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Tony Brooks: 5 Things to Consider while Reaching the Baby Boomer Generation for Sunday School/Small Groups

Posted: 5/23/17 at 10:00 am. 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.) We do need to reach the largest generation in the US for Bible study. Many churches are more geared to reach the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946-1964), which is the second largest generation. Keith Lowry from the Baptist General Convention of Texas shared some valuable information at a National Sunday School Directors Conference in Boston last week. Here are some thoughts shared by him, and 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. 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.” Change the name of classes to meet this generation.
  5. 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.

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our 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