“You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”
“You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”. The oldest recorded use of that phrase was speaking of difficulty of training older dogs. However when applied to older humans it is used as a metaphor for the stubbornness of human nature, especally older humans who are set in their ways.
The concept of “you can not teach and old dog new tricks” implies that a person who is old or is used to doing things in a certain way cannot learn or does not want to learn a new way.
The “80-20” rule is an observation that contains a general truth which asserts that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes for any given event. Recent statistics are showing that a large percentage approaching 80% of American churches are struggling, loosing influence and membership.
You do not have to look any farther than many local churches to see the following negative effect of the combination of these two, “you can not teach and old dog new tricks” and the “80-20” rule in action. There are a number of factors for the “aging in both members and pastors” of many, if not most of your small community churches,
Also statistics show that in 2017, 50% of pastors in the US were over 55 years of age and 17% were over the age of 65. This number of older pastors had more than double in the 25 years from 1992 – 2017.
See article: Aging-American-Pastors
What comes first the “chicken or egg” seems to be similar what comes first and congregation with high % of older members or the church with an older pastor?
Regardless, the aging of the pastors and members seem to affect (speed up of) the rate of decline in membership.
It is my belief and statistics seem to bear it out that churches with older pastors have a higher percentage of older members and are growing at a much smaller rate and in many cases they are losing members instead of gaining.
Read Article: How-Does-Clergy-Age-Impact-Churches
Also the older pastors and older church members resist change and are slow to adapt to technology. This is why a large percentage of the smaller churches prior to the pandemic were not streaming their services, many did not have a website and very few even have a good email and phone list of members and visitors.
However, in general your large, high growth churches have younger pastors and staff. They also had adapted the critical technology of the internet with very fancy websites, were streaming their services, and had implemented small groups using Zoom type technology, plus online giving. They were ready for the pandemic and were/are still reaching new people.
Read Article: Congregations-and-Change-Findings
Some generalizations are 1) the younger pastors appear to be driving the largest share of church growth in the US. Churches with young pastors under 40 grew ten times as fast as churches with pastors over 65.
Pastors who are under 50 account for more than one-third of the growth. 2) The older pastors head congregations with predominantly older congregants. There is a corresponding age of Church members with age of pastor 40 & under have on average 27% members over 65 while Pastors over 65 have 37% member over 65
Another critical statistic that needs to be mentioned is the need for “a rate of change” in how we do church. This statistic shows that high change congregations have primary leaders/pastors who were younger (high change average age = 53.3 versus no/slow change average age = 57.1).
COVID-19 has greatly accelerated the immediate need for change. Therefore unless the small local churches adapt quickly (learn new tricks) many will fold. Due to th epandemic, it is predicted that “1 in 5” will close in the 12-24 months, most of these will be churches with less than 75 in attendance.
Read Article: Fast Facts about Church Statistics
If you are an older pastor, you can not turn back the age clock, but you can address your church’s strategy and “learn new tricks” to exit the pandemic with a youthful aggressive strategy used by Paul by lifing up Jesus.
1 Cor 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1 Cor 15: 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Jesus promises if we lift Him up, He will do the rest!
Read Post: Church Rebirth
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