Books offer advice on retooling ministry to Baby Boomers

The 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964 have been a driving force behind many of the changes experienced in American culture. As they approached politics, fashion, child rearing and religion differently than their parents, author Amy Hanson observes, “It should therefore come as no surprise that they are approaching the later years of life in a different way than the generations before them.”

In her book Baby Boomers and Beyond, Hanson offers churches advice on harnessing the potential of a huge demographic shift by reinventing ministry to older adults.

“There are ways in which our churches have bought into the same mind-set as society—that younger is somehow better,” she writes. “Is it possible to be a vibrant, growing, active church that intentionally seeks to reach middle-aged and older adults?” she asks, offering guidance on looking at aging as “something good and desirable, with potential and possibility.”

In her chapter on “matters of faith,” Hanson considers how aging causes people to reflect and make changes. “They hope that in doing these things, they can find purpose for their life today and rectify mistakes they made in the past.”

Significant changes, a quest to find purpose in living, and the desire for meaningful relationships are factors that can draw older adults to Christ, she explains, offering methods for reaching boomer adults. By attending to their discipleship, Hanson calls on churches to count it a privilege as well as a responsibility to help older adults not waste the remaining years of their lives. 

Co-authors Bill Craig and Donna Gandy wrote Respect: Meaningful Ministry with Baby Boomers in Your Church and Community with the recognition that ministry to older adults will look radically different than it has in the previous generations.

Through hundreds of conversations with church members, Sunday School teachers, deacons, pastors, ministers of education, senior adult ministers and individuals who had no ongoing relationship with a local church, their research focused on “a generation that has changed every stage of life they’ve lived through—and every institution and organization of which they’ve been a part.”

A 2006 study by LifeWay Research found that more than two-thirds of formerly churched adults are open to the idea of attending church regularly again, even after staying away for an average of 14 years. Craig and Gandy offer ideas as to what would cause Baby Boomers to return to, remain with, or seek a relationship with the church. Biblically sound preaching and trained class leaders are two elements that stand out, along with flexibility in the timeframe of discipleship studies as well as serving opportunities.

“Boomers are not interested in just filling slots in church ministries,” the authors write. “Now that the nest is empty, and discretionary time more plentiful, they are seeking their heart ministry—ready to invest in a cause that truly matters,” drawing on experience acquired over previous decades.  

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