Today I was involved in an interesting discussion – about a subject any pastor/pastor’s wife will have to face sometime in ministry.
What do you do when you have a church program that has potential, but is being held back by older volunteers that have a strong sense of but-that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it?
Because both sides are often stubborn, it’s easy to make a big mistake in such a situation.
Sometimes the diehards are given the privilege of continuing (even though what they’re doing isn’t working) and sometimes the older people are forced out because “we don’t need them anymore anyhow.”
Neither works. Churches should value the wisdom of the older people and energy of the younger people. What needs to happen is compromise. (Sometimes age doesn’t have anything to do with these stand-offs. I know of more than one incident when it is the older person who wants the change and the younger person who is digging in his feet.)
So what to do?
A co-worker suggested a good start to the church staff person who was facing the difficulty. “Take the older people out for lunch individually. Ask them what attracted them to the ministry in the first place. Ask if they think the ministry is meeting those goals. Ask what they feel can be done to get back on track.”
Here are some other suggestions.
1. Respect the views of those who have “always done it this way.”
2. Listen to what they’re saying, maybe they actually have a point.
3. Make use of everyone’s talents. (Again, age doesn’t have anything to do with relating to kids.)
4. Divide into teams, mixing the old and the young.
5. Start with small changes – the music has always been first and the lesson second? Intersperse music with the lesson one week. Kids have always gone out the east door, but you think it would work better if they went out the west door? Try it for a few weeks and see if it works.
These kinds of situations can build great relationships between generations in your church – or these relationships can remain stuck because of one or two stubborn people.
Pray. Define your purpose. Create a feeling of thankfulness for both old and young.