How To Win Over the Stubborn People at Your Church

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grumpy older adults
You know who I’m talking about.
They’ve been called stuffed shirts, God’s chosen frozen, and the criticism committee.
I would discourage such phrases, but these change resistant church members can have a chilling effect on your ministry. Many a youth pastor, children’s director, and preacher has cowered before their glaring eyes. They secretly question your leadership, withhold their support, and sometimes oppose your plans outright. In short, they think your program is ruining their church.
Getting mad doesn’t help and you’ve already prayed through Psalm 35. What you need is a practical plan to help them defrost. Here are 10 tips from the front lines for winning over their hearts and minds.

Caveat: In my experience, most older church members are glad to serve and support the children’s ministry. This article is mainly talking about those who need some encouragement in that direction. In those cases you can choose a better way.

1. Determine to love them (no matter what)
Bitterness grows quickly in this kind of situation and it’s easy to get upset when people roadblock your vision. Don’t let emotions trump your judgement. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 13, then ask Jesus to create that kind of love in your heart. At this point, give up on disrespectful nicknames like “chosen frozen.”
grumpy old man in church clothes2. Support and encourage their ministry
Look for how God might be using these stubborn believers. Do they have a strong Sunday School class? Do they drive one another to the doctor’s office? Are they keeping the prayer list up to date? Are they good examples of faithful long term attendance? Once you appreciate their contributions, frequently make a point to affirm their value.
3. Be a friend
Invite a few of them to McDonald’s for coffee. Just say something like this, “I don’t feel like I know you very well, let’s have coffee together next Monday.” You should not bring up ministry issues at first. Just spend time and listen to what’s important to them. If the conversation drops off just ask what they think about the latest national news.
4. Share your stories
Once you have become their friend, open up with your own stories. Share with them about your family or specific kids in the ministry. No one gets excited about vision statements, but most will gladly listen to how God is making a difference in the lives of specific people.
5. Explain your motives
When the time comes, always explain the heart motive behind your new ideas. When we launched Upward Soccer at our church I shared why this program mattered to me on a personal level. Specifically, I talked about families (by name) that we had met in other youth sports and how Soccer could bring them to Christ.
6. Seek their help
When people are not directly involved, it makes criticism too easy. A proactive approach will find these people important roles in the new program. Older members are a perfect match for ministry specific prayer teams or writing follow-up cards. Make sure these are meaningful jobs that actually match their abilities, don’t merely invent busy work.
This also opens the door to learn from their experience. As Kathryn said on our Facebook page, “They have seen all the times good and bad we need to value what they say as wisdom. ”
7. Ask the obvious question
“What would win you over? What could I do to earn your support?” This may be somewhat blunt, but the direct route is often best. One of our readers on Facebook named Rowena made this exact point. She said, “It seems like they’d have the best answers to the problem.”
8. Give them time
Even the most stubborn will come along over time, especially when they see the change is working. Remember that even young children require a few weeks to adjust to a new idea. Sometimes you have to smile and politely move forward trusting God to bring them along.
9. Admit your mistakes
When your program fails, be the first to accept the blame. Quickly owning your mistakes is the best shield against criticism. A little humility will go a long way toward building your creditably over the long term.
10. Pick up the crumbs
Literally, don’t leave a mess behind in the church building. This is the most common cause of conflict I’ve seen. Washing a few dishes and simply running the vacuum will safe you hours of grief later.
What do you think? I would love to hear your tips on this topic.

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