In every ministry, whether in a church or para-church organization, there are ministry stumps. A ministry stump is an individual (or group of people) that look rather short and “stumpy” above the ground, but underneath the surface they are deeply connected in a vast network of roots.
Whenever a strong leader enters the situation, they only can see what’s on top. They see the stump. A remnant of a tree long forgotten. Cut down, but not removed. The newly installed leader has no clue what is really going on underneath the surface. Yet when they survey the land, they recognize the need to remove these ministry stumps if they are going to move things forward.
So how do you do it? Well, just like removing a tree stump from your front yard, there is more to it than you first think.
1. First, you have to unearth a large ring around the stump. You have to pull and dig out as much dirt as possible to expose the reach of the root system. The same with ministry stumps. You have to patiently dig and dig, slowly exposing the stump for who they really are. You will have ask tons of questions and gather lots of information to discern how far the roots go. You will have to expose their networks to the broader eye of the organization.
2. Secondly, you are going to have to elevate the stump. Get the chain and the truck, its time to pull that eyesore up. This may seem political or even contradictory to your purpose, but many times you will have to give the stump a significant position of leadership so that they are elevated in the organization. Yet this elevation is only temporary. Ultimately they will expose more and more of their underlying network and underhanded ways to the larger audience. This will convince more and more people the stump needs to go.
3. Finally, when the roots are exposed and the stump has been elevated, it will be time to excavate. This takes decisive action and boldness. It will cause conflict and hurt feelings. But if the ministry is going to move forward, leaders know there are individuals who must be removed. You have to give the stump a choice either go on their own freewill or the leadership will force them to go.
In the end, removing ministry stumps is a work in patience and timing. Be certain, however, the stump will just sit there until you get involved. It’s not going to move on its own. Unfortunately many leaders choose to leave the stump and instead plant flower around it.