8 Reasons Older People Struggle with Change

I hear it all the time – something like, “The older people in our church just don’t like change. They’re aggravating.”  As a pastor at heart and an older person (age 54), I understand both the frustration of the pastor and the reticence of the older person. I hope the following thoughts will help us minister better to older folks facing change:

  1. They’re people, and most people eventually don’t like change. Change might seem the norm to young people today, but even young people eventually grow older – and then long for days gone by. It happens, even when you’re sure it won’t. Trust me.
  2. Sometimes they legitimately long for something to stay the same. The older I get, the more I understand this reality. Careers end. Friends die. Children move away. Spouses pass away. Memories fade. When everything else is changing, the one place an older person can cry for normalcy is the church. What seems like obstinacy might simply be a cry for pastoral understanding.
  3. They’ve seen pastors and programs come and go. When pastors change every 3-4 years, and each pastor brings a new program that doesn’t last, I understand why long-termers might question change. Their knowledge of a church’s history naturally makes them skeptical of the latest change.
  4. They’ve seen change not work out. We’ve all seen that happen, of course – but older folks have often seen it happen many times. In fact, sometimes they’ve been there multiple times to clean up the mess when a poorly handled change leads to disruption and division.
  5. No one has helped them understand the “why” behind changes. You may disagree with me, but I’m convinced that many older folks are willing to accept change as long as they understand the reasons behind the change. They’ve been around long enough to know that we should be able to explain and defend our reasoning in a logical and loving way. If we can’t – or won’t – do that, why should they accept the change? 
  6. They’ve seen change that they believe really has led to compromise. Growing up, they never dreamed that drums would be in the church, women would wear pants to church, or the Bible would be anything different than the King James Version. We may not agree with what they believe is “right,” but sometimes their fear of change comes from a genuine, heartfelt desire to avoid seeming compromise.
  7. They’ve watched some pastors lead poorly through change. They’ve been there when pastors “ran over” faithful church members to implement change. They’ve seen others ignore the loving advice of church leaders. When you’ve seen enough leaders harm the church through poor leadership, any change produces anxiety.
  8. Change often means loss. To move in one direction usually means moving away from another direction. Adopting a new program requires giving up an old one. For older folks who are sometimes already facing loss, loss in church – their place of security – is even more difficult.

When I think about these honest reasons, I can minister better to folks struggling with change. What other honest reasons would you add to this list? 



  • Sometimes the old way is better. 😉

  • Great article! The right change has to come in our churches. If not, Christianity will wither. At the same time, there’s also a right way to lead that change. It reminded me of 1 Tim 5 1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…older women as mothers…”

    We need solid works on leading change in small churches. Maybe you should right a book on that!

  • Reminded, seeking to understand is the first step to being understood.

  • Molly markley says:

    Hey pastor, one thing I have notice in our ministry is that when we “young” people change things it often leads to leaving the older people out. Our new programs allow us to forget to ask the older folks for advice and most importantly a place for them to serve. The Lord has given us some unique ideas to help bridge this gap and yes we still use hymnals and have a felt board ministry. We fight it and love it at the same time. My kids have grown to love some of it as well as there is a lot to be said for the wisdom our elderly have for our church and what they can teach us and our children through years of experience!!!

  • Richard says:

    Solid read and seasoned with enough of balance. I believe the one area that helps seasoned members embrace change is 5 star ministries for ther age. Everyone wants a voice and value. We as a community of faith must strengthen the assurance of our place in God’s kingdom and not reinforce the prestige of positions. It’s the weariness of wondering do I matter, will I still matter if I embrace this change which causes seasoned members to struggle. We have to have ministries that give life and voice at any age.

  • Andi Andrzejewski says:

    In my experience often the older folks are often asked to pay for these changes both monetarily and by loss of things that matter to them–and then they are told that there is no place for them any longer, that the church is “all about the kids”,so why should they embrace being pushed aside and being told to pay for it?

  • Anna. says:

    Unfortunately, we live in a time when the elderly are not respected. At all. And unfortunately, that disrespect is seen in the church as well. If we don’t care about the least among us, then what good are we? We are good for nothing. Like salt that has lost his savor. Its like our end goal is to get as many people into the church doors as possible, and it doesn’t matter how we achieve that goal. Just as long as it happens. That, my friends, is a big mistake. If we can’t take care of what’s ours, then we are not being faithful. And we are not honoring God.

  • Doug Jones says:

    Good article. I’ve observed that most Baptist (that’s what I am) cling to this position: “Pastor, you can change anything–as long as it doesn’t affect me!”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.