Thriving in an Inter-Generational Setting

Today's topic comes from a reader. At issue—how can a church with both a young, "hip" congregation peacefully co-exist with an older, more traditional one; at least from a technology standpoint. In this case, the "older" group is 35+, which I suppose makes me a senior citizen. But I digress. The younger group wants to upgrade and find new ways to use technology and the older one is resistant to change. Since they share the same equipment and space, they need to get along. But how?

There is a natural tendency in situations like these to create an "us" and "them" mentality. It may even seem advantageous to completely separate equipment and procedures. This however, is not a good use of the church's resources, nor does it cultivate a spirit of mutual submission and learning that is really healthy when done well.

I walked into a similar situation when I joined the staff of Upper Room in 2007. Upper Room was the upstart youngster group in the midst of a very traditional, older congregation. Prior to my arrival, there had been a fair amount of trouble getting both groups to work together, which was leading to a lot of friction. A big part of my charge was to bring both communities together, while fostering the differences in worship styles that made both so effective. With that in mind, here is what I learned.

The first step in developing an effective inter-generational strategy involves a lot of communication. Both groups need to spend some time talking and figuring out what their needs are. Then they need to come together and figure out how to develop systems that accommodate both sets of needs. To guide this process, I would say the following to each group.

To the younger group: Just because you like change, it's not always the right thing. Just because there is a new way of doing something, or new equipment to do it with doesn't mean that's the way to go. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Often, there is wisdom in doing something in a tried and true fashion. Staying on the bleeding edge is rarely cost-effective. You'd be surprised at how effective you can be with older equipment when you get creative.

To the older group: Just because you've been doing something a certain way for years doesn't mean it's the best way. In fact, often the opposite is true. One of the great things about technology is that it's always changing. Often there is a better, easier and more cost-effective way of doing something that's only been developed a few years ago.

Now, I know what I just said appears contradictory. That's intentional. You see, it's easy to simply look at things from our perspective. A wiser approach is to consider more than one angle. The younger crowd may find that when it gets down to it, they really want new stuff because it's new stuff, not because there's anything wrong with the old stuff. And the older crowd may find that there is better equipment out there that makes doing what they've always done easier.

Monday, I'll dig a little deeper and lay out some concrete examples of what this looks like.