You have probably heard the phrase, “If the church is going to survive, it must get younger.” While this may be true in the long run, in the short term, one of the best strategies for congregational growth and vitality is to intentionally connect with boomers, those born from 1946 to 1964.
Boomers have always had an outsized impact on the American culture. Because of their high numbers, at each stage of life they have dominated the cultural scene. Clinton, Bush, and Obama have given us twenty-four years of a boomer in the presidency. And now Trump will give us four more. Perhaps the most surprising factoid about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court is that at age 49, he is not a boomer. He’s a GenXer.
When it comes to the church, boomers have been Jesus Freaks, new agers, and megachurchgoers, just to name a few of the spiritual movements they have embraced over the years. To think this is going to stop once boomers enter their second half of life is to fail to understand the human condition.
As people age, they are more likely to pursue their spirituality. The closer to death they come, the more they want answers to the biggest question of all, “Is their life after death?”
As boomers retire, they offer the church the greatest untapped knowledge, experience, and wisdom the world has ever seen. Every day until 2030, ten thousand boomers will move out of the workforce and will find themselves in uncharted waters. Boomers, who have always wanted to make a difference in the world, will now have the time and energy to do the things they have always wanted to do. Most interestingly, now that they are free from the demands of work, they are going back to the practices of their youth; and one of the most dominating themes of the boomer youth culture was the search for God.
Churches that desire to tap into the explosive growth of the over sixty crowd will need to re-imagine ministry to those we have traditionally called older adults. Boomers don’t want to be called seniors, older adults, or elders. Those were the names for their parents’ generation. They don’t want to be entertained by going on church outings or playing cards in the church gym. They have a passion to contribute to the life of their churches and communities. They want to live out God’s call in their lives.
Churches need to pay attention to four key elements for aging baby boomers. First, teach spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, tithing, and worship. These are the faith practices that will sustain boomers as they age.
Second, focus on developing healthy lifestyles and highlighting the importance of having close relationships with family and friends.
Third, support caregivers. One of the most pressing needs for boomers is helping them take care of their parents who are part of the old, old, those who are over 85-years-old. When boomers are older than 85-years-old, they, too, will need caregivers.
Fourth, help boomers discover and embrace their legacy. Boomers, who were on the front lines of change when they were young, still hope to make the world a better place, especially for their children and grandchildren.
While you may think that all boomers go to church, in actuality, only 38 percent worship weekly. That means there are almost 48 million boomers who are not highly active in their churches, and large portion of that number have no church affiliation at all.
As boomers age, the church has great opportunities to connect with this generation. A message of hope, love, and grace is needed for a generation that desires to make a difference in their personal lives and in the world around them.
Join Craig Kennet Miller in the webinar, “Boomers and the Search for God” on Tuesday, February 7 at 7:00 pm, Central. Click the link for information about his new book, Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life.