LIFECYCLE & Should aging churches be euthanized? #No (what I learned by consulting them)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 12/7/17.

Recently a student commented, “Last week (national name) was advocating that we put a ‘Sun Set Clause’ in all our churches. He said less than 1% of churches in the country are older than 100 years old. There are no churches that trace their heritage as a congregation to the first century church. He says that churches have a life cycle and instead of fighting it we should work with it. He said the most fruit years of most churches ministry is in the first 30 years. He is advocating that all decisions made in the church be based on the idea that we have 30 years of ministry left. He believes that if we did this we would place more emphasis on people and less on buildings. Instead of building monuments that will last for ever we would make disciples and release them to be missionaries. I would be interested in your prospective on this?”

I responded:

Thanks for the question. My view on this comes out of interviews I have conducted over the past 25+ years with hundreds of older members of churches in my consulting practice. I discovered that as people age they need the church more, rather than less. However as they age they have less ability to volunteer as well as less ability to support the church. Therefore, Like Social Security I believe we should provide a spiritual security in our congregations. So rather than closing a congregation down you can revitalize a congregation into a new lifecycle.

I discovered that as people age they need the church more, rather than less. However as they age they have less ability to volunteer as well as less ability to support the church.

Also as older congregants age I believe they have more insecurity in their lives. They have financial insecurity as they live on a fixed income. And they have relational insecurity as their friends move away and/or die. In addition they have health insecurity. Therefore it is been my experience that they look to the church to provide needed security and a worship culture they can relate to. Without an influx of younger generations the church becomes organizationally insecure it only adds to their insecurity.

Here is where I’ve written more about this and answered more questions: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/multiplication-instead-of-planting-an-independent-new-church-what-about-planting-a-new-venue-instead-pros-cons-considered/

Finally, as I said above I came to this viewpoint after interviewing hundreds of aging members. Over and over again these dear hard-working saints worry that their church will not survive. Usually they’ve seen exit behavior occur as the result of change implemented too quickly or without consensus (see Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 [Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999], 792-822.).

Thus, older congregants fear (rightly so) being left behind and marginalized. And many of these dear saints ran the church and supported it through the years as young families.

But I want to agree with (national name) that we put too much emphasis on facilities. In fact, I wrote a chapter in the book Growth by accident, death by planning: How not to kill a growing congregation (Abingdon Press, 2004) that “Missteps with facilities” was one of the quickest ways to kill a growing congregation. You can find more info on that here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/facilities-the-7-donts-7-dos-of-building-growthbyaccidentbook/

I believe people like (national name) are not as familiar with the needs of aging congregants because they don’t consult aging churches. Most of them have been involved in church plants. In fact that’s how I started out: overseeing a network of church plants and then planting a church myself. And in hindsight I found I had a jaded view. I tended to not understand the needs of aging congregants and rather dismissed them.

And in hindsight I found I had a jaded view. I tended to not understand the needs of aging congregants and rather dismissed them.

After having consulted for so many years and conducted numerous focus groups with aging congregants I have found them to be dear, committed saints who now suffer insecurity in their lives” an insecurity the next-generation can address … if the next gen doesn’t abandon and instead respects the senior saints’ culture.

The result has been that some churches, like Trinity Wesleyan Church in Indianapolis has reached out to senior centers. They just don’t go into senior centers and put on a Sunday service. But they actually organize the seniors to lead the services. It gives aging Christians an opportunity to still be involved in worship and leadership. (As a preacher, worship leader and pastor I hope one day that opportunity will be afforded me 🙂

SENIOR WORKERS & work activities will become increasingly “age agnostic” & age stereotypes will look increasingly outdated

“Our Assumptions About Old and Young Workers Are Wrong”

by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Harvard Business Review, 11/14/16.

… To understand how people are responding to this transformation in their working lives, we developed a survey completed by more than 10,000 people from across the world aged 24 to 80.

We found far fewer differences between the age groups than we might have imagined. In fact, many of the traits and desires commonly attributed to younger people are shared by the whole workforce. Why might this be the case?

…For our recent book The 100 Year Life we calculated how long people will work. Whilst we cannot be precise, it is clear that in order to finance retirement many people currently in their fifties will work into their seventies; whilst those in their twenties could well be working into their eighties. That means that inevitably people of very different ages are increasingly working together.

This long working life, coupled with profound technological changes, dismantles the traditional three-stage life of full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement. In its place is coming – for all employees regardless of their age – a multi-stage life that blends education, exploration, and learning, as well as corporate jobs, freelance gigs, and time spent out of the workforce. Inevitably the variety of these stages and their possible sequencing will result in both greater variety within age cohorts, whilst also providing opportunities for different ages to engage in similar activities. In other words, work activities will become increasingly “age agnostic” and these age stereotypes will look increasingly outdated.

…The people in our study overturned these stereotypes:

  • It is not just the young who are investing in new skills…Certainly a higher proportion of those aged 18-30 (91%) and 31-45 (72%) felt they were investing in new skills but after the age of 45 almost 60% of all ages said they were actively investing…
  • It is not just the young who are positive and excited by their workWhat was striking was that whatever their age, those feeling positive about their work was a constant at just over 50%. Just as striking is the proportion of people of all ages who don’t feel positive about their work…
  • Older people are working harder to keep fit. We know that vitality is central to a long productive life and it is easy to imagine that it’s only the young who really care about their fitness. Yet we discovered that it is the older who are working hardest to try to keep fit. About half of those under 45 actively try to keep fit, rising continuously across the ages with a peak of 71% for those aged over 70.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/11/our-assumptions-about-old-and-young-workers-are-wrong

GENERATIONS & The emerging agreement on age ranges w/ a description of each

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/14/15.

The New York Times ran an article about Millennials after which other media pointed out that the age-range they used wasn’t actually the range for Millennials. If the venerable NYTimes can’t get it right, then agreeing on what to call each generational culture will be challenging.  Here are some thoughts followed by the emerging agreement.

Generational cultures:(1)

This is how simplified it in Preparing the Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), p 53.

  • Builder (1) or the Silent (2) or Greatest (3) Generation, b. 1945 and before
  • Boomer Generation, b. 1946-1964
  • Leading-edge Generation X, b. 1965-1974
  • Post-modern Generation X, b. 1975-1983
  • Generation Y, b. 1984-2002

See these postings for more: CULTURES & A List of Cultures  and CULTURES & A Cumulative List of Cultures from My Books

Though there is disagreement, there is an emerging consensus.

Philip Bump in his article for The Atlantic, titled “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts” (3/25/14) conducted excellent research and generated the following chart:

(chart retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/)

This is how Philip Bump explained each:

We identified six different generations, and labeled their eras.

Greatest Generation. These are the people that fought and died in World War II for our freedom, which we appreciate. But it’s a little over-the-top as far as names go, isn’t it? Tom Brokaw made the name up and of course everyone loved it. What, you’re going to argue with your grandfather that he isn’t in the greatest generation? The generation ended when the war ended.

Baby Boomers. This is the agreed-upon generation that falls within DiPrete’s punctuated timeframe. It began when the Greatest Generation got home and started having sex with everyone; it ended when having sex with everyone was made easier with The Pill.

Generation X. George Masnick, of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies puts this generation in the timeframe of 1965 to 1984, in part because it’s a neat 20-year period. He also calls it the “baby bust,” mocking “[p]undits on Madison Avenue and in the media” that call it Generation X. Ha ha, tough luck.

Generation Y. Masnick addresses this group, too, putting it “anywhere from the mid-1970s when the oldest were born to the mid-2000s when the youngest were.” But mostly Generation Y is a made-up generation when it became obvious that young kids didn’t really fit with the cool Generation X aesthetic but not enough of them had been born to make a new generation designation. NOTE: Generation Y is a fake, made-up thing. Do not worry about it.

Millennials. In October 2004, researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss called Millennials “the next great generation,” which is funny. They define the group as “as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter.” In 2012, they affixed the end point as 2004.

TBD. But that means that kids born in the last 10 years lack a designation. They are not Millennials. Earlier this month, Pew Research asked people what the group should be called and offered some terrible ideas. In other words, this is the new Generation Y. We’ll figure out what they’re called in the future.

Time Magazine Gets In the Discusion

(http://time.com/247/millennials-the-me-me-me-generation/)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  In this discussion a student passed along this scan from Time Magazine (Joel Stein, 5/20/13) from a few years ago that completely leaves out Generation Y, assimilating them into the Millennial Generation.  Though not as scholarly of a work, it is insightful.

Generations TIME

Endnotes:

1. Gary McIntosh, One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in Your Church [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002] and Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000).

2. This generation has been labeled various ways, for instance as the “silent generation” by William Strauss and Neil Howe in Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1954-2069 (New York: Quill, 1992).

3. They are labeled the “greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw in The Greatest Generation (New York: Random House, 2004).

GENERATIONS & An Online Test To Help You Discover With Which Generation You Identify

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “I am one of those people who feel a sense of call to minister to Gen. X and Millennials (I even wrote a book on Millennial Leadership called ORGANIX.)

In fact I took this online test to see which generation I identified.  And, I identified almost equally with Generation X and the Millennials.

Check out the survey here:  http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2174636/Which-Gen-Am-I-When-I-Work-copy

CHANGE & Millennials Believe Secret to Success is the Ability to Change #PewResearch

America divided on the secret to its success

BY CAMILA REY AND SOFI SINOZICH, Pew Research, 7/4/15

Why Has U.S. Been Successful? Younger Adults Point to Its Ability to Change.Compared with those in many other countries, Americans stand out for their patriotism. But public opinion surveys show that Americans disagree over what’s behind their country’s success.

Pew Research Center’s political values survey has consistently found that overwhelming majorities agree with the statement “I am very patriotic.” In 2012, 89% of Americans agreed with this statement; the share agreeing has never fallen below 85% in the survey’s 25-year history.

But when asked whether the United States owed its success more to its “ability to change” or its “reliance on long-standing principles,” 51% of Americans attributed the country’s success to the former, while 44% pointed to the latter.

The question was one of many measures about the U.S., its future and its global standing we examined for our 2014 Political Typology.

Most Millennials and Generation Xers associated the country’s success with its ability to change: About six-in-ten Millennials (61%), who were ages 18-33 in 2014, and 54% of Gen Xers (ages 34-49 that year) said this was more what made the U.S. successful.

Wide Idealogical Gap Over Factors for U.S. SuccessBaby Boomers (ages 50-68) were more divided – 46% linked America’s success to its ability to change, while nearly the same share (48%) said it is due to its reliance on principles. The Silent generation (ages 69-86) was the only one in which a majority (54%) perceived America’s reliance on principles to be the reason for its success, with 39% attributing it to the ability to change.

There were substantial partisan and ideological differences in opinions about why the U.S. has been successful. By a 77% to 20% margin, liberal Democrats attributed the nation’s success to its ability to change. By almost the same margin (73% to 22%), conservative Republicans linked the success of the United States to its adherence to well-established principles.

There also were racial and ethnic differences in attitudes toward America’s success. Whites were divided, with 47% attributing America’s success to its ability to change and a nearly equal share attributing it to a reliance on principles. Minorities were more likely to credit the success to the ability to change, with 64% of blacks and 58% of Hispanics supporting this view.

Read more at …http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/03/america-divided-on-whats-the-secret-to-its-success/

Speaking Hashtags: #BreakForth16

AGING & How to Reinvent Yourself After 50 #WesleySem @WesleySeminary #HBR

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Dorie Clark’s best-seller book Reinventing You is filled with stories of people who after the age of 50 – had the most successful periods in their lives. I wonder how many people out there over the age of 50 don’t think they can reinvent themselves, while we at Wesley Seminary are just waiting to help them.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2013/12/how-to-reinvent-yourself-after-50/

GENERATIONS & The Shifting Meaning of Happiness #SocialPsychologicalJournal

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “What makes different generations happy?  This research will help you understand how to minister to different generations in both worship and ministry activities. And you probably guessed it, researchers found that young people crave excitement to make them happy, while as we mature we increasingly prefer peacefulness to make us happy (perhaps a contributor to worship wars?)”

By Cassie Mogilner, University of Pennsylvania, Sepandar D. Kamvar, Stanford University and Jennifer Aaker, University of Pennsylvania, Social Psychological and Personality Science December 20, 2010

Abstract

An examination of emotions reported on 12 million personal blogs along with a series of surveys and laboratory experiments shows that the meaning of happiness is not fixed; instead, it systematically shifts over the course of one’s lifetime. Whereas younger people are more likely to associate happiness with excitement, as they get older, they become more likely to associate happiness with peacefulness. This change appears to be driven by a redirection of attention from the future to the present as people age. The dynamic of what happiness means has broad implications, from purchasing behavior to ways to increase one’s happiness…

Read more here … http://m.spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/12/15/1948550610393987

GENERATIONS & Chart on What Makes Your Generation Unique: Boomers, X, Millennials #PewResearch

Read more at … http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-generations-differ-boomers-x-millenials/