How to teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Old Dog New Trick picThe church I lead tuned 100 years old last year. During the past 24 years we have been the youth pastor, music director, Associate pastor, nursery coordinator, yard crew, and now for the past 20+ years Lead Minister.

The Church has gone through many changes and seasons.  Most experts say once an organization gets to a certain age, status quo, complacency, protection, and management become the norm.  Such things as innovation, risk, change, and leadership are the exception.  In other words you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

In Jim Collins book, “Built To Last” he chronicles organizations that have been able to withstand the test of time and be more effective in the second century of existence than the first.  Leading an organization with a 100-year heritage to continue to be effective and relevant can be challenging.  You can learn different ways to be effective and change even if the organization has a longer heritage than most.

5 Things I learned

1.    Out live your critics

John Maxwell once said, “if you want to beat your critics, just outlive them.”  This takes the determination to stay and move the organization forward.  You will never beat or outlive your critics by moving somewhere where you think there are no critics.  Remember, life is filled with critics.  In fact there are more critics than leaders.  So stay where you are, and out live the ones you have.

2.    Visit your structure

Some structures, organizational policies, governmental hierarchies are outdated and hinder forward progress.  In order to be effective there might be a need to change the structure and government of the organization.

3.    Start side ventures

Instead of trying to get the entire organization to move, simply start a new venture yourself.  Once the venture becomes successful it will be more easily accepted by the whole.

I wanted to establish a new site for our church in a neighboring community.  The church wasn’t ready for that as a whole.  So, I went to that community on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings.  I asked if anyone on my team wanted to go with me and we started.

 4.    Always talk vision

Never allow anyone in your organization to believe or say the best days of the organization are in the past.

5.    Have a plan not a timetable

The key to successful longevity and effectiveness is having a plan but allowing the flexibility to initiate the plan in the right timing.  Too many leaders try to implement the plan or change on their timetable.  Remember it takes longer and costs more than you think to teach old dogs new tricks.


Question:  What do you do to keep relevant and effective, as you grow older?