A book review by John Sprecher

No pastor likes to upset the status quo. We all prefer to keep church life calm and predictable.

But what if you have a ministry leader, a teacher, or a board member who is no longer effective? What if you have to admit to yourself that someone is in the wrong position, unable to move into a fruitful future?

Or what if a certain program is no longer working? These are the kinds of situations that make us all squirm.

Dr. Henry Cloud, the well-known clinical psychologist perhaps best remembered for his 1992 bestseller Boundaries, has written a new book to help navigate the difficult pruning process that all of our lives need from time to time. He wrote it primarily for the business world, but it applies just as well to the church. It’s called Necessary Endings (HarperCollins, 2010). The subtitle talks about what “all of us have to give up in order to move forward.”

Dr. Cloud weaves into his narrative stories of business executives as well as individuals who need to deal with negative relationships.

His initial premise is that there must be pruning for maximum productivity. A rose bush will only produce great roses if it is appropriately pruned. In most of our lives there are people and things that keep us from functioning at our very best.

Another premise is that our lives have chapters that need to be acknowledged. One of his illustrations is the change that was required for a firm to move from analog to digital. Resistance to that change nearly destroyed a major company.

Often the challenges in organizations come because we have the wrong people in the wrong positions. Sometimes a person needs to leave a project or a position in order for find the place where they will be able to flourish and do their best.

In dealing with those we are working with, Dr. Cloud lists three types of people:

– the one who is wise who will receive correction and instruction
– the fool who will always blame someone else
– the evil person who is out to destroy

Dealing with each type person requires different tactics. He spends a good portion of his book helping process how to deal with each of these different perspectives.

I found the book to be very helpful, since we often do not make necessary changes until the pain is great enough to force us to move. But if we are willing to move more quickly, we can sometimes save pain for ourselves and others around us. Necessary Endings will help you to recognize the contributions of those around you and the need for making sure everyone is in the right place.

John Sprecher is senior pastor of Rock Church, Rockford, Illinois.

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