Pruning Forward

Written by Carl Greene

July 8, 2020

When you think about pruning, what comes to mind? We prune to ‘fix’ something in the present—to remove the dead and sick branches or flowers. We also prune for the future, to provide the opportunity for the plant to flourish to its fullness. Do we look at pruning in our churches in the same way?

In his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud talks about pruning rose bushes. There is the pruning of dead branches and sick buds to allow the plant to thrive. But there is also a forward look to pruning—there needs to be a pruning of healthy buds because the rose bush cannot support all of the buds that it has started. There must be difficult decisions made and actions taken to remove some things that appear healthy for the sake of the flourishing of the whole plant. The beauty of the rose bush is positively shaped by pruning healthy buds.

In a recent two-minute video, I shared some thoughts about the church revitalization pruning process ( While this process is a matter of pruning the things that are no longer a fit for this season, there is also an element of looking forward and pruning for health and beauty in the future. As we make revitalization decisions, I hope that we are not simply ‘fixing’ in the present, but shaping where we are going in the future.

If a rose bush is not pruned forward for the future, it will decline in health, and have more and more dead branches and sickly buds to be trimmed. We can feel good about pruning those items out, but that is simply damage control, and not moving the rose bush toward flourishing. The same is true with our churches. If we wait to simply prune what is no longer working or what is unhealthy, we are doing a good thing, but not moving toward healthy flourishing. If we are to move in the direction of thriving health, it requires pruning forward—to seek out God’s leading in where we are to invest our resources and focus on those areas with passion. That means pruning some healthy buds. That means that I might need to let go of some things that I like my church doing—for the sake of healthy flourishing in the future.

Fortunately, the difficult decisions around pruning are not guess work when we bathe the process in prayer. Blessings as we prune forward toward healthy flourishing. If you would like to learn more about the SDB revitalization process that catalyzes church movement toward health, please contact SDB Director of Church Development, John Pethtel.

Grace and peace,

Carl Greene, Executive Director, SDB General Conference of USA & Canada

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