Posted by: craigbill | August 16, 2009

Different Yesterday—Different Tomorrow

What was the church like when Boomers were teens? Here’s the story of a friend of mine when she was a teen in Southern California:

You couldn’t even see the church from the road. It was set in a ravine. A solitary rectangular building surrounded by the barren brush of a Southern California arroyo, it housed the sanctuary (we didn’t call it a worship center back then), four classrooms (one doubled as the kitchen), the nursery, and restrooms. Brush-covered patios served as additional Sunday School space. This was the church of my baby boomer youth—an unlikely training camp for church leaders of the future.

Even in the Baptist pioneer territory of Southern California, teenaged Baby Boomers were making their mark and putting pressure on the ministries of developing churches. Our parents and church leaders knew that something had to be done to help us grow in our faith and keep us engaged in active church involvement. Our church could not employ the leadership of a seminary trained staff minister or budget for a full time program of activities, but under the guidance of a volunteer youth leaders (a privilege rotated among our parents), we maintained an active youth group comprised of about twelve teens from 3-4 church families and a few friends from school.

Though our number was small, we were expected to be regular attenders in Sunday School and prepared to present our “parts” in Training Union. We looked forward to Sunday night youth fellowships (rotating weekly in our homes), and youth choir (6 girls and 2 guys)—all led with lots of loving attention from a cadre of adults who kept their eye on us, inside church, and out. Additional activities included the Youth for Christ (YFC) rally every Saturday night, with Bible study team meetings during the week to prepare for the heated competition at the rally. YFC choir practice and off-campus prayer meetings rounded out the week. Each summer we would participate in the associational youth camp. In addition to the youth activities, my small church provided me the opportunity to serve as church pianist, GA (Girl’s Auxiliary) leader, soloist, Beginners (now known as Preschool) Sunday School teacher, and even church secretary—all before I reached the age of seventeen.

I know that this was not the typical church experience of Boomer teens in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Back in the southern and mid-western Bible Belt, there were big red brick churches framed by massive white columns, with huge sanctuaries, large choirs, multiple buildings, and even paid youth ministers on staff. To accommodate the escalating influx of Baby Boom teenagers, their youth programs came complete with touring youth choirs, youth musicals, youth groups, youth retreats, youth camps, and youth trips, not to mention the standard programs: youth Sunday School, Training Union, and missions organizations.

Donna’s observation is interesting. Even in California, where her church was smaller than Bible Belt churches, boomers were changing what happened in the church.

They’ve changed the church with every decade and life stage. Burgeoning nurseries when they were born, professionally staffed youth ministries when they were teens, the rise and growth of mega churches when they were young adults—every step of the way they’ve changed the expression of church in the U.S.

What will they do for the expression of church in the future? How will they change ministry to older adults? How will they transition out of leadership roles? What are you doing to prepare right now for those changes that are coming?

In the next few posts, we’ll explore some of the changes that are coming.

What changes have you seen already in the members in your church that are in the boomer population? Leave a comment, let me know.

Join me in the conversation.

Let’s reach our generation, in this generation, for Jesus Christ.

Posted by: craigbill | August 9, 2009

Eye Opening Conversations

When LifeWay decided to research Boomers and their relationship to the church we had some wonderful conversations with a lot of great people. In the next few posts I’ll share some of the most attention-grabbing things they told us. Those were eye-opening conversations.

As eye-opening as it was for us at LifeWay, I wish you could have seen the eyes and faces of church leaders—especially those church leaders who were younger than Baby Boomers. When they began to think through the questions we asked about what boomers in their congregations and communities were doing in relationship to the church, and what it would be like five or ten years down the road, it was like a light bulb going on. I can’t begin to count the number who sat back, looked us in the eye and said something like, “I hadn’t even given this a thought. But these people have been the heart of our church leadership, giving, and ministry/programming. They’re already beginning to disconnect, but I didn’t realize that this was going to become a trend. Tell me, what should I do?”

I didn’t realize that this was going to become a trend. Tell me, what should I do?

That’s what we’ll be doing with this blog. Looking at Boomers, the trends affecting their lives and their relationship to your church.

Interested in learning more? Here’s an interesting article to help you examine some myths about Baby Boomers. This article is based on research from AARP’s Focalyst Forum, dedicated to researching boomers, on a marketing website. Yes—it’s secular marketing research, but there’s a lot in this article that will help us understand the Boomers in our pews and in our communities.

Join me in this coversation.

Let’s win our generation, in our generation, for Jesus Christ.

Posted by: craigbill | August 2, 2009

How Will We (Boomers) Be Remembered

I was just getting ready to launch this new blog site for Boomer Ministry and found an article from Forbes by John Zogby that addresses one of the key findings in LifeWay’s Research about the Boomer generation.

Boomers told us:

“I am trying to leave a legacy behind that is not monetary, that is not materialistic.”

“I’m definitely thinking about retirement and what these years ahead of me can mean to the kingdom. I want to remain faithful and end well.”

More than half the boomers we talked to are very concerned with this issue of investing their time in something that really matters in the years ahead—and in leaving a legacy that is not about material things.

Boomers are concerned about what their legacy will be. I can tell you this much—they won’t be satisfied with leaving a legacy of “consumerism and self-indulgence.” And they will be fighting to change that perception. Will your church help them?

Join me in this conversation.

Let’s reach our generation, in our generation, for Jesus Christ!

Posted by: craigbill | July 30, 2009

This New Blog — Who Needs Another Blog

So what is this new blog about? We’re going to generate conversation about a new ministry opportunity that will be inventing itself for the next twenty years. We know, for example, the really big issues in the lives of boomers. Here’s just a few of the transitional issues, the leading edge older boomers are facing.

Sandwiched. Many are sandwiched between aging parents and “boomerang” kids who are still looking to Mom and Dad for some or all of their financial support.
Facing health issues. Mostly just minor, but the aches and pains and medical conditions of aging are starting to begin to affect the way they live.
Recareering. Some have options to consider for how they will spend the next ten to twenty years—will they continue to work at the same place in the same occupation they’ve had since their early adult years, or will they start a new career, start their own business, join a humanitarian cause, or just leave work behind altogether while they travel the world and experience the life they’ve always dreamed of.
Traveling for family. Many have grandchildren—most in another city. How will they stay active in church since they are going to be traveling several times a month to go visit those grandchildren.
Seeking meaning. Most adults who’ve reached this stage in life have acquired many skills and talents—some are the most highly educated and trained people who will ever be a part of your church. They’re no longer satisfied to greet people on Sunday mornings, collect the offering, or assist with ministries at the church that they’ve been involved in for years. They want to engage in activities that are meaningful—meaningful to them.
Financial crises. Some boomers are financially secure. But some have gotten to the age when they thought they would be able to retire and take it easy, and they find themselves deeply in debt and unprepared for retirement. They are shocked by the bleak outlook for the next few years of their lives.

These are just a few of the immediate issues the leading edge boomers are facing. These and many other life issues will begin to shape and define the kind of relationship that boomers will have with your church. Which problems should you seek to address first? How can your church help? Who will take the lead with ministry to these folks? How can you make the ministry you offer them meaningful? How will gain their attention and respect?

That’s what this blog is about.  Join me in this conversation.

Let’s reach our generation, in our generation, for Jesus Christ!

Posted by: craigbill | July 30, 2009

Boomer Ministry

The meeting started out like any of the dozens of large meetings at LifeWay I’ve attended over the years. We had a prayer for the needs of our co-workers and friends, and sat through an update of how well we were accomplishing our ministry and business goals. Then the tone of the meeting changed. John Kramp, the vice-president of our division, began to challenge us with his vision of the work and ministry we need to do over the next twenty years to accomplish our mission of serving churches.

Twenty years—that grabbed my attention. Long range planning for LifeWay is usually three to five years.

Then John really startled me. He displayed a copy of an upcoming edition of Open Windows, LifeWay’s oldest devotional guide for adults. On the cover was a photograph of two beautiful, peaceful-looking swans. Now, I love the ministry and history of this devotional guide. In fact, if my memory serves me, I had even written one week of the devotions in this particular edition.

But what John said next was the real shock. “What we’ve been doing for senior adults just isn’t relevant for the next generation of adults who are approaching this stage in life.

And John was right.

There’s a big change coming for churches related to Baby Boomers—and most churches haven’t recognized it yet. Twenty years from now, ministry to older adults in our churches will be radically different. Bus tours, Gospel quartet concerts, and monthly pot-luck lunches are not going to cut it for Boomers.

We must focus our attention on a generation of adults that has changed every stage of life they’ve lived through, and every institution and organization of which they’ve been a part. Churches must understand the changes that are coming with this generation of adults and discover how they can be effective in keeping, reaching, and ministering to the baby boomer adults in their congregations and communities in the years ahead.

Join me in this conversation.

Let’s reach our generation, in our generation, for Jesus Christ!