For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (I Timothy 1: 6 NIV)
As a person born on the edge of the Baby Boomer generation, I have discovered that we have an incredible opportunity right now to reach people who walked away from church in their young adult years. Baby Boomers left the church because they did not want anyone to tell them what to do. They wanted to discover it for themselves. (Keep in mind their formational years were from the end of WW II, the Vietnam War and the assassination of John F. Kennedy…born between 1946 and 1964.) They were disillusioned by the establishment.
In a time when many churches are seeking to reach young adults with children, even though some have very few in their community demographic, I am encouraging them to consider new ways to reach the baby Boomers. Behind the Millennial generation (born between 1980-2000), this is the second largest population. There are 70 million baby Boomers in the U.S. The Harvest is white but the laborers are few. This is a group preparing to retire with resources, energy and finances. So how do we reach them?
Thanks to David Apple from Lifeway, I learned several key components to consider:
Help them find truth through collaboration. Baby Boomers seem to distrust everything. We need to help them find truths that are absolute, as many of them, are still searching for answers. It is not enough to tell them truth, but help them to discover it for themselves. In other words, Sunday School, has to be focused on questions for them to ponder to find answers rather than giving them answers.
Share stories of faith. Baby Boomers are experiential in nature. Though they may question your absolute truths, they are more inclined to listen as you share experiences of how God has helped you as you share God’s Word. Even better, help them to experience God through missions and other opportunities to make the community better (more like God’s Kingdom). Use Scripture like Matthew 25: 31-ff as you help the least of these. If they can experience the Gospel through missions they are more inclined to see it as truth to live by.
Legacy is important. Baby Boomers are reaching the autumn to winter years of their lives. They want to know that their lives matter. Begin asking questions about what their legacy will be. Let’s put it this way: If you could write your obituary the way you want to be remembered idealistically, what do you need to change in your life to reach it?
Help them prepare for the future. Boomers are always looking at the next 5-10 years of their lives. Again this is a legacy issue at this point. What can I do for the next five to ten years to make a difference? They are more than willing to help others if it is a part of their passion. Use passion as a stepping stone for ministry. (I will share more about this in the next blog.)
Start a ministry specifically for them. This is not a group that will go into the senior adult ministry. We must set up a special ministry just for them. Don’t expect them to “move up” to the senior adult classes. They will never admit that they have reached this age. Help them start a new ministry/Bible study classed based on affinity and not age. Find out their passions/hobbies and start classes based on their passions.
Start classes based on their needs. Many are finding themselves caught between caring for parents and their children. Some are raising grandchildren. Look at your congregation and community as you consider classes to reach baby Boomers.
We have a great opportunity before us that could lead to the next Great Awakening. With millions of Baby Boomers out there (not in Bible study), God can do incredible things, but we must become laborers ready to reach out.