Our son, Jon, who is a missionary in Southeast Asia, teaches fourth grade in a private school. Not long ago, he was teaching a unit on the changes that take place in our bodies as we get older. He found an app in some computer program that will take your selfie and “age” you to whatever level you choose. The class was fascinated by his picture. He then put it on facebook, describing what he had done. When I looked at the responses from his friends, I was surprised. So many responded, “Jon, you look like your dad!” I too had a reaction: “Do I really look that old?” and, “I really wish I had that much hair left.” It’s true. I’m a Baby Boomer. That makes me, and many people, part of the largest generational block of people alive today. Perhaps you are one of them. At least you know many of them. We Boomers were the generation, back in the day, that was never going to get old. No wonder Boomers are such consumers of age-defying products: skin creams, hair restoration, cosmetic surgery, Viagra, diet fads, juicers, joint replacements and energetic sports, like fantasy football!
However, recent research, conducted by Gallup, shows a spiritual dimension of aging Boomers. Denial of death is beginning to be taken over by reality. Even Boomers look in the mirror once in a while. And, if you’re wearing your glasses, even you can’t ignore the aging process forever, even if you’re a Boomer. Signing up for Medicare is a major wake-up call. Receiving your first AARP magazine can be a traumatic dose of reality. Becoming a grandma or a grandpa will tell you something about the ticking clock. Can you ignore the growing number of aches and pains?
Perhaps the greatest wake-up call for most Boomers is dealing with aging parents. When you face issues about nursing homes, you know, someday, you’re next. When you make funeral arrangements for mom or dad, you recognize, life doesn’t last forever, for you, either.
Sooner or later, the Baby Boomer faces the reality that in spite of the Boomer myth, someday, it will happen: “I could, possibly, perhaps, maybe….die”
This confluence of events has led to the Baby Boomerang. Baby Boomers who left church when life got busy chasing the American Dream are, in great numbers, returning to church. Likewise, Boomers who, for decades, checked “no religion,” are pausing to consider: “Is there more to life than this?” As one Boomer told me, “nothing like sitting through your mom’s funeral to spiritually sober you up.”
If you are already a Christian, what does this mean for you?
You know some unchurched Boomers. They might be your parents, neighbors, fellow workers. Invite them to a no pressure, no obligation, small group discussion that explains Christianity, without discussing “membership” issues about church. The best place to have this discussion is anywhere except a church building.
For those who are receptive and ready, (and tell you so), bring them to church. Don’t just invite them. For people who have been away for church for a while (or forever), it’s much easier to cross the holy threshold if you are by their side. Take them out for lunch after church. It will give them, (not you), an opportunity to debrief.
Watch for anything traumatic that happens in the life of a friend who is a Boomer: death of a parent, retirement from work, diagnosis of a health issue. These are what we call “God moments.” People are more open to God. The best thing you can do? Hospitality: invite them over, take them to dinner, go out for coffee. Listen to their story. Then, if they seem open, tell them your story, as a Christian. Share what God has done in your life—how you made it through some tough times, with God’s help.
In the next few years of the Baby Boomerang, your church could attract many who become regular attenders. What does this mean for your church?
Make sure you increase the number of parking spaces for handicap parking.
Whenever possible, reduce steps to climb. Use ramps or elevators.
Don’t make worship longer than an aging bladder. Or, provide an intermission break. (There are churches that do this: you can get coffee or use the restroom).
Make sure your sound system is the best. Especially watch out for echo that results from hard surfaces. Echoes irritate people with hearing aids or poor hearing. Echoes make it tedious to listen to a preaching message.
Exclude small print from any written materials.
Love Boomers that have drifted away from church. Love Boomers that are seeking a spiritual home. God does!
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.