“We have never done it that way before.”
This is a common statement amongst church congregations these days. The good thing about this statement is that it forces the changing church to evaluate whether the change that is taking place has a purpose behind the change or is it change for change sake. The bad thing behind this statement is that it places limitations on how a church can operate. Being in a church that has went from traditional with no technology being used to a church that is still traditional, but with internet, videos, and powerpoint (no, we haven’t gotten to pro presenter yet. I’m working on that) was a huge leap for our people. The main question our staff had to ask ourselves is how do we get the majority of the congregation on board with these new changes without forcing them?
Our pastor always says, “It takes 14 miles to turn a battleship.” In other words, in order for change to take place it has to be slow and methodical not all at once. The attitude of some churches is that if you do not change with us then go somewhere else that may work in some areas, but for most churches that are small to medium sized there has to be a gentle nudge into a new direction.
In Acts 2 the church was of “one mind”. They were unified in all that they did. Our churches can learn from that approach. Things may get messier that way, but it is a lot better than people leaving the church mad. Unity should be what any church should strive for. They should not just push the elderly out because they do not want drums and guitars, but care enough about their input to bring them along to accepting a guitarist. One thing Christians must remember is that music does not save people. The Gospel saves people. The more that non-Christians see Christians fighting amongst one another over petty things like music and technology the more confused they become about the gospel of Jesus. So how do we introduce new things into the church like other instruments and technology? Here are 3 practical tips that may help a church introduce new things.
Develop a relationship with the older generation.
Sometimes the older generation refuses change because they have changed an enormous amount over their life. Keep in mind most of the older generation did not have tv and such when they were growing up. Now we can watch live streaming on our Ipods. Developing a relationship with them can help you gain trust with them and it may open doors up to help teach them that these things are not all that bad, but can be convenient ways to present a clearer message of the Gospel.
Make small changes.
Making small changes gets people warmed up to the idea of a bigger change. Plus, if the change does not work out you can always go back to the drawing board.
Keep things simple.
The younger generation has been blessed to have computers around their entire life. So technology comes natural to a person in their 30’s and 40’s. However, for a 70 year old it is not that simple. They can rebuild a motor in a 74 dodge, but they do not know how to turn on a computer. They grew up listening in church to the “good ole” hymns and have never been exposed to Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. It is out job to be sensitive to these people and make things as simple as possible. A couple of things we have done is offer computer classes at the church and began playing Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman music on the piano and keyboard to introduce them to these songs.
Change will not happen overnight, but anything worth doing is never going to come easy. Change is a process and when done correctly can lead to a stronger, healthier congregation. This in turn can also lead to a stronger, healthier youth group. These principle are transferable.
Lance Sudduth is the student minister at Barton Baptist in Lucedale, Mississippi. He’s married to The Most Amazing Woman in the World, Sarah Sudduth, with whom he has a young son, Caleb. He likes lifting weights, playing sports, reading, and watching movies.