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    Is it too Late to Reach the Baby Boomers?

    Is it too Late to Reach the Baby Boomers?

    Baby boomers—arguably the largest segment of the population—are entering their retirement years at an unprecedented rate. With more discretionary time and increased longevity, this group is searching for a way to make a meaningful impact with their lives.

    One of Leadership Network's newest book is titled Baby Boomers and Beyond, and it explores the opportunities and challenges that the older adult population presents for the Christian community. Author Amy Hanson dares church leaders to let go of stereotypes about aging and embrace a new paradigm, that older adults are for the most part active, healthy, and capable of making significant contributions for the Kingdom of God.

    Hanson offers a realistic view of the boomers and reveals what matters most to this age group: staying young, juggling multiple relationships, and redefining retirement. By tapping into their needs, pastors can engage this burgeoning group and unleash the power of the boomer generation to enhance and strengthen the mission of the church.

    The book digs into the questions that arise when working with this growing population. How do we let go of "one-size-fits-all" ministry? What spiritual growth can we encourage? How do we meld multiple generations? And, most important, how do we harness the potential of this new generation? These are important considerations for those who want to be serious about ministering with aging boomers.

    Baby Boomers and Beyond contains numerous illustrative examples from churches and baby boomers across the country and offers church leaders best practices to put in motion.

    Learn more about the author at her website www.amyhanson.org

    Comments

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    1. CS on Wed, August 04, 2010

      “Hanson offers a realistic view of the boomers and reveals what matters most to this age group: staying young, juggling multiple relationships, and redefining retirement. By tapping into their needs, pastors can engage this burgeoning group and unleash the power of the boomer generation to enhance and strengthen the mission of the church.”

      What about their greatest need of reconciliation with God?  If we’re enticing people by appealing to their, “felt needs,” by promising things that pertain to their desires like, “staying young, juggling multiple relationships, and redefining retirement,” we’re drawing them in with another gospel and something other than the primary reason they should come to church—Jesus Christ.


      CS

    2. Amy Hanson on Wed, August 04, 2010

      CS,

      Great point.  First and foremost, as I point out in the book, boomers need to have a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ultimately this is the only way to age well.  I spend an entire chapter talking about some of the spiritual pitfalls of boomers and the need to challenge them in their faith. 

      With that said, it is always a good idea to understand where people are coming from.  In order to build relationships with boomers we need to understand those things that are pressing on their minds - health, staying young, relationships with adult children, aging parents and grandchildren, concerns about retirement, etc. 

      One way to help boomers and older adults grow spiritually is to make sure we are including examples and illustrations in our sermons and lessons that apply to what is happening in their lives.  For example, when talking about living unselfishly as Christ did, we might mention how the culture teaches us that retirement is about being focused on oneself and living a life of leisure, but God sees the retirement years as a time to use your gifts, experience, and talents to make a significant Kingdom impact.  And then, you might even go a step further and give an example of someone who is serving on the mission field or heading up a project for the local homeless shelter.

      Thanks for your comment and thank you, Todd, for this post about my new book. 

      I’d love to dialogue here with any MMI readers who want to discuss ministry with this segment of the population.

    3. CS on Wed, August 04, 2010

      Amy:

      Thanks for replying back.  I read the sample chapter and your response and had a few questions.

      “First and foremost, as I point out in the book, boomers need to have a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ultimately this is the only way to age well. I spend an entire chapter talking about some of the spiritual pitfalls of boomers and the need to challenge them in their faith.”

      But do you take any time to discuss what makes a true Christian, or are you just saying, “Jesus will help you age better?”  I ask only because in seeing my own folks and their friends going through this time in their lives (many as false converts), Jesus as a life accessory for aging won’t help.  And, the sample chapter seemed more focused on statistics than this focus.

      “With that said, it is always a good idea to understand where people are coming from.  In order to build relationships with boomers we need to understand those things that are pressing on their minds - health, staying young, relationships with adult children, aging parents and grandchildren, concerns about retirement, etc.”

      I can agree with this, under the umbrella of the local church.  It’s always wise knowing with whom you are pastoring.

      “One way to help boomers and older adults grow spiritually is to make sure we are including examples and illustrations in our sermons and lessons that apply to what is happening in their lives.”

      Does this mean that the focus of the preaching is on the audience, or on Christ?


      CS

    4. Peter Hamm on Thu, August 05, 2010

      CS,

      Not such a great point.

      I remember a fellow who fed maybe 10,000 people he was preaching to. Ministered to felt needs… then he also ministered to eternal needs…

      Can’t recall the name… rhymes with cheeses or something…

      I think you’re looking to find fault again, not just engaging it as you happen upon it…

      But bless you anyway.

    5. Amy Hanson on Thu, August 05, 2010

      Thanks for reading the first chapter.  Chapter 8 is the one I was referring to in my earlier comment that deals specifically with spiritual issues.

      What we are talking about is discipleship.  We must not make the mistake of assuming that because someone is older they are already a mature Christian.

      And, hey, if you’ve got parents in this age group, I hope you will take the time to read the entire book. (Smile) I think it would be helpful.

    6. CS on Thu, August 05, 2010

      Peter:

      “I remember a fellow who fed maybe 10,000 people he was preaching to. Ministered to felt needs… then he also ministered to eternal needs…”

      There’s a radical difference between using supernatural powers to heal the lame and the sick and feeding people and teaching people how to, “juggle multiple relationships.”  The, “felt needs,” those people in the Bible encountered weren’t just felt—they were crippling diseases, blindness, starvation.  Contrast this with the felt needs of today’s churches which are usually nothing more than addressing the ego.

      “I think you’re looking to find fault again, not just engaging it as you happen upon it…”

      The reason that this particular post hits home is because my dad, a boomer, is dying and has a few short months left to live.  When it comes to the matter of his salvation, there is some ambiguity in his life, with a lifestyle of sin that did not match his profession of faith.  So when I’m reading about all of these techniques for appealing to boomers, yet not making the main thing the main thing, it makes me worry about all of the other boomers out there who come to churches for the wrong reasons.


      CS

    7. Peter Hamm on Thu, August 05, 2010

      I really feel for you with your Dad. Talk to him. NOW.

      But CS, you assume that everybody who ministers to felt needs as a doorway to sharing the Gospel isn’t sharing the Gospel.

      We are.

      And if they are coming to the church for the wrong reason… that doesn’t necessarily imply that the church is wrong in its approach. you often assume it does imply that.

    8. CS on Thu, August 05, 2010

      Peter:

      “I really feel for you with your Dad. Talk to him. NOW.”

      You know me well enough by now to know I’ve been doing this for a while with him.  =)

      “But CS, you assume that everybody who ministers to felt needs as a doorway to sharing the Gospel isn’t sharing the Gospel.”

      I will say that I believe the majority of people who use felt needs as the draw card to bring them into a church never get around to the Gospel, yes.  But I would not exclude everyone who decides to use this particular avenue in bringing people in the door; like you say, your church does that, and I have no reason to doubt you. 

      It all goes to that maxim of, “What you use to bring them in is what you have to use keep them there.”  And if we’re using felt needs, giveaways, entertainment, or anything other than Jesus Christ, and Him as the focal point, then that’s where the problems reside.


      CS

    9. Peter Hamm on Thu, August 05, 2010

      CS: [I will say that I believe the majority of people who use felt needs as the draw card to bring them into a church never get around to the Gospel, yes.] But really, how valid is this, even. Is it possible you are merely using a representative sample of very high-profile churches to base your belief on what the rest are doing? Not only that, but is it possible you are only basing this belief on a PERCEPTION of what these churches are doing based on what you can gather in the internet and such, since I doubt you have attended any of them regularly?

      And you’re right, I did assume that you’ve talked with your Dad.

      Lastly, the maxim you quote is only true if you’re only looking to fill seats week after week and not to see God change people.

      in any case, bless you today!

      Peter

    10. CS on Thu, August 05, 2010

      Peter:

      “But really, how valid is this, even. Is it possible you are merely using a representative sample of very high-profile churches to base your belief on what the rest are doing? Not only that, but is it possible you are only basing this belief on a PERCEPTION of what these churches are doing based on what you can gather in the internet and such, since I doubt you have attended any of them regularly?”

      You’re right in that my perception is totally subjective and non-authoritarian, based mainly off of a limited set of information available from the Internet.  The only appeal I can make to it is in using some derivative logic.

      Let’s assume that for every, “Class-1,” megachurch pastor (Warren, Hybels, Osteen, Jakes, Young Jr., etc.) that there are only a mere 1000 pastors who emulate their methodology and teaching.  And let’s assume that for every, “Class-2,” megachurch pastor (Noble, Furtick, A. Stanley, Rizzo) there are only 200 or so pastors who emulate them.  Assuming that those guys at the top who engage in the practice of felt needs are setting the course for the guys below, wherein those felt needs become the lure into church and the attraction for filling seats and the Gospel is not being actively shared (not to necessarily say those men to whom I refer do or do not do that), then there would be thousands of smaller churches in the country who emulate them, expanding it very prolifically.  That would give credence to my statement.  But, perhaps it is too far of a leap of logic.

      “Lastly, the maxim you quote is only true if you’re only looking to fill seats week after week and not to see God change people.”

      Going back to leaps of logic, some pastors believe that just because the pews are full, people raise their hands and say a prayer, have their lives changed, and even get baptized means that those people are soundly saved.  That’s the problem.


      CS

    11. Peter Hamm on Thu, August 05, 2010

      CS,

      I think you’re assumptions are maybe the problem. I’ve been in churches that you might guess from the outside are “emulating” Saddleback or Willow or Northpoint. Nope. We’re not.

      Anybody who’s read “Purpose Driven Church” for instance, would find that Warren SPECIFICALLY instructs the reader NOT do just do what he does. Fact is, you might be surprised at how many people actually do take that advice.

      We’re not trying to be Willow or Saddleback or Northpoint. We unapologetically borrow from their thinking in many areas, but you continue to make assumptions, I think, about what that means, that are, again imho, flawed.

      Blessings,
      Peter

    12. Leonard Lee on Thu, August 05, 2010

      Amy,

      I look forward to reading this book.  I am just having some of the boomers in my church retire and many chewing on how to make the most of what God has given them.  One very important piece for us is discipleship.  Helping people disciple others.  I can’t wait to read the whole book.

      CS, praying for your dad.

    13. Amy Hanson on Fri, August 06, 2010

      Leonard,
      I’ll be anxious to hear what you glean from the book.  And just so you know, I’ve written a free discussion guide to go along with the book that you can download at my website.  amyhanson.org

      Blessings,
      Amy

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