Creative Leadership

Your Ideas Won’t Happen with Someone Else’s Team

I’m pulling this post from the archives because I was reading Matthew 9:16 about putting new wine into old wineskins or sewing un-shrunk cloth on an old garment.  In Biblical days wine was kept in a leather bag or “skin,” because it could stretch as the wine aged.  But once it got old, the bag locked into it’s shape and lost the ability to stretch.

The concept is particularly important when it comes to leadership. 

A few years ago I was asked to consult with a major ministry that had been on the national scene for a long time.  Now, a new leader wanted to bring it up to date – make it more contemporary, fresh, and relevant.  But the first thing I noticed was his leadership team.  The truth is it wasn’t his team – it was the previous leader’s team.  These men and women had been the ministry leaders for the last 30 years.  All they knew was how to do things the old way.  And I predicted they would fight to the death to keep the status quo.

Guess what?  I was right.

I strongly encouraged him to bring in his own new team, but he refused.  He considered them long-time, loyal employees.   So within a few months I left because change was never going to happen.  Sure enough, the old guard dug in and refused to make any changes at all.  In fact I was surprised at how intransigent they became.   Debt piled up, and it simply got worse.

Don’t put new wine into old wineskins.  New thinking isn’t enough.  You need a new team to implement new ideas.  It’s no surprise that a new president brings a new team into the White House, or a new coach brings his own staff to a new sports team.

Be very careful trying to make your ideas happen with somebody else’s team.  Because in most cases, the old team can’t stretch their thinking any better than old wineskins can adjust to new wine.

Have you experienced the struggle between an old team and a new leader?

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  1. I recently saw an interview with Oral Roberts that made me think about this topic. He said, “You change your methods, but hold fast to your principles”. There were a lot of people scratching their heads in the 60’s as he pioneered a new university the world had never seen. New method, same principles.

    As new media and new ideas are implemented in Christian media, we still need to be careful not to throw out the principles for sake of the method. The production values are not more important than the content – they enhance the content.

    Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is a perfect example of a ministry that has found a way to “reshape their ministry”, and reach a younger audience, while still holding on to the principles that made Billy Graham one of the stongest “brands” in the world.

  2. I am Sandy Brownlee’s husband.  I too, am 50-something.  I could easily be categorized as one of the “old guard” – resistant to change; I’m still not on facebook, don’t have a cell phone, still think Fred Flintstone was ahead of his time.  But in my heart I know change is inevitable, and I know I need to “get with the program.”  I see my wife keeping up with the times and admire her greatly, and want to be like her, but I’m comfy in my “Leave it to Beaver” world.  (look it up on Youtube if you don’t know “Beaver”)  I suspect there are many like me – my wrinkled wineskin is torn between comfort zone and relevance.  Technology doesn’t come easy to me, but I’m not ready to sit the bench just yet – so please, how do we old farts keep up – what needs to change in me, and my rusty comrades?  I don’t want to be part of the problem – the spirit is willing – but the wineskin is weak.  ….okay, now how do I enter this – what do I click again…post comment?  HONEY – do I click “post comment???”

  3. Great words, Phil. Change is often difficult, especially when there have been ministry employees with long tenure. I have found it best to share my vision, to keep those who can “get on the bus” (ala, Jim Collins) and help find a place for those who can’t or won’t to go. I learned a long time ago that it’s not the people you fire that come back to haunt you- it’s the people you should have fired, but didn’t!

  4. Preach it, Sandy, preach it! As a 50 something I bump into ageism in Hollywood repeatedly. (Too many stories to tell.) You finished your post with “don’t discount the benfits an adaptable and experienced brain can bring.”

    Well said. Having a 24 yr old son and 18 yr old daughter has been the best “focus” group I’ve ever talked to. They keep their dad’s thinking young…and nimble.

    No old wine skins here.

  5. I hope you aren’t correlating the “old” and “new” thinking with age.  That’s a kind of stereotyping which can discount a revolutionary idea simply because it’s from a 50 something mind. (Hollywood is full of such ageism, which may account for some of the shallowness of its stories.) I think it’s a matter of a willingness to learn, grow, and adapt – not a matter of chronology.  And although I totally agree with Phil’s point of new wine in old bottles – and of building a team around that – don’t discount the benefits an adaptable AND experienced brain can bring.


  6. Well said! This is something that has been an issue in one of the ministries I support.

    Everyone from leadership on down says they want to see things change. Action has been taken to whip the organization into shape and I am one of the change agents on board to help make that happen. The leader has given me his blessing and communicated his wishes to the rest of the leadership and organization. But there are challenges.

    Old habits die very hard and extremely slowly. The team in place to orchestrate and manage the change is, basically, the old guard and they’re tough! Though they see the need, they’re resisting the change because it looks different. They won’t admit that, but it’s evident. Though I am a professional with expertise and experience to help the ministry move forward, I am also a fairly new member of the organization. I’m also 30-something, as opposed to 50- or 60-something, in an organization where there are many generational diversity issues. All of this makes it difficult for some of the old guard to accept me as their “leader” in this change effort.

    Throughout the organization, people say they are motivated to change. This desire was also reflected in a recent survey we conducted. But what I think we’re seeing is only a temporary morale boost because everyone is excited about a few new and interesting activities and events taking place in the ministry. My concern is that once the hype has died down, so will their motivation to change.    

    Any advice or suggestions?

    Thanks and God bless!

    Genikwa R. Williams
    Jordan Media Group


  7. Quite agree.New ideas can not grow in OLD mind.When we start something new,first we should remove old tradition.I think China need to do a lot for its further developement.The government should change their old styles.

  8. It’s one of those tough and lonely decisions a leader must make and implement.

    Pulling in opposite directions is too frustrating and non-productive for everyone and can usually only be resolved with decisive action by a strong leader. A leader who understands that part of the price for progress is to be misunderstood and even vilified.

  9. Some people are pliable and willing to change and grow, you just have to interview them and really listen.

    as I heard one minister say ” Never try to cram a 16’x 8′ idea in a 4′ x 2′ mind” it just does not work.

  10. So true Phil–my 70 yr old Mom, the company BEGGED her to go FT, but Dad–he can’t even find a job other after he sold his insurance agency because he can’t force himself to wrap his mind around computer stuff. Mom–she said the younger people go on Netflix, they screw around on work time, but she works HARD and it keeps her young. Dad, stuck in his dreams that never came to pass…he called the other day, I spoke with him for like 20 minutes, “Dad, you don’t need to take a class to learn how to make your own CD (he’s a singer), people will make it harder than it has to be, talk to Kev before you buy anything,” but he just doesn’t GET that in this sinking economy he may have to do certain things a 70 yr old never thought he’d have to do. But Mom, a trooper, stayed fresh, stayed on top of computer stuff. Dad, wallowing in his never came true dream, allowed himself to fade, so since he won’t focus on stuff that WILL make $$ (“Singers are a dime a dozen, Dad, it doesn’t matter if you’re good–MANY are good.”), he still talks about working on his guitar or learning to make his own CD, rather than on focusing on what the MARKET will support. Much like “Giants In The Earth,” where the mom survived at the end, but the husband froze.

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