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Reaching Baby Boomers in Sunday School/Small Groups

Posted: 1/21/20 at 3:30pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18 NIV)

So many of our churches are trying to figure out how to reach the Millennial generation (born between 1980-2000)—currently the second largest generation in the US. Many churches are more geared to reach the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964), which is now the third largest generation. Your church might find it helpful to research the population in your area to see which generations are most represented.

Keith Lowry, from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, shared some valuable information at our National Sunday School Directors Conference in Boston three years ago. Here are some thoughts he shared along with my commentary (in italics) as a young Baby Boomer:

Don’t leave us 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 ministry. They’ve spent the majority of their lives 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 or a pew and listen to someone lecture. I want to participate and to know my participation counts in the church and community. If you are near a college, start an Adopt-a-Student ministry. I was a student at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, and more than two hours away from home. I was fortunate to have Clell and Lavelle Wright as my adopted parents at South Avondale Baptist Church. I would go to lunch with them on Sundays after worship and could wash my clothes at their house. I was always welcomed in their home. They even provided our wedding rehearsal dinner and flowers for our wedding. They were always my second mom and dad. They taught our Sunday School class and led retreats for the college students. I owe a lot to them!  

Think of us 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 seminar 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 funds during that time and still haven’t recovered. This generation needs to know how to be good stewards when they leave this world. Have a seminar on wills, estate planning, and more.  The Virginia Baptist Foundation can help along with curriculum on giving. Check them out here: http://vbfinc.org/  

They want to be valued. They feel overlooked. Some of us served as volunteers for the church for many years, but now the church is focused 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 only what they can do.

Don’t label us! We don’t like being called senior adults!! We will not join a senior adult class, group, or small group. Using the title Minister of Senior Adults to try to reach us will send us further away! Call the staff member simply “Minister of Adults.” Change the name of classes to meet this generation.

Caught between generations! This one was not mentioned but was important to me. My last post about the Sandwich Generation fits well. Some are trying to care for aging parents facing health issues while also caring for adult children. Because of the economic crash around 2008, many in the Baby Boomer generation aren’t financially able to help our parents and our children as much as we’d like to, and this is a major stressor to us. Perhaps a support group for this generation could make a huge difference in knowing we are not alone and in discovering resources to help.  

Baby Boomers are our third largest generation that often feels that the church is not listening. Sound familiar? It should. Maybe the Millennial generation and Baby Boomers have more in common than we think.

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is BGAV’s Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7