Pruning In Smaller Churches – Coaching Session



…you’re talking about a smaller church environment when most people know everything. That’s the most difficult environment to do this pruning exercise in. And when Willow was a small church and when we had to remove a high-visibility volunteer it was pain on a stick! Because they would run out and tell 100 people a bad story. And if we didn’t tell them the right story, then that was all left wrong in everyone’s mind.

So we would call a member’s meeting and what we would always try to do… here’s first best in all these kind of sticky situations, this goes with firings, this goes with leave of absences whatever you have to do in a disciplinary way: best case scenario is you tell the person you had the issue with, who you’re taking disciplinary measures with, is you say, “Before you run out and tell a bunch of people this story, we need to agree, you and me together, we need to agree on what the story is of what happened here. So you write the story of what you say is happening here, and I’m going to write the story of what I say happened here and then we’re going to work as long as it takes ‘til we agree on the story!” And I’ve had this where this would take one meeting, I’ve had it in a couple of very problematic situations, it would take a half a dozen meetings and you would wordsmith, you know, you would exchange synonyms before both people could sign off on the story.

In a smaller church, you stand in front of the church or you tell the person, you say, “At our next congregational meeting I have to come clean about this. So this is the story I’m going to read. I would love it if you could stand next to me as I read it. If you can’t because you’re going to hide or do whatever, I still have to tell the true story. It’s the only story I am ever going to tell.” If people after the service say, “What was the true story? Tell me behind-the-scene stuff,” there is no behind-the-scene stuff but the story you both agree to. If that person goes out and tells another story, you pull them back in and you go, “We agreed on this story. Stick to the story. And you can probably stay in the church and so.” But we have had every conceivable kind of difficult disciplinary thing happen around Willow. And one of the most important things is to come together and agree on the story and only tell one story.

The other rule of thumb on this is if someone in a sub-ministry that has no visibility to the whole church, the story in that kind of situation only has to really be told to the people who are affected by the story. If the person has influence over the whole church, then their story has to be told to the whole church. But you know, if your, you know, janitor who no one knows gets caught drinking and he’s over served, he’s drunk and shows up, there’s that kind of thing, okay. You gather the janitorial staff and everybody around that circle says, “You know, Fred’s got to go into a program and we’re going to help him but there’s a problem, we’re going to restore him in gentleness… Galatians 6:1. He has to leave his job, but we are going to try to help the guy.” You don’t have to make that a Sunday morning announcement, because no one knows the guy and they’re like, “Why are you telling us this?” So you communicate to the concentric circles that are warranted given the person’s visibility and influence.

  1. The main points were ____
  2. This impacted me because ____
  3.  I am going to take away ____

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