The rebellious generation may become the religious generation.
Baby boomers, those born between the years 1946 to 1964, are becoming more involved in church.
One of the most significant longitudinal studies (a study over many years) ever done provides a treasure trove of information for church leaders.
And one of the most significant findings is the increasing number of baby boomers becoming more involved in religious activity like churches.
This discovery is the major finding from the latest wave of data collected from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which was originally developed in 1970 at USC by then-assistant professor Vern Bengston. His successors have collected a ninth round of data in this 45-year study. The research was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
It is amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Here is the gem in the study: One in five boomers have increased their religious and church activity in the past few years.
Don’t take that statement lightly. Among the boomer generation, 20 percent are becoming more receptive to faith and church. That’s approximately 19 million boomers when the percentage is applied to the entire generation.
The study cited three major reasons for this shift:
- Boomers have more time, and they want to use that extra time pursuing a more meaningful life, including church.
- Boomers are becoming more aware of the brevity of life and are seeking answers to questions they had not previously asked.
- Boomers are more aware of the fragility of life. They don’t have the young and healthy bodies they once had. Such an awareness is driving them to find more meaning in the lives they do have.
Please, church leaders, don’t take this information lightly. I can’t recall a generation in my lifetime potentially returning to church in such numbers. The opportunities are incredible (maybe they are “groovy”).
How can we respond to this opportunity before us? Specifically, what can your church do to reach these more receptive boomers?
Let me hear your thoughts and ideas.
Posted on July 16, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
Where do we find those great songs we grew up with? Not the old hymns of our parents, but ones like “My Tribute”, “It Took a Miracle”, Because He Lives”, “Have a Little Talk with Jesus”, ….
Churches are often defined by their music: Traditional referring to the old hymns often from the 1800’s or Contemporay music of the 90’s and the Disco/laser lights of now. There is a large population of baby boomers who appear to be in the middle of a generation of “lost music” they loved. Is there a “church service” devoted to their generation of music? No. A “Vesper Service”? No. The songs of our generation were not sung in church services, but rather at special church events, youth rallies, conferences, etc.
Boomers grew up with rock and roll of Elvis and The Beattles….and religious music of John W. Peterson… Andre Crouch …Ralph Carmichael…Gaither’s….. Is it time to give up the old hymns and move up a generation or two? Would we see more boomers coming back in our churches if we had the music they grew up with, that was between the old hymns and the “contemporary/disco” of today? Boomers are in the middle. As a boomer, my “choice” of music is not the old hymns nor the new contemporary – so what do we call it and where can we get more of it? No church service has it. Even Google finds nothing for us!
Let’s face it, music stays in our minds! I walked through a memory care unit playing an instrumental recording of “Because He Lives”. Residents were baby boomers and most were singing the precise words. As I left, they were singing and clapping to “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” © 1975. Music lingers in our hearts! ( – even when the mind becomes impaired! )
One area churches do not do so well in is reaching Single Boomers, who very often report feeling estranged from the church. Four years ago I lost my spouse to cancer and fell out of “CouplesWorld” into the nether regions of Boomer singlehood. As “odd man out” it’s difficult to maintain the same connections and support structures. Sadly, I discovered a massive population of divorced Christians, struggling to find connection and stability, but plagued by feeling very much out of place in church. I was surprised by how many are operating as “Lone Ranger” Christians, and how many dislike attending church because they feel as if they are wearing the dreaded “Scarlet Letter ‘D’” embroidered across their chest. Married church members often seem ill-at ease in the presence of these “ bearers of shame.”
Last year I started a Boomer Singles Bible Study/Community Group in my now bachelor-pad home, which has been a wonderful experience of mutual care and relationship building. Fourteen of the 16 are divorced, many of them have suffered greatly, especially the women.
I would like to see more such Bible studies, but the reality of the demographics is that spiritually stable single males are significantly less numerous than females, and consequently commitment to providing a “safe” place is sometimes hard to bring about. My prayer is that there will be strong Christian Boomer couples that would step forward be willing to provide leadership in a context of accepting and care, that these wounded ones would receive healing and become more effective followers of Jesus Christ.