Now Is The Time to Connect With Boomers

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.

Why Are So Many Boomers Dying of Despair?

Millions of boomers will not live longer than their parents.  In fact, in some communities the death rate of boomers in their fifties and their sixties rivals the death rate of the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s.

Angus Deaton, who co-authored a paper exploring the results of their study found that lower income and high school educated boomers death rates were rising. Deaton, who won the 2015 Nobel laureate in economic in 2015,  said, “Drugs and alcohol, and suicide . . . are clearly the proximate cause…Half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” he added. “About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.”

What makes this especially troubling is that while the overall death rate in the United States is going down, boomer men who lost jobs or are in the early stages of retirement seem to be the most vulnerable.  Since 2007 the suicide rate for people age 40 to 64 increased by 40%.  78% of the 41,000 suicides in the U.S. in 2013 were men.

What seems to be the source of this onslaught of despair?  While the more affluent boomers have successfully weathered the storm of the Great Recession since 2008, less educated boomers are still feeling its effects.

While we are experiencing a real estate boom in many of our major cities, 15% of American are still underwater, owing more money than their home is worth.

Even more troubling for boomers in all economic levels, is the growing realization that their children  are  worse off economically than they were at the same age.  Millennials, the children and grandchildren of boomers, are earning 20% less than the boomer generation did when the boomers were in their thirties. As millions of boomers look to the future, they are not finding a path that leads to opportunity and purpose.

J. D. Vance in his bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy, chronicles his rise from poverty.  In the introduction he  says, “I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it. I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it…And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.” (Hillbilly Elegy, p. 2)

As churches and other groups look at the challenges that boomers face as they age, they must first come to realize that their attitudes, beliefs, and actions are primarily based on how they experienced life as they were growing up.  Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life,  focuses on four spiritual values that emerge from the events of the sixties and seventies, Brokenness, Loneliness, Rootlessness, and Self-Seeking.  These values still inform the lives of boomers. 

Before you begin to plan ministries and programs to connect with boomers, you first need to know their history.  Even though they are heading into retirement, the way they are facing the future is deeply affected by their past.

Join Craig Kennet Miller for a webinar on The Spiritual Roots of Boomers on Tuesday, January 31st at 7:00 PM Central (8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 pm Pacific).

 

Boomer Webinars Start Today – Jan. 24th – 7:00 pm Central

“My generation is becoming invisible, especially in the church.”

This quote from a boomer gets our attention.  When boomers were young, churches tried their best to attract them to their churches.  Worship services were designed to meet their needs.  The mega-church movement was born and what we call contemporary Christian music became mainstreamed in congregational life. Boomers who were inspired by the Jesus’ Movement became pastors and leaders in the church. Others focused on the social gospel and looked for ways to transform their communities.  

But now that boomers are retiring, are they needed anymore? This is the question every church and ministry will need to face as they look to the future.  In the past people who were over sixty-five were considered to be past their prime.  Church programs were designed to entertained them or give them opportunities to get out of their homes.  But boomers are not their parents.  They do not like to be called “old” or “elderly.”  They will not be attracted to “older adult” programs. 

Today, what we call aging is being revolutionized by Boomers, the generation born from 1946 to 1964 (ages 53 to 71). Every facet of American life will be impacted by the explosive growth in the numbers of this group who is moving into their retirement years.  Those who are healthy at age sixty-five can expect to live another productive and active fifteen years till they reach their eighties.

Even our new president, whether you like him or not, is seventy-years-old.  His primary opponents, with Hillary at sixty-nine and Bernie at seventy-five, are great indications of the new way those over sixty-five are facing the issues of aging. They still want to make a difference.  They still want to contribute.

Rather than ignoring the boomers, churches have another chance to connect with them as they continue the search for God that defined them when they were young. Churches who pay attention to the boomers will reap great benefits, those who ignore them will lose out.

Craig Kennet Miller, the author of Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life, invites you to join him in a three-part series of webinars that starts on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 to explore three topics that will look at key aspects of the way boomers think and how the events of the past will affect all of our futures.

Who are the Boomers?
REGISTER FOR WHO ARE THE BOOMERS
DATE: Tuesday, January 24, 2017
TIME: 7pm Central
Born from 1946 to 1964, Boomers have revolutionized every aspect of American life.  As they move into their second half of life, learn about the challenges they face as they age.

The Spiritual Roots of Boomers
REGISTER FOR THE SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF BOOMERS
DATE: Tuesday, January 31, 2017
TIME: 7pm Central
Formed in the crucible of the 1960s and 70s, the spiritual roots of boomers still effect them today.

Boomers and the Search for God
REGISTER FOR THE SEARCH FOR GOD
DATE: Tuesday, February 7, 2017
TIME: 7pm Central
Since their youth, boomers have been on an ongoing search for the divine.  From the New Age Movement to the explosion of mega-churches the boomers quest for the spiritual life has challenged the traditions of the past and provides great opportunities for ministry in the future.