Just as a healthy family is made up of multiple generations, a healthy church is made up of multiple generations.
Each generation has its own unique expressions of worship. And this can sometimes lead to division as multiple generations bring their preferences to the table.
In the last few years, I have watched several churches transition from an older generational emphasis to a younger one. Through watching and observing these churches, I have found the churches that successfully make these transitions have something in common.
And that is this. They are able to get the older generations to focus on reaching the next generation.
The older generations buy into the fact that they must be willing to change, if they want to see their children and grandchildren engaged in the church.
I am reminded of a true story that shows how the heart of God for people must be the deciding factor in this.
The church was stagnate. They were not reaching young families and were headed for extinction. The pastor saw this and knew he had to make some changes if he was going to reach the next generation.
One of the first things he did, was to start introducing some new songs for worship. With these new songs, the decible levels began to rise. How would the older generation respond?
At one service, the pastor was sitting beside the lead elder. The man was older - in his 70's. As he listened to this new music blaring out of the sound system, he turned to the pastor and said....
"This music is not what I am used to and I probably wouldn't use these songs if I was the worship pastor, but...I'm looking beside me and my kids and grand-kids are singing and engaging with the songs. That's what matters most, so I will lay aside my preferences so we can reach the next generation."
Out of that, I learned a big key to helping senior adults embrace change.
If you can effectively articulate to senior adults that they can reach their kids and grand-kids by embracing change, they will lay aside their preferences.Help them see that they can resist change and new styles of worship and try to keep things just like there were when they were growing up. And they may lose their kids and grand-kids because of it.
Or they can focus on helping their children and grandchildren be engaged and actively serving Jesus by embracing their style of worship, fellowship, teaching, communicating, etc.
Show senior adults that they have the opportunity to leave a legacy, if they will embrace change.
Across our country, are examples of churches that weren't willing to embrace the changes necessary to reach young adults. And because of it, their nurseries are empty. There are very few, if any children attending. As the older people pass away, eventually they will have a for sale sign sitting in front of the church.
So, if and when you are trying to make changes in worship, programming, emphasis, etc., first talk with the older adults and help them buy into the vision of reaching their children and grandchildren.