There are multiple generations in church we are called to serve. And if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s resistance to new systems and technology by the older folk.
In today’s show, we’ve brought in Jeanette Yates to share her experience with bridging the gap between generations and how to introduce new technology clearly and effectively.
About Our Guest: Jeanette Yates
Jeanette Yates is a communications director and digital storyteller. She’s a former stay-at-home mom and pilates director turned communications director. Using her gifts of storytelling she enjoys sharing what God is doing in and through her church and community and engaging with people online.
In her spare time, Jeanette enjoys hiking with her husband and hanging with her kids. She’s an avid reader and a podcast fanatic.
We would all say, “of course we want to communicate with everyone in our church.”
But when we come to practicality, we often forget about the people who aren’t as excited about the latest thing.
Whenever there is a big discussion in the church Facebook groups about burning the bulletin, Jeanette remembers that her congregation still uses the bulletin as the main way to stay connected with what’s going on.
So immediately ditching the bulletin doesn’t work for Jeanette’s church (and it may not be for yours…keep reading).
We tend to want to be efficient and up-to-date and cool. But the fact is, the older folk in your church aren’t on social media and may even still have the standard preloaded apps on their smartphone.
So how do you bridge the gap with moving forward to improve your ministry with technology without leaving the older folk in the dust?
Let’s get to it.
(By the way, there are a lot of PC terms for the older generations in church, but we’re just going to call them the “older folk” in this post. There’s no disrespect, but we gotta call them something, so we’re going with that.)
Leaving Seniors In The Dust
One of the biggest fears of the older generations in church is being left behind. When you go to the doctor you’re asked to sign into the patient portal, you have to reserve a restaurant table through an app, and now the church is asking them to sign up through a website.
The world is changing, and it’s a concern when the church moves on too.
The church is your family…literally you probably call yourself a “church family.” So you have to see the world as the older folk.
When the church starts leaving their preferences behind and move on without discussion, the older folk will feel left behind and abandoned.
To beat these horse some more…the last light left in the world that still cares about them is dimming.
So what’s the proper way to handle a switch in communications or introducing a new technology?
The One Word To Bridge The Gap
First, you need to introduce the new tech as something the older folk would use.
Let’s be honest, as soon as you introduce the new “thing-a-ma-bob,” they’re checking out. They know it’s not for them, it’s for the youngin’s, so they may not even give it a chance.
Instead, introduce the new tech as something any of the generations in church can use. There’s a difference in how you present it.
For example, when Jeanette’s older church family would ask to put something in the bulletin that was just for them, Jeanette would execute the request a little differently. Instead of just throwing a blurb in the bulletin, Jeanette worked with them to learn more about the event, write good copy, and create personalized invite cards and graphics for the church event using Canva.
And they loved it!
They were really impressed how Jeanette worked with them to promote the event. And that’s how Jeanette introduced them to Canva and all the new things they can do with it.
Even after the church introduced digital sign-ups, they still kept paper sign-ups. But over time, even the older folks were asking her if they could use online sign-ups for their events.
So what this boiled down to is one word, Empathy.
Empathy allowed Jeanette to see the church as the older folk do, and recognize that they don’t need or want something new…unless it actually helps them too.
Using empathy, Jeanette was able to work alongside the older generations in church to use new tech to accomplish their goals. And the older folk discovered that the new tech served a purpose.
So the first step is to really understand where your objections are coming from. You’ll be surprised to find that many of them are coming from a good place.
But how you do you know when to implement the new stuff and cut out the old?
Drawing The Line In The Sand
When you implement new technology, you can’t just turn the old stuff off one random Sunday.
You need a plan to roll out the new tech.
For example, when Jeanette’s church started website signups, they included the call-to-action to sign up on the website in the bulletin…but they also said you can call the church office (where they would sign you up on the website over the phone).
We can get so caught up in efficiency and the latest stuff, but we need to remember that service takes a priority. And that may mean including a longer implementation process.
So include multiple phases in your projects. Introduce the tech, but save the old system for a few weeks or months. This will give your older folk time to adjust, ask questions, and see the benefits. As a bonus, you’ll also have a fallback if something goes offline. Then after that time, you can turn off the old way of doing things.
Restoring The Connection Between Generations
Titus 2 talks a lot about how older generations should lead and be examples to the younger generations…so we know there should be a connection and ongoing interaction between generations.
Yet in many churches today, we have separate ministries and services that remove these cross-generation interactions. And in the blink of an eye, we remove all potential to connect these generations.
Here’s a crazy idea, pair your middle-schoolers with your “grandmas” in the church. Let the young ones show the older folks how to use technology.
You’ll discover that the older folk will take every advantage of every technology when you take the time to introduce it properly.
Jeanette even has a Senior Adult Sunday School class that now uploads their classes to YouTube. Every week kids come to video her class and help her upload it to YouTube…imagine if your generations were connecting like this!
So What Can You Do?
First and foremost, start with meeting with your older generation in church. Find out what their needs are and if they’re having trouble connecting. Find out things like if they use the website or follow the church on social media.
By just spending time with them, you’ll discover what’s important to them, and instead of adding “the burden of technology,” you’ll get to share technology as a way for them to accomplish their own ministry goals and mission.
And a quick-win is to spotlight them on social media. Even if they’re not on Instagram, highlight their volunteer efforts as a thank you and to inspire others. What’s great is you’ll see that others will comment their appreciation and encourage the volunteer.
As church communicators, it’s our job to reach ALL people. From the kids of GenZ to our wiser Boomers and Silent Generation.
When you try to add new tech without the older folk understanding the “why” behind it, you’re setting yourself up for frustration.
So even though you’re ready to move forward with the latest and greatest tech, spend time learning the needs of your older generation and how you can improve their ministry.
Then take time rolling out the changes. This may mean you’re running 2 systems at once while you phase out the old stuff, but it’s worth it to make sure the transition for everyone is smooth and complete.
And don’t be afraid to put Gen Z alongside Boomers. In fact, the Bible calls the generations to connect, and technology can be a great way to rekindle that connection.
Do you have a way for the young kids and older folk to connect through technology? Let us know in the comments below!