5 Implications for Churches as the Boomers Retire

They are the children of the 60s. There was a time they said you couldn't trust anyone over 30 . . . until they turned 30 themselves. Until the Millennials were born, they were the largest generation in America's history with over 76 million live births.

They are the Baby Boomers, or the Boomers, as they are typically called today.

On January 1, 2011, the first Boomer turned 65. In fact, on that day, 10,000 of them turned 65. And that pace of aging will continue until 2030, when every Boomer is 65 or older.

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The implications for churches are staggering. This generation is not of the mindset of previous aging generations. According to a Pew Research study, the typical Boomer does not believe old age begins until age 72. And the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.

So what are some of the implications for churches? Read these carefully. There are very few churches that will not feel the impact of retiring Boomers.

1. They will have less money to give to churches. Their predecessor generation, the Builders, have been the most generous to churches and other charitable organizations. But that oldest generation is fading quickly from the scene. Churches are already feeling the pain of the loss of income from that generation. And now another challenge is taking place. Boomers are retiring, which typically means lower income. And lower income means diminished giving to churches.

2. Some will have more volunteer time. But their retirement will break previous patterns. Many of these Boomers will continue to seek atypical retirement opportunities. There will be few "rocking chair" retirees among the Boomers. How can churches attract those Boomers who will have more discretionary time? Perhaps the next implication can answer that question.

3. Most of the Boomers still want to change the world. Many of them may be disillusioned after four decades of work that was not meaningful and life changing. But they still have the spirit of the 60s, a spirit that desires to be different and to make a difference. If congregations can offer retiring Boomers such opportunities, there could be a surge of Boomer church adherents.

4. Many of the Boomers will be traveling more. So some of our churches' most faithful attendees will be conspicuously absent as they have this new discretionary time. They will be traveling for pleasure, visiting grandchildren, and traveling to places where they believe they can make a difference.

5. Retiring Boomers will kill traditional church senior adult ministries. The primary reason is that most of them don't like to be categorized as senior adults. The secondary reason is they would be bored silly with some of the potlucks, travels, and activities of churches that attempt to keep their current senior adults happy.

Church leaders are confronted with many challenges in culture and in changing church practices. The pace of change can be frustrating. In the midst of all these changes, a huge generation is retiring. The implications for churches are nothing less than staggering.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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