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Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?

person petting golden retriever

I remember when I was just a young kid out in the hot, dry cotton fields of west Texas hearing my grandfather say, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” This always stuck with me as an odd statement.  Now that I am the grandfather (old dog), I understand more clearly what he was saying. For many of us who have heard this before, we treat this statement as gospel.  It is an undeniable fact of the universe and cannot be altered, and don’t you forget it. Ever.

The fact is that this statement is simply not true. Change is hard for everyone, not just old dogs.  In general, many people don’t like change.  It is a challenge. We have to rethink how we feel about something.  It takes work. Work is not fun; therefore, change is not fun. The same is true when making a change in how we do church.

I like to tell people that our ACS Technologies® consultants are change agents. We love helping churches think through how they are going to implement the changes they need in order to get the results they seek. There is never a time when this doesn’t involve some sort of change in how the church looks at a problem or how they plan on addressing the problem. Change is going to happen.  The Church was once described to me this way: “It is a river of water.  A river flows and moves. When a river no longer flows, it becomes stagnant. Stagnant water cannot support life. It chokes out everything in it.” Jesus even refers to “rivers of living water” flowing from those who believe in Him.

When it comes to the Church, it becomes even more complex.  A newcomer jumps into the river at a certain point.  They like the water, they like the flow, and they feel comfortable.  Then the river changes.  Maybe the current is faster, or maybe it is slower. Maybe the view is not as nice as it was when they jumped in.  They long for the “old days” way back when they jumped into the river for the first time.  They complain to the river that they don’t like what the river is doing, but the river can’t stop being a river.  Eventually, either those unhappy with the river will force it to stop flowing, or they will get out of the river.

Change is inevitable.  Some of it is small, some of it is life-altering. The question is how do we break the “old dogs” mindset that we can never make certain changes in our church because our people will not change?  In Part 2, we will discuss 7 principles to consider when making change in your church.

This post was written by Keith Hudgins. Keith is an Implementation Consultant with ACS Technologies and spends the majority of his time working with churches and helping them learn how to use and implement Realm.

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