Building A Wall And Asking Senior Adults To Pay For It


wallSenior adults are probably not as averse to church change as much as they are to feeling marginalized through those changes. Their opinions are no longer needed or considered and their convictions seem to be overlooked as antiquated. I can imagine some seniors view change as building a wall to separate what was from what will be.

It appears that the price paid through their years of blood, sweat, tears and tithes is now being used to build a wall that will sideline or keep them out completely. When your horse dies…stop riding it may be a great adage to challenge congregations attempting to reach an ever-changing culture with never changing practices. But it doesn’t offer much comfort for the pain and grief of those who loved the horse.

Change is sometimes necessary when a church considers the culture and context of those present and those not present yet. But in an effort to initiate change, some congregations push to do anything different than what was done in the past.

Congregations often change their worship and discipleship styles and structures without ever evaluating their existing people and practices. That lack of planning and reflection can often cause unnecessary transitional pain as a result of the depreciation of what was.

Since change is often essential in order for churches to progress, the automatic assumption is it will always require incorporating something completely new. It is possible, however, that the only new necessary for congregational health and growth is to do what you are already doing…better.

Chip and Dan Heath wrote, “We rarely ask the question: What’s working and how can we do more of it? What we ask instead is more problem-focused: What’s broken and how do we fix it?[1] Maybe the change most of our congregations actually need is not a revolution but instead a reevaluation.

A revolution forcibly overthrows an existing system or structure in order to substitute another. It replaces what presently exists without considering what might still hold value. And in a revolution one side always loses.

A reevaluation, however, considers or examines something again. Reevaluation allows a congregation to consider change by rethinking, revisiting and reinvestigating. It systematically and selectively preserves valuable elements for re-use.

Most of us like to blow things up, so our initial response when things don’t seem to be working is to completely destroy existing practices for the prospect of future success. Maybe a reevaluation instead of a revolution would allow us to tear down those walls between our generations. And maybe church change conversations should begin with how we can prayerfully add to rather than arbitrarily take away.

“Any change can be approached as either a threat or an opportunity, either a cause for celebration or a reason to despair.” Craig Satterlee


[1] Heath, Chip and Dan Heath, Switch:  How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (New York: Broadway Books, 2010), 55.


5 Responses to “Building A Wall And Asking Senior Adults To Pay For It”

  • Kurt Kelley Says:

    Actually, I think your subject title said it all, and made the most inpactful statement. Churches are only too happy to let their long time, loyal, senior members pay their generous tithes, and do most ot the serving and volunteering. But please keep out of sight, and don’t ask the professional polished praised team (that your tithes paid for) to ever play an occasional song you might have heard before, or that was written more than 2 years ago!

  • Michael Broyles Says:

    I love how you make us think! I’m honored to say my parish is acknowledging our cross-generations and the need to create activities (in and out of worship) between them. Our children/youth love hearing the stories about the “olden days”! Perhaps it’s time to have the older members remind us of what worship felt/look/sounded back then.

  • Robin Martin Yates Says:

    This is a very true article! I agree with all.of it!! I truly hope church administrators will think7 of the total congregation and not just a few!! All should be included in the decision! Senior Adults do feel left out and put on the shelf! After years of giving, they should be considered in all endeavors!!

  • Russ Porter Says:

    Well said. Very insightful and practical suggestions. I wonder how many people could have been enlisted as allies rather than discarded as obstacles if this had been incorporated in the mix when change needed to be considered.

  • Jo Payne Says:

    Nailed it!! We have seen too many people discarded and damaged in the “revolution” process.

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