The ‘Facts & Trends’ website had this helpful reflection on whether our churches and our ministries are making the most of engaging the richness and wealth of those who may be mature in Christ, to mentor, disciple and grow ministries within the Church. In this youth oriented society, it often begs the question, are we guilty of putting older Christians out to pasture at the very time when their best experience, gifts and personal and spiritual maturity can be best used for the kingdom?
The Big Boom: What Pastors Need to Know about Boomers:
This year the first Boomer turns 67 and the last Boomer hits 49. Since their birth, this group has changed the world and the church. They’ve influenced everything from pop culture to politics to societal norms. When Boomers hit their teens, they ushered in what is now modern-day church youth ministry. Decades later, they are making churches rethink ministry to seniors.
Born between 1946 and 1964, this 77 million-strong generation is highly educated and possesses a wide range of business and technical skills. They are healthier, more active, and have a longer life expectancy than the generation ahead of them. As churches explore how to minister to the Boomer generation, it’s a smart move to consider what makes them tick and how to engage them in ministry.
Boomers care about causes. They want to change the world for the better. The calling of James 1:27 – to care for widows and orphans – resonates with this generation. Church leaders can tap into Boomers’ desire to make a difference by providing opportunities for up close and personal ministry.
This generation thrives on relationships. Add to this the fact that younger generations look up to Boomers because of their collective experience and wisdom, and you have the recipe for a thriving discipleship and mentoring ministry at your church.
Boomers have adopted the philosophy of “Go big, or go home!” as their battle cry. Never a generation to sit passively by, Boomers have always been about making changes that count. They are ready, willing, and able to serve in areas where they feel they will make the biggest difference.
To engage Boomers in discipleship and service, try these things:
- Give them opportunities to do meaningful and hands-on ministry.
- Ask them to be involved in helping people personally rather than expect them to support people they don’t know or feel they can never know.
- Encourage them to help build ministries that develop relationships with their peers and with younger generations.
- Give them problems to solve rather than tasks to finish.
Boomers have a lot to offer to their churches, their communities, and their world. They may be a force to be reckoned with, but they are also a valuable resource to be tapped into for greater ministry in your church.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE:
We also need to think differently about how and when we define the ‘Boomers’ demographic. The extremely broad definition dates often given to the ‘Boomer Gen’. is disputed. Many have argued for a separation of 2 distinct decades, with varyingly different attitudes and influences, namely the Baby Boomers & ‘Generation Jones’ (the generation they call the ‘lost generation’, caught between the two demographics of Boomers and Gen X) .
The Baby Boomers
Born: 1946-1954: Coming of Age: 1963-1972
For a long time the Baby Boomers were defined as those born between 1945 and 1964. That would make the generation huge (71 million) and encompass people who were 20 years apart in age. It didn’t compute to have those born in 1964 compared with those born in 1946. Life experiences were completely different. Attitudes, behaviors and society were vastly different. In effect, all the elements that help to define a cohort were violated by the broad span of years originally included in the concept of the Baby Boomers. The Boomer segment is bounded by the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Civil Rights movements and the Vietnam War. Boomers were in or protested the War. Boomers ‘2’ or the ‘Jones Generation’ missed the whole thing.
Boomers had good economic opportunities and were largely optimistic about the potential for America and their own lives, the Vietnam War notwithstanding.
Born: 1955-1965: Coming of Age: 1973-1983
This first post-Watergate generation lost much of its trust in government and optimistic views the Boomers maintained. Economic struggles including the oil embargo of 1979 reinforced a sense of “I’m out for me” and narcissism and a focus on self-help and skepticism over media and institutions is representative of attitudes of this cohort. While Boomers had Vietnam, Gen Jones had AIDS as part of their rites of passage. The youngest members of the Jones generation in fact did not have the benefits of the Boomer class as many of the best jobs, opportunities, housing etc. were taken by the larger and earlier group.
Both Gen X and Gen. Jones suffer from this long shadow cast by Boomers.