Church planters rarely think strategically about the Baby Boomer generation. Often, this results in church plants becoming disproportionally comprised of young adults. Baby Boomers (i.e., those born between 1946 and 1964) often find themselves overlooked. Why is this? And is this a mistake?
In two posts, we will wrestle with these two questions. We will begin by addressing the myth that Baby Boomers’ are, for the most part, a “reached” generation who do not need to be targeted. Next week, we will highlight the benefits of this generation and what this means for church planters.
So first, why are Boomers mostly overlooked?
The assumption goes something like this: ‘boomers are “church-goers” who have lived in their community for a long time and are at least nominal Christians with allegiance to a local church.’ ‘They are a group focused on retirement, less energetic, resistant to change, and not interested in experimenting with a new church.’ However, this line of thinking is seriously flawed.
One primary reason is numbers. There are more than 78 million Boomers who now account for more than 26% of the U.S. population. More than 43 million Boomers are age 65 or older and will continue to have a major impact on their communities and culture for at another 20-30 years. By raw numbers alone, Boomers must be part of any church that views itself as multi-generational body.
Alongside numbers, many Boomers are fundamentally unchurched. While many had some introduction to religion in their youth, Boomers have walked away from churches in droves during their adult years. The myth that most Boomers are church-goers is simply false. A 2011 Barna study found that over a ten year period, their church attendance dropped 12% (to 38%), Sunday school attendance dropped 9% (to 14%) and volunteering at church dropped 10% (to 18%). The same study revealed that only 38% of Boomers trusted the Bible in everything it teaches. The fact that they have some religious exposure but remain unchurched may mean they are a spiritually fertile group for a new church.
Boomers are actually part of the “new residents” of a community which comprise the 80% who attend new churches. Boomers are increasingly empty nesters retiring and choosing to live near their children. They are increasingly relocating to new communities and may be eager to try out new churches. In other words, many times Boomers themselves are the “new residents.”
Why not? If you are assuming they have a church home and a good grasp on the gospel, you should probably rethink the issue.