Last Friday, I started digging into the challenges that come with trying to have inter-generational communities sharing the same space and equipment. The first step is to look at technology needs through the lens of the other group as well as your own. Today, I’ll illustrate with some concrete examples of what that looks like.

Here’s a concrete example. When I stared at Upper Room, the younger group used the theatrical stage lights and the older group didn’t (at least not very often). We had this horrible Behringer DJ-style lighting board and the only reason it was in the booth was because when the older church needed the lighting, they could figure out that board. In truth, it didn’t meet the needs of either community well. One day, I was rooting around in a storage closet and found an Expression 3 lighting board. I asked why we weren’t using that. The answer was the older community didn’t know how to use it so we couldn’t put it in.

Figuring this was a simple matter of training, I installed it. I showed people from the older community how to use it, and created a standard show file for them that they could easily load and use. And our lighting techs took to it like fish to water. It was a huge advance. About a month after the switch, someone from the older community pulled me aside and said, “Thank you for putting that board in. It’s sooo much easier to use. I don’t know why we didn’t do this earlier.”

And here’s another. When I stared, the monitoring system was a mess. There were some IEM transmitters in the booth, some backstage. Some were connected via tie-lines that were also used to drive a butt kicker for the older service (go figure, right?). Things had to be re-patched nearly every week, this despite the fact we had an M7 at FOH. Part of the problem was at Upper Room (the younger group) we used a smaller number of stereo IEM mixes. The older group needed more mono mixes. It was an ongoing battle to figure out what was where. For example, pack 4 might have been controlled by send 1. Through tie-line 2. Ugh…

So I spent some time with the worship leader of the older community. I learned what their needs were and how they used the system, and how they would like to be able to use it. I compared that to our needs. I took those two need “grids” and overlaid them on top of each other. What emerged was a way to set the entire system up so that simply loading a different show file in the M7 was all it took to fully utilize all the equipment in the most efficient manner for both. I spent a few dollars to make it happen (mainly in an output interface so we didn’t have to re-patch), but it was well worth it.

We tore out all the equipment at FOH, cleaned it all up and put it together in a very logical, easy to use manner. Everything was labeled and we built show files for both communities that digitally patched everything that was needed. Everyone was happy, and the number of complaints about “those other people messing up the system” dropped of precipitously.

I tried to approach every decision in that role with an eye to how it would affect both groups. At first there was suspicion that because my primary responsibilities lie with the younger group that I would always take the path that benefitted them. After a few months however, that prejudice was gone. I reasoned that if I upgraded technology for the younger group, it should be done in a way that benefitted the older group as well. That dissolved the “us” and “them” mentality pretty quickly. Before long, there was a lot of crossover with the technology and the experience for both communities improved.

The biggest danger in working with inter-generational communities is thinking the other group doesn’t want the same thing a yours does. In other words, “Those old people aren’t really interested in relevant worship,” or “Those young people just want to spend money and play loud music.” In reality, the older people are just as interested in relevant worship–relevant to the right age group. And the younger people just want to find ways to reach their generation more effectively and they’re looking for ways to do it better.

The goal of both communities is the same; they just go about it in different ways. Never lose sight of that. The first step is communication, combined with an attitude of a servant. If the younger group would say to the older, “We know you don’t rock like we do, but how can we help put together a system that will serve your needs as well as it does ours?” And the older one should say, “We’re not up on the latest technology, but we’re willing to learn if it means you’re more effective in reaching your generation for Christ.”

See how different that looks than the previous paragraph? Working in an environment like this is challenging; however, it’s also extremely rewarding. When both communities win and become more effective, it’s a feeling that far surpasses the one of simply getting your way.