reaching-boomers

My generation was the largest generation. It was the generation businesses and churches wanted to reach. We were the sixties generation. The self-indulgent generation. The “me” generation. The Vietnam generation. The Watergate generation. The Civil Rights generation.

And now we are the dying generation.

I’m not trying to be morbid or sensational. I’m simply reporting census realities. We were born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest among us is 67 years old. Mortality is inevitable. We are shrinking in numbers.

During the baby boom that followed World War II, more than 76 million live births were recorded in the United States. At the time we were the largest generation in history. We have since been supplanted by the nearly 80 million Millennials born between 1980 and 2000.

But here is the harshest reality about my generation. We estimate that only about one-third of Baby Boomers are Christians. That means that 50 million adult Americans in this generation are unchurched and have yet to be reached with the gospel of Christ.

And time is running out.

Here are a few (hopefully) helpful facts about the Baby Boomers and churches. Of course, our findings depict the majority of Boomers, not all of them at any one time.

  • Most churches, if they have an intentional outreach ministry, gear it toward the younger generations. That is understandable. But relatively few church leaders are asking the question, “What can we do prayerfully and strategically to reach the Baby Boomers?”
  • Most of the unchurched Boomers do not have an anti-church mentality. They are more receptive than most imagine.
  • Most of the unchurched Boomers would not be caught up in worship wars. They have a wide tolerance and even fondness for many musical and stylistic approaches. A church’s worship style would most likely not be a hindrance to reaching a Boomer.
  • Though Boomers are fast becoming senior adults, they will not appreciate many churches’ approaches to senior adult ministry today. They want to make a difference, not simply be entertained and take trips. You may very well reach many Boomers by demonstrating how the Christian life is the only true life of meaning, and how they can make a difference as a believer.
  • Boomers are becoming increasingly introspective. They are asking life questions that really matter. Their receptivity to matters of eternal import could be great right now.
  • This generation largely doesn’t want to talk about retirement. They speak more in terms of career shift or new vocational opportunities. They are not ready, and probably never will be, for traditional approaches to retirement.
  • The Boomers are thinking about relationships now more than any point in their lives. A simple but powerful way to reach the unchurched in this generation is to get Christian Boomers to connect with them. Many Boomer Christians haven’t invited someone to church in years. Now is the opportune time.

As you celebrate this new year, allow one sobering reality to be before you: more than one million Baby Boomers will die before the year concludes. If it took you five minutes to read this article, ten Boomers died while you were reading. By 2015 the death rate will increase significantly.

We have but a few chances left to reach the lost and unchurched among the Baby Boomers. Time is growing short.

“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38, HCSB).

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Comments

  1. says

    Thom,

    Thank you for this post! It is so encouraging. Our church moved due to eminent domain and we believe that God has placed us where we are for a reason. I ask your permission to republish this in our church bulletin for our people. Naturally, it will be presented in its entirety and the proper credit given with the blog address noted.

  2. Karen McGuire says

    Great comments. I am a boomer and you are exactly right on. How do we help the church see this great need? How do we reach this group for Christ?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Karen –

      Start with you. Begin inviting unchurched Boomers to church. Perhaps you can start a Bible study. Lead by example.

      Blessings.

      • says

        No, Karen. Invited them to your lviving room and have a holy writings study there. And don’t skimp on the wikipedia. The church-building-centrism is A MAJOR PROBLEM but we have “sunk cost syndrome” about how much money we’ve spent on real estate and we feel guilty about letting it go unused — and we sure as heaven aren’t going to sell it and give the money to the poor. Advice have another friend in the study for your sessions.

  3. Dick Rockenbach says

    I have simply come to a point in life where I do not believe most church members care. You total up 68 million millenials + 50 million boomers in which they in all honesty recieves almost serious effort of ministry engagement by Churches or members. We seriously do not even go after our own kids or family members who have left. Most congregations do not spend even 1 dollar towards young adults or make even 1 spoken word of recognition towards the needs of the 68 Million non christian Millenials I would expect the same effort towards unchurched Boomers.
    In reality the great opportunity is a WW2 Mulit generation effort to reach our own kids and boomer families are a “re-ignition event” that must first start with a serious time of repentance for our failures and refusals go after the “never were’s” and the “walked away”. Dr Rainer one of the most telling comments in Essential Church was from the young man who said “I take full responsibility for walking away from the Church but to this day I have always wondered why no one came after me”. My wife and I have been deeply involved in young adult ministry since 1999. We have seen this crash coming and people have simply refused to deal with it. Refused.

    Dick Rockenbach

  4. Bruce says

    Can you recommend anyone as a resource who is doing significant outreach to Boomers? I have a podcast where I interview Christians who are engaging culture, and this is a topic I’ve wanted to address, but honestly haven’t found anyone to interview.

    • james says

      I would love to discuss Boomer ministry with you. I am co-sponsoring a “Catch the Boomer Wave” conference at my church in September of this year.

  5. says

    Thank you for your blog. Your insights are always thought provoking. At Hemptown Baptist, we have experienced growth in our children and youth. Your comments have encouraged me that the boomer could be reached. I will want to share this vision at Hemptown.

  6. says

    Thank you for this serious and sobering post. I was also moved by the line Mr. Rockenbach quoted from your book: “….I have always wondered why no one came after me.”. Why, indeed.
    1 Corinth. 13 finds me returning again and again to examine my heart. It helps me recalibrate and reorganize. If I have not Love, I am nothing…

    I wanted to share a poem/prayer. For me, the last sentence says it all.

    HEART CRY

    Heavenly Father,
    may our fear of You
    so greatly exceed
    our fear of man,
    that we may move
    deftly,
    purposefully,
    through Your
    fields and vineyards.

    LORD, like You, we don’t want
    a single soul to be lost
    to the Enemy
    or man’s own hardheartedness.

    Equip us, Father,
    to bring Your message
    to a lost and dying world.

    Adjust our spiritual hearing
    that we would distinguish
    Your voice from our own;

    The eyes of our heart,
    that we might see the world
    through the lens of Your great love.

    Enable our tongues to effectively speak
    Your Gospel,
    Your Deliverance,
    Your Healing,
    and Your Peace
    into the lives of people.

    May Your presence be discernably felt
    in our handshake,
    our embrace,
    our efforts,
    our love.

    THIS is the cry of our hearts:
    to ever resonate the cry of YOURS.

    (B.A. Viera)

  7. Beth says

    I happily miss qualifying as a baby boomer by one year. However, I did just recently invite a baby boomer couple to church and guess what? They showed up!
    It baffles me how, with increasing age and their time on earth getting shorter by the minute, more baby boomers aren’t beating down the church doors to get in God’s good graces while they still can.
    We must continually pray their eyes will be opened to their need of a savior! #sobering

  8. says

    Few will find the narrow gate of Christ, but many find the broad gate that leads to destruction. My prayer, Open the eyes and ears of the church first and then use us to shine your light into the darkness with the good news of forgiveness in Christ alone. Holy spirit, come and convict the heart of sin leading us to repentence.
    Amen…Jeff

  9. lin freireich says

    YOUNG BOOMER HERE**** I love my. Church, SHANDON BAPTIST. VOLUNTEER with 2 yrs Sun. School. Love the kids. What I avoid line a virus is some church food. . My prayer is wellness of mind & body for boomers. A favorite yoga class often receives religious quotes. We arrive in comfortable clothes >bare our feet*****get on floor & stretch which clears m y mind. The silence of this experience is R E F R E S H I N G. My other endulgance is dancing. Line dancing. Shag dancing. I would love more dancing in my life. Here is another place I finder people to pray for & invite.

  10. says

    Thom, I appreciate your article. I’d like to share a great resource with this group. He is James Craver at FBC Allen, TX 972-727-8241
    james.craver@fbcallen.org

    James helped me several years ago when my own mother had dementia. He was the only minister who knew what to say to me and minister to me and my siblings. I too am a baby boomer.

    James has some exciting things to say about boomers. I interviewed him for a book I’m working on for Abbingdon Press. Sorry Thom, I know you are LifeWay but hey, they asked me. :) James has enough info that he could write a book on this subject. He does workshops all around the country. Email him or give him a call as this man has many suggestions about bringing the boomers into the church. He is teaching many boomers how to witness and bring their buddies to the Lord. Exciting times for ministry to boomers – for anyone reaching out to them.

    Linda Ranson Jacobs

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks for the info Linda. And congratulations on your book! There are many good Christian publishers and resource providers beyond LifeWay.

  11. james says

    Thank you Linda for your comments. I have a passion for leading small, medium. and large churches to enhance their “senior” (do not use-out of date)/Boomer ministry. It is possible to do both. I am in the process of a writing a book on Mature Adult Ministry. Please contact me if you have questions, etc. on Mature or Boomer ministry.

  12. John Shultz says

    Thank you. I have been burdened by this data for some time. I believe that there could be a new wave of revival within both groups of boomers and the remaining builders if we would internalize and contextualize this issues yo have address. This is so much the concern for me that as I begin a Ph.D. I am heading in this direction. My preliminary research is revealing that it is not only unchurched by de-churched boomers and builders that could be reached and or recovered.
    I would love to tap into existing research on de-churched boomers and builders.

    Thank you for your work,

    John Shultz

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