What's in this session?

  • The conversation with Michael & Oriana (0:34)
  • Step #1: Make sure everyone understands the goal (2:39)
  • Step #2: Tie every decision to the goal (5:33)
  • Step #3: Make decisions based on how they a

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less you’ll get a daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we try and navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. Joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer. Today we’re talking about how to bridge generational divides at your church.

Brady Shearer: One of our favorite things that happens here at the Pro Church Tools office, Alex, is when people are in town visiting. We live in Niagara Falls, little bit of a tourist destination. People are visiting and they come by the office.

Alex Mills: Yeah, we love it.

Brady Shearer: We love meeting the people of Pro Church Nation, and recently we had a couple stop by from Miami, Michael and Ariana, and we got to talking. And one of the things that we were discussing when it came to their church was that there’s this generational divide, and I think this is something that so many of our churches are dealing with right now. You’ve got the young people and you’ve got the older people, and there’s this tension. So when I asked Michael about it, he was talking about he’s new to this church, probably about a year being there.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: And he sees some things that he thinks that the church can improve upon. So he suggesting certain changes, certain adjustments, and every time he presents it to the leadership, they not only are they resistant to the changes, but they almost perceive it as an assault on their way of doing church or criticisms to their leadership. So he’s talking to me and he’s saying, “Brady, I listen to Pro Church Daily every day, and I get all these great ideas. I can’t even get these ideas implemented because I can’t get anyone to agree upon them.” So I’m listening to Michael and I’m thinking, “Wow. Maybe we need to discuss more this leadership navigation, intergenerational divide because doesn’t matter how great the Instagram tip that we provide to you is if you can’t actually use it.”

Alex Mills: I was speaking to a pastor on the phone this morning and he was talking about the very same thing about how the have almost these two generations in their church. One of them is a bunch of young people, a bunch of young kids, and then it kind of jumps up to this older category. For him, the perceived generational gap is so big that he’s not even trying to build a bridge. He was talking to me about creating two different strategies to almost like … Not trying to unify these generations, but treat them as separate entities and minister to them both in different ways. I think there’s a better way. I think that we can be united in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. I think the why is so important, and that’s what we’re about to jump in here to today.

Brady Shearer: We’ve got a three step process for dealing with this problem. It’s not an overnight solution. It’s not a quick fix. But it is what I found to be the best way to confront this problem in a real way rather than avoiding it or trying to just do something different and not have to deal with it to begin with.

So step number one, and rely this is the most important step, and this is what I told Michael and Ariana, which was make sure everyone understands the goal. We have this inherit belief that if we’re attending a church, we all are understanding of the mission of said church, and we’re all on board with it. In my experience, that is often not the case. What is great about this first step, for you the young person that’s trying to bridge this generational divide, or are you the older person that’s doing the same thing, is that when you get everyone to the table, and this is what I suggested to Michael. I said get everyone in the leadership in a room together, and say, “Okay. We just want to talk this through.” What you need to start with is say, “Okay. Why does this church exist? What are we trying to accomplish on a daily, on a weekly basis?” Because every one in that room should be coming from the same place. Spoiler alert, not everyone is because while we would never admit it to ourselves, a lot of us, older and younger, but I would say especially older because the older you are, the more familiar and comfortable you become.

So this is not trying to make millennials or younger people sound noble. In fact, it’s the opposite. What I would say to young people is that right now we’re in the stage of our lives where we’re exploring new things and everything is brand new. You’re Michael, you come into a brand new church, you’re there a year, “Let’s redo everything.” We all have that drive and motivation. But we need to be careful with that because when you’ve been doing church for twice as long as we’ve been living, you understand that this is the way things are done. When changes are suggested, you are suggesting that the way of life that we have become accustomed to become completely disrupted. That is not a small suggestion.

With that being said, not every one in your church wants to further the mission of helping people to love God, love others, and make disciples. A lot of people want to keep doing church the way it is because it’s a fun country club, a fun social club that they really enjoy. So what’s important about this first step is to get everyone in the room to agree why does our church exist, and then get everyone to agree on the mission of helping people to love God, love others, and make disciples, however you want to phrase it. And that way you expose the wrong motives of people that are unwilling to change things, not because they don’t think it’ll help accomplish the mission but because they think it’s going to disrupt their own comfort. So you get everyone on the same page, and the other amazing thing about this first step is that once everyone’s on the same page, once everyone is headed in the same destination, we’re all trying to get to destination B from destination A. When you suggest a proposed change, you’re going to actually shield yourself from people criticizing you and feeling assaulted and upset because you can just say, “Look, this isn’t about me criticizing you. I just think this is the best way to accomplish the mission that we all agreed on.”

So that’s the first step, get everyone on the same page. Think of it like you’re getting in a car, everyone needs to agree we’re going on the same road trip to the same destination.

Then step two is to tie every proposed decision or proposed change to accomplishing the goal because here’s what older people generally hear when you come in and suggest a change. “Hey, the way that you do things sucks and social media is better because I’m young. I know that this whole communication shift, it’s pretty big. It’s disrupted most areas of your life. The one area it hasn’t disrupted yet is your church family, and I’m here to ruin it.” That’s what they hear, and they’re like, “No, young man/young woman, you are not in charge. I am. Sit down, be humble.” So what you need to do is propose your change and have it directly tied to accomplishing the mission. So if you are suggesting that you increase time on social media, increase budget, increase creative resources on social media, you need to say, “The reason I want to do this is because the attention is there, and the first step to helping people love God, love people, and make disciples is getting their attention. So we need to do it the most affordably and the easiest way that we can, and that’s why I think we should do this.” Not, “We should be more on social because I love social, which is what they’re hearing.”

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Then the final step is to make decisions and changes based on the likelihood of said changes effecting the goal, and this is where if your church is unwilling to get to this point, it might be a good idea for you to consider going elsewhere and the only reason I say that is because if you’ve done all the steps properly at this point and you’ve said, “Look, we all have the same goal. We want to help people love God, love others, make disciples. Here’s how I think we should do it.” If still at that point they’re saying, “No, we’re not going to do it,” at that point, your church leadership is prioritizing not the mission of the church. They’re prioritizing other things. Their call. They’re in leadership, but that might not be where you want to be at that point.

Alex Mills: Yeah. I think you’re so right and I think that it’s not … I don’t think we’ve gone too far to quantify this down into a three step process because I think this works so well and what it does well is to remove, like you said, it removes the opportunity for offense to be taken. Because if you come to the table with an idea and other people look at it and say, “Well, that actually doesn’t help contribute to getting us towards this goal,” or what have you, then there’s no room for me to take personal offense because I know that you’re not offending me. We’re all in the same car trying to go to the same destination, and you’re looking at your Google Maps and it’s saying, “Don’t take a right here.” Well, then, okay. That’s fine. My Waze app says take a right here, but all of your Google Maps says keep going straight. So we’re going to go straight because that’s the best for the common good, and I think getting everyone on the same page is imperative.

I was thinking about this when you were saying the first step, you said make sure everyone understands the goal. I’ve been a part of church context where not only does everyone not understand the goal, but there wasn’t a goal at all. Sometimes I think that could be the first step.

Brady Shearer: Causes chaos.

Alex Mills: Yeah, especially if you’re entering a new church culture and you just got hired on. Maybe you got hired on to come in and try to fix things, revive things. You could get in there and realize there’s no goal here at all. There’s no common vision here at all. So sometimes it has to start even there. Like what are we trying to do here, and how are we trying to do it? Then move on to make sure that everyone understands that goal, everyone on leadership, everyone in the congregation. But you can’t move past that step. You can’t go into this without a goal or without everyone being on the same page with understanding that goal because if you do, it will just all fall apart.

Brady Shearer: Three step process. Step one, make sure everyone understands the goal. Step two, tie every proposed decision or change to the goal itself that you’ve all agreed upon. And step three, make decisions and changes based on the likelihood of said changes effecting and accomplishing the goal.

Speaking of changes and new strategies, one strategy that I’ve been teaching for the last couple of years is called the central hub strategy, and we just published a new case study with a church called Forefront Church that implemented this new strategy and saw in one year, 100% plus increase in small group engagement, outreach sign ups, digital connections, all because of this one simple strategy. Really low hanging fruit. Full case study on how a church did it and how you can do it too. It’s a free resource linked in the show notes.

For this episode of Pro Church Daily, that’ll do it for this episode. We’ll see you next time.



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