.
What happened to those whose names were pruned from the roles? Many got angry and quit. Others just fell by the wayside.
I like to think that we are much wiser and smarter today. But the truth is there are still many churches that still prune names.
I like what Ken Hemphill said, “Our primary goal is not to boast about the percentage of members present, but to reach the unsaved in our community and to care for those in our fellowship. We’re not caring for anyone when we prune them from our roles. We simply lose contact and opportunity for ministry. The church that goes through the annual process of root pruning will invariably remain small.”
Listen… businesses today pay thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars every day and every month to buy names.
Do you see the irony?
Churches are pruning away names
Businesses are paying for names
Names the businesses get are only potential customers.
Names on our roles are people for whom Jesus died.
2. Combining classes
Often churches combine classes because they have two small ones and the members feel better about the class when it has more faces… so they combine them.
Good idea? Yes… if you want to feel good.
But it is a TERRIBLE idea if you want to be the body of Christ on mission for God.
See, when you combine the two classes you will make one class that is now at or past the size where they will grow.
It makes the class feel more comfortable… and less likely to do anything to grow.
“Combining two classes absolves the leaders and members of reaching out to the community to grow. Combining classes is the opposite of what needs to be done for natural growth.”
Large classes hardly ever grow and small classes do not automatically grow… especially if they have been small for a while.
NEW classes grow!!! New creates excitement and vitality.
3. Do it all staff
Another way to prune the roots is if the staff is expected to do everything or if the staff does do everything.
Many times a church will cut back on staff and expect the remaining staff to pick up the slack. When you do that… you are almost always guaranteeing failure.
Either the staff will fail to be able to do it all… or the staff will do it and the church will fail to experience the growth they could if they would assume the responsibility.
The more the staff does, the less the members are expected and required to do. That means the members will fail to grow.
So you see… the second secret of keeping the bonsai tree… and the church… small is PRUNE THE ROOTS.