One of the big challenges for many evangelical churches at present is the large cohort of Baby Boomers who make up the mix of people who participate in our churches. Many churches that embraced a contemporary approach to worship in the 1980’s now have a reasonable cohort of baby boomers. There are many challenges and many opportunities associated with this phenomenon. At St Hilary’s we have several hundred baby boomers. What this means is that we are now seeking to minister to multiple generations in the same congregation at the same time while still seeking to be family friendly and attractive to younger families. As you are probably aware this is a big challenge! One of my colleagues Mark McDonald has done some interesting thinking in this space.
As a Baby Boomer myself I’d like to think that I’ve got the right outlook about the future so that I can continue to learn and grow as well as contribute for many years to come. I recently wrote to following piece for our church newsletter, which captures something of this unique challenge for me and many others.
‘The Age newspaper recently ran an article suggesting that by 2057 the average life expectancy for newborn girls born in the UK will be 100. 50 percent of today’s 20 year olds can expect to live to 100. In response two English writers, Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton have just written a book ‘The 100-Year life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.’ The book is an examination of the seismic shifts that will – must – occur as the population ages.
“We are saying we have a tremendous opportunity to use this amazing gift of time, but we must do so wisely and that means the deferral of gratification: saving more, exercising more and eating less.’
‘Personal reinvention in all spheres will be very much part of the new world order. The 100-Year Life focuses on a protracted ‘juvenescence’, or state of being youthful, open, flexible and adaptable to change.’ The Age June 7, 2016
I, personally, like the idea of ‘personal juvenescence’. If God blesses me with a longer life than I had previously mentally expected then one needs to be juvenescent to embrace it. It needs to be added, of course, that it is the Lord who numbers our days and none of us knows how long that will be. Not all will enjoy good health and some will face significant challenges in growing older due to health challenges. At the same time as the authors suggest we need to be thinking about these extra years the Lord may bless us with and be open to new possibilities as we move into the third phase of life 1-30 years (Childhood to Young Adulthood) 30-60 years (Adulthood) 60-90plus years (Mature Adulthood).
As a faith community we have a smaller percentage of people who in the past were referred to as ‘Seniors’ compared to most churches. At the same time we have quite a group of people who have retired in recent years or who are/will be retiring from full time work either at present or shortly. Over time our percentage of ‘Seniors’ will become larger. All of this has significant implications for the shape of our ministries as well as how we continue to renew our churches life. There are many new possibilities but also many new challenges for us as a church. One of the most obvious will be how we sustain our ministry financially.
If we are to be juvenescent both personally as well as a church then we can each benefit from being members of a cross generational community where we mix with younger people as well as our peers. As a church we have a strategic priority called ‘Boom’. The idea is to support people to pray, plan and think creatively about these extra years that God is blessing them with. We want to be a community that is committed to extending God’s kingdom in all sorts of ways especially amongst those who are being given the gift of extra time in this life?’