By Henry Cloud
Cloud has already positively impacted my life through the book he co-authored with John Townsend called Boundaries. Someone (I can’t remember who) recommended Necessary Endings. I admit I had a hard time reading it BUT I am buying my own copy (I borrowed this from the library). It is one of those books I will most likely come back to and want to underline and jot notes in the margins. It is also a book hard to take in all at once.
Cloud writes from a business consultant perspective about how some endings in our lives are necessary. He answers such questions as how we can know relationships/jobs/industries/employees need to end in order for new life to grow. He compares this with pruning. Pruning actually helps the plant become stronger, produces better fruit and makes it healthier. Pruning is hard to do, however, and often goes untended because we want to avoid pain for ourselves and others. Most people don’t like change and pruning, or endings, create change. Yet, we can’t go on to do the best thing for ourselves and others if we don’t embrace endings.
I began reading and thinking about someone else’s church. Gradually I began to think about my own church. This was followed by thinking about my own abilities as a leader. At this point, I had to put the book down because I became very depressed. I had to force myself to pick it up again and I am glad I did. I realized a lot of my own challenges need to be addressed. Some of these have to do with me and some have to do with how I act around others. Sure, I can stay just like I am. I could be an okay leader, moving from church to church just getting by. Or I can do better by taking a good long look at what needs pruning in my life, my leadership and my church.
What did this book have to do with my faith? We don’t do endings very well as Christians. We tend to hold on to things or to people because we don’t want anyone to get hurt. We don’t want bad feelings or to create enemies. This is why many short term volunteer ministries and church jobs end up being years long. We are best for saying, “We’ve always done it that way!” The healthier option is to recognize the memories and people who have been touched by the old ways and look ahead to the new memories and more people who will be touched by the new ones. We need more pruning! I’m going to go out on a limb here and give Vacation Bible School as an example. VBS was great when there were a lot of stay-at-home parents who could bring their kids together in the church and help them learn more about the Bible while having some fun. This was a daytime activity that also helped relieve monotony and boredom during the summer vacation. Many churches in smaller communities would share the burden on different weeks. But now VBS is this production that only larger churches with paid staff and a multiplicity of volunteers can put on well. And it is more about entertainment than learning about the Bible. All these companies come up with cute and creative ways to learn about the Bible. Yet, very little time is even spent on the actual scriptures. In addition, VBS becomes an inward focused activity and simply one more night time activity in a tremendously busy summer schedule. We need to put VBS to rest and come up with new ways to help kids learn the Bible. That is a necessary ending!
I recommend Necessary Endings. I know I will be re-reading and referencing it for years to come.