Recently a church leader in his early sixties contacted me. He had read my book on Boomer Spirituality and wanted to share his experience. When he was young he was in great demand in his church. Worship services, small group studies, and formational events were created to attract him and his friends to the church. It was a great time to be active in the church – he was wanted. But now that he is in his sixties, churches are not so interested in him and his friends anymore. They are told in order for the church to have a future, the church must reach the young. What he hears from the church is that his time is past even though if he stays healthy he may have twenty to thirty years of active life ahead of him. Rather than being challenged to discover a new call from God for his life, he feels discarded. He does not feel needed anymore.
The reality is that boomers are not old yet. While the oldest boomers are turning seventy-one this year, the vast majority of Boomers are in their mid-fifties and sixties. In many churches boomers serve in key leadership positions, give the most financial support, and are the main influencers in their congregations. Their beliefs, values, and attitudes are key drivers of the future. While they may hold key positions in their churches, they may not realize the opportunities they have to reach fellow boomers. Here are five ways churches can connect with boomers:
- Engage their brains.
Guess what. Our brains keep changing throughout our lives. So engaging our brains in a number of mental activities and encouraging exercise can have positive long-term effects. Believe it or not, singing in a choir, doing meditative prayer, or being in an in-depth Bible study is not only good for your spiritual life, it also helps your brain stay engaged with life.
- Preach messages that bridge social divides.
Boomers have grown up in a world divided between liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans. Rather than subsiding over the years, tensions have escalated with the election of Trump. Pastors, through their preaching, are in a unique position to help bridge the cultural and social divides in their congregations and communities. A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly featured Adam Hamilton, who talks about the importance of confronting his congregation with the truth of injustice that surrounds them in a way that allows healing to take place.
- Show them how to use their money.
The finances of boomers are a mess. Only 55 percent of boomers have any money saved for retirement, and only 24 percent believe they have enough savings to get them through retirement. Even those boomers who have saved find themselves in a financial pickle because, in many cases, they have become the breadbasket for aging parents, children in college, or for other family members in need of financial support. Churches that create seminars, classes, and one-to-one conversations about finances are providing a vital service for boomers and their families as they help boomers learn how best to use their money.
- Support them as they take care of their parents.
Seventy-one percent of boomers have at least one living parent. As boomers move through their fifties and sixties, one of the dominant issues they face is how to take care of their aging parents. As their parents move into their eighties and nineties, boomers find themselves spending more time and money supporting their parents. Churches that engage in caregiving ministries are not only helping those who are not able to fully take care of themselves, they are creating life-saving experiences that minister to the whole family.
- Teach them to pray.
Boomers have been spiritual from the start. They were the Jesus People, the first singers of contemporary Christian music, and embracers of the tenets of the New Age Movement during their young adulthood. Now, as they move into the second half of their lives, they are asking questions about life after death, how to create a just society based on biblical values, and how to connect with others through their faith.Moving beyond the Sunday school model of spiritual formation is key to attracting and retaining boomers. The launching of prayer groups, Bible study groups, Wesley Covenant groups, and missional groups are just some of the ways churches can create meaningful connections. Offering spiritual life weekends, prayer and fasting experiences, and one-day seminars on prayer are just some of the ways to help boomers develop an active spiritual life.Churches that are forward thinking realize creating intentional ministries for boomers is a key strategy for creating new disciples of boomers and their children and grand-children. They understand in order to reach the young, they must also connect with people across the generations.
Join the Boomer Spirituality Webinars Starting on Wednesday, October 4 at 6:30 pm Central (7:30 pm Eastern, 4:30 pm Pacific)
The Boomer Spirituality Webinars are led by Craig Kennet Miller, author of Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life, each 60- minute webinar will give you ideas and insights about ministry with the boomer generation. Those who attend all three sessions can earn 0.3 CEUs. This series is for individuals or can be used as a group experience that churches can do for Wednesday evening programing.
Webinars are offered on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm Central Time on October 4th, 11th, and 18th.