By Danny Hedgepeth
There is a large group of Americans who have been resistant to hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are unchurched Baby Boomers who were born from 1946 to 1964. This group represents almost 20 percent of the United States general population.
Many books were written in the 1980s and 1990s on methods of evangelism to reach Boomers. Despite all of our efforts, almost one half of all Baby Boomers have no contact with a local congregation.
The next 10-15 years will be a time of dramatic change for boomers. Their lives are going to be disrupted by health issues associated with aging. Shortage of retirement funds will force many boomers to continue working well past the traditional time of retirement. Increased mobility in our society has separated some aging boomers from their immediate families by hundreds of miles.
These challenges will open new doors of opportunity for the Christian community to share hope. Here are some ways we can connect with unchurched boomers in the next few years.
- Consider some alternative plans for Senior Adult ministries. Many aging boomers do not respond well to traditional Senior Adult ministries. They consider themselves “youthful” well into their late sixties. Creative outreach events like “Retro-Proms” and “Trivial Pursuit” tournaments appeal to the boomer’s desire to remember yesterday and build new relationships within the Christian community.
- Rethink your worship music to include a hymn arrangement. It is amazing that boomers who have not attended church in years still desire to sing traditional songs of worship. If your worship services are now all contemporary worship music, consider the inclusion of one or two hymn arrangements.
- Consider expanding your Shut-in ministry. Most congregations have a wonderful ministry of visitation to church members who cannot physically attend worship services. Over the next ten years aging boomers are going to need help caring for family members who are aging. They will be forced to seek help from volunteer organizations due to dwindling resources. Consider building a team of people who will offer respite care to unchurched boomers and their families.
- Look for opportunities in social media to connect with unchurched boomers. Seventy percent of all boomers have a Facebook account and high rate of participation. Church announcements and welcome messages are important for boomers to gain a comfort level to make their first visit to a local church.
- Train your worship greeters in the proper way to welcome attenders who are caring for a family member. Presently there is an increasing number of families caring for someone at home. Many of these people will want to participate in a local worship service. Some boomers’ only option of attending church will be to bring their family members with them. Make sure your local congregation is prepared and ready to welcome these people into your worship service.
- Look for new opportunities of ministry to boomers during the loss of a family members. People are increasing choosing alternative ways to memorialize the loss of a family member instead of traditional funeral services. Ask a boomer who has lost their spouse if your church could share a meal, or possibly do a moment of acknowledgement during a worship service. Boomers are appreciative of genuine concern shown during times of loss.
- Consider a ministry to the “inactive” and “nonresident” members of your church. There is a hidden mission field within the inactive membership rolls of our churches. Many of these people are aging boomers who have not attended church in 25-50 years. They have not responded to our outreach efforts. Some congregations have ceased to contact these people. A simple investment of an occasional email, phone call, or letter could open the door of evangelism into the lives of unchurched boomers during a time of need.
Recently we had the opportunity to celebrate believer’s baptism with a married couple in their sixties who had not attended church in many years. This husband and wife were both working and had the opportunity to travel and accumulate retirement funds. A crisis in their lives was the catalyst for them to begin thinking about their relationship with God.
They told me, “We knew it was time to come home.” It has been a joy to see this couple grow spiritually, and their desire to become devoted followers of Christ.
There will be a lot of aging boomers who want to find “home” in the next ten years. Let’s be prepared to open the door and welcome them in!