Leadership dynamics, age differences and conflict in a church context.
The introduction of mixed generations in the church has resulted in age related differences in worldviews that have eventually amounted to conflicts in the church branch. This research surfaces the underpinning structures of these age related conflicts and the emerging leadership dynamics by looking at the individual, organisational and societal levels of analysis of a church branch. The main objective was to sensitise the church on these issues in order to carefully manage the consequences. This research was undertaken as a case study at the Umlazi branch of the African Gospel Church, a SADEC Pentecostal church founded in the 1940s in Durban. This church subscribes religiously to the founders identity, such that the church has been at conflict as the older church members supported the traditionalist agenda whilst the youth were very contemporary in the interpretation of their needs and expectations from the church. As a practitioner researcher I adopted a critical systems approach at meta-methodological level, where I used a repertoire of methods to critically intervene and expose the complexities that exist in this church context. I followed Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) as a dominant method of intervention as it exposed a rich picture of the situation and Critical Systems Heuristics for boundary critique. The empirical tools of research were questionnaires, open ended interviews and focus group discussions. The research revealed that age related conflicts were mere manifestations of a problem that is deeply rooted in the doctrines and the ecclesiastic teachings of the church, thus implying that the church has elevated its legacy to a level higher than the generic doctrine of the gospel. This situation has resulted in the youth being powerless and rejecting the church system as they argue that the times have shifted and the church has to reflect this change. The characteristics of this church are such that leaders and pastors are generally appointed at old age, thus leaders subscribe to the traditionalist agenda by default. I have not as yet reverted to the branch to close the SSM loop, where we would have discussed the possible solutions for implementation. I believe a further intervention would be necessary as the findings suggest that there are deeper tensions than I had anticipated. Thus, in the tradition of Critical Systems Practice, I would need to go into a further reflexive and creative mode to plan a next step. Due to the limitations of time and understanding the restraints of a short dissertation I have not done this. This research, however, managed to fulfil its objective by exposing the issues of concern and possible approaches of addressing them from a theoretical framework. An ecclesiastical discourse to address leadership competency, change management and intergenerational activities would need to be given special attention as a recommendation.