D.A. Carson has some helpful ideas on how to manage generational conflict in ministry. He considers two groups: the older generation (40 and above) and the younger generation (under 40) and asks, “How, ideally, how should both sides act so as to honor Christ and advance the gospel?” The following are excerpts from his four answers:
- Listen to criticism in a non-defensive way. This needs to be done on both sides of the divide. It is easy to label criticism as hostile or non-empathetic and write it off. Nevertheless the path of wisdom is to try to discern what validity the criticism may have and learn from it.
- Be prepared to ask the question, “What are we doing in our church, especially in our public meetings, that is not mandated by Scripture and that may, however unwittingly, be functioning as a barrier to getting the gospel out?” That question is of course merely another way of probing the extent to which tradition has trumped Scripture. There is no value in changing a tradition merely for the sake of changing a tradition. The two tests buried in my question must be rigorously observed: (a) Is the tradition itself mandated by Scripture, or, in all fairness, is its connection with Scripture highly dubious? (b) Is the tradition helpful only to the traditionalists, while getting in the way of outreach?
- Always focus most attention on the most important things, what Paul calls the matters of first importance—and that means the gospel, with all its rich intertwinings, its focus on Christ and his death and resurrection, its setting people right with God and its power to transform.
- Work hard at developing and fostering good relations with those from the other generation. This means meeting with them, even if, initially at least, you don’t like them. It means listening patiently, explaining a different point of view with gentleness.
For those of us who have the privilege of pastoring or attending an intergenerational church, this essay is full of biblical wisdom. Bridging the generational divides in our churches is hard work, but a necessary labor in the cause of Christ.
To read the whole thing, go here.