Our churches are trying to figure out how to reach the millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000), and we do need to reach the largest generation in the U.S. for Bible study.
Yet, many churches are more geared to reach the baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964), which is the second largest generation.
Keith Lowry, adult discipleship specialist at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, shared some valuable information at a national Sunday school directors’ conference in Boston recently.
Here is a summary of key points of his presentation, along with my commentary (in italics) as a young baby boomer:
1. Don’t leave them behind.
When so many churches are focusing on young adults, this is the group that can impact the church in many ways.
They want meaningful worship (participatory) and to make an impact for a ministry. They spent the majority of life working to build up wealth and personal status. They realize that mentoring and investing in others will bring more satisfaction at this point.
How are you involving this generation in worship and ministry?
As a baby boomer, I don’t want to sit in a chair and listen to someone lecture or sit in a pew. I want to participate and know my participation counts in the church and community.
2. Think of them when planning.
They want opportunities for fun and recreation. Have them plan some of the social events for a class.
They will want to do some things differently for fun and recreation. Many of them also put everything into work.
They lost their family in the process. How can you help build family for them?
In the process of losing family, they lost a lot of their wealth. A financial planning for retirement class may be a great option to help them.
They may want to go skydiving, play sports, take risks; are you ready to do so?
Many are not living close to family. Are you willing to invite them into your family during holidays or other times?
We can all use help in preparing for retirement. Many lost most of their wealth during the Wall Street crisis.
What can your church do to set up a small group about financial futures? I lost over half of my retirement during that time and still haven’t recovered.
3. They want to be valued.
They feel overlooked. Some of them served as volunteers for the church for many years, but the church is focusing on reaching younger families. Some become part of the “done” generation.
How are you showing how important they are to you without guilting them into doing something? Sometimes they simply need to see that someone cares about them and not what they can do.
4. Don’t label them.
They don’t like being called senior adults. They will not join a senior adult class, group or small group. Change the name of classes to meet this generation.
Using the title “minister of senior adults” to try to reach them will send them further away. Call the staff member simply “minister of adults.”
5. They feel caught between generations.
This one was not mentioned but was important to me. Some are trying to care for aging parents facing health issues while caring for adult children.
My mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and still living at home. She is 10 hours away. I try to help my sister with encouragement, some financial assistance, guidance and a call to mom every day. Sometimes she calls many times in a day.
Because of the economic crash for retirement around 2008, we have not been able to help as much financially for our children (many student loans). We continue to help but not as much as we want.
This is a major stress that baby boomers face. Perhaps a support group for this generation could make a huge difference in knowing we are not alone and helping us discover resources to help.
This is our second largest generation, a group of people who often feel that the church is not listening.
Does this sound familiar? It should.
Maybe the millennial generation and baby boomers have more in common than we think.
Tony Brooks is the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s (BGAV’s) Sunday School / discipleship specialist and field strategist for the Southside Region. A version of this article first appeared on the BGAV blog and is used with permission. His writings can also be found on his blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @TonyBrooks7.