Yes, I am one of the oldest Boomers, and I’d like at least to speak out for almost forty million Boomers born in the first half of the Boomer years (1946-1955), and what I say is probably true for the other 40 million born in the last half of the Boomer cycle (1956-1964). Almost eighty million Boomers!
Here’s how you will know if your church is putting Boomers out to pasture:
- You move your preaching minister out at age 59 for someone younger to attract a younger demographic.
- You decide to disregard the preferred worship styles of everyone over 50.
- No one over 50 teaches anyone younger than 50 in your educational program.
- Your “senior” ministry is mostly eating and social activities, carrying for the sick and home-bound, and singing “foot-stomping” gospel songs.
One out of every four persons in the United States is a Boomer! And the percentage in your church is probably much higher because the Boomers, though some wandered off momentarily during the 60s, returned to their churches shortly thereafter and have been faithful, though less traditional than their parents ever since. Can you really afford to dismiss one out four people in the general population?
Another reason not to dismiss the Boomers is because they aren’t going to quit working! Sixty-seven percent say they are either delaying retirement or will never retire! Every church longs for more involvement and investment of time by its members. Who has more time? The younger dads and moms with three kids under 12, trying to grow their career and their family? The parents of teenagers, trying to both work while running between school activities and ball games? Or the empty-nester Boomers?
Here’s another reason not to ignore your Boomers: “The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday” (Pew Research Center 2011). Another source cited, “Baby boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than half of all consumer spending.”
So let’s talk about who gives! And let’s talk about who will continue to give over the next 10-20 years! According to the Convio study (2010), the average Boomer contributes $901 per year, whereas a Gen Xer gives $796, and a Gen Yer $341 per year. Even though the individual difference between the Boomer and GenXer is not amazingly large, when you multiply that difference by the difference in group numbers, it makes a big difference! The annual total for Boomers is 47.1 billion compared to $28.68 billion for GenXers.
What I’m saying is that if you are already dismissing the Boomers, putting them out to pasture, then you are ignoring or retiring the most numerous and the most charitable people in your church, and those who have the most disposable time!
These are likely people who invented the word anti-establishment but who are probably still loyal to their tribe! Also, while being very sympathetic and eager to support the social justice causes about which their children care so deeply, the Boomers are still evangelistic and understand the need to carry the Gospel in word as well as deed.
Every generation has to pass the torch of leadership. Boomers will continue to be available for service, for leadership, and for active, meaningful participation in their church for twenty more years—and that’s a good thing!
Younger church leaders would do well to capitalize on this demographic in their churches, not caricature it!