Relevant connection with the church: A generational series (part 1)
When church leaders are asked who they seek to attract through marketing, the usual answer is: We want to connect and communicate with families with young children.
Twenty years ago that meant designing programs for parents (in their late 20s or early 30s) with two kids. The church grew.
Each generation holds different attitudes about marriage, children, social causes and goals. Only by looking at each generation’s current life stage will we understand how the church can reach out and connect them to the love of Christ.
This will be a four-part series looking at four generations — baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. We’ll consider: who they are, what they believe, their needs and how we can reach them.
|Greatest Generation||Silent Generation||baby boomers||Gen X||millennials||Gen Z|
|Age Range (in 2019)||93+||74-92||55-73||40-54||25-39||4-24|
|% of Population||1.09%||9.21%||23.40%||20.79%||27.48%||18.01%|
Who are the boomers?
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964-ish, transformed the United States as they led families away from large cities to the more affordable and quiet suburbia. Changes in culture, race and class dynamics resulted.
Communities became more homogenized, and traditional community institutions disappeared as families turned inward. As baby boomers grew up, they rejected institutions and looked to transform society through the anti-war, civil rights and equal rights movements.
Boomers and the church
While baby boomers are often associated with the rejection or redefinition of traditional family values, the tide may be turning. Baby boomers are returning to church, so the “rebellious generation may become the religious generation.”
According to the latest data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, one in five boomers has increased their religious and church activity in the past few years. The study cites three major reasons for the shift:
- The desire to pursue a more meaningful life in the free time of retirement.
- Greater awareness of the brevity of life as they seek answers to big questions.
- An increased understanding of the fragility of life as age-related health issues set in.
Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church digs deeper into the question of what this means for the church and provides resources to better understand and support this generation.
Some churches may be missing an opportunity to reach aging boomers by focusing primarily on young families. Consider how to re-engage your community’s boomers into the life of the church by understanding what’s meaningful to them and build ministries that connect to their needs.
Ministry ideas to reach boomers
- Connection groups. Develop small groups or Sunday school classes aimed at boomer singles. Broadmoor United Methodist Church's class, the Fellowship, created a sense of community and belonging among boomer singles.
- Focus on sandwiched caregivers. Many boomers find themselves sandwiched between caring for elderly parents and adult children or even raising grandchildren. Look for ways to provide respite from caregiving or strategies to help their adult children grow more independent.
- Wellness programs. As boomers see their parents grow frail, they may become more desirous of preserving their own physical and mental health. Develop programs that can help them through walking groups, yoga or Christian meditation.
- Meaningful retirement. Baby boomers seek to put their career skills to work for meaningful changes in their church and community. Ask boomers to help build programs for social advocacy or mentoring.
- Financial stability. While boomers planned for retirement, they may still have unanticipated financial worries. Offer financial planning help for those who may be supporting parents or adult children.
- Travel. Coordinate group activities, both near (a regional or national park) and far (a tour of the Holy Land).
Communicating with boomers
Communicate with boomers in ways that are familiar. They’re open to multimedia messaging but respond better to a mixture of traditional tactics augmented with digital. Baby boomers have embraced Facebook, so be sure to invite them to follow and contribute regularly to your church Facebook page.
“Boomers are hungry for roots, a sense of belonging and an opportunity to serve, but they are even hungrier for spiritual nurture,” according to Boomerality.
If churches can tap into this desire to connect with God and greater meaning, we can build stronger faith communities for all generations.
This is part one of a four-part series discussing how the church can tailor its approach to connect with and reach generations in relevant and meaningful ways. Watch for part two in an upcoming issue of MyCom to uncover how to better connect with Generation X.
Eric Seiberling is part of a husband-wife duo working to help the church embody "1 > 99" at brokensheep.com. He leverages his 20+ years of marketing and consulting experience to help churches "baptize" and use secular techniques to be more effective at reaching the lost, the least and the last for Jesus Christ.