Monday, 2 July 2012

Reaching Boomers

I am trying to get my head around this new emphasis on 'reaching Boomers'. It is being hailed as the great opportunity, as this generation starts to reach the age of retirement. I can see it is a big group of people, so it is a mission field. But they have been there for a long time. And all that time they have been clear about their attitude to Christian faith. They are the 'hinge' generation that most took the decision to sideline Christian faith / the Church within the social structures of society. Instead they embraced various forms of humanism, and eastern forms of spirituality insofar as these lent themselves to a highly individualised sense of who we are. For them to embrace Christian faith at this point in their lives involves coming to terms with the fact that the thing they have systematically demolished throughout their lives is the very thing that is the centre of truth and the answer to our society's ills. This is a tough choice. What is it that is likely to make them warm to Christian faith, at this point in their lives? They do not typically suffer from guilt that needs forgiveness (psychology has explained that as a kind of neurosis), or suffer from shame that needs acceptance and affirmation (generally Boomers have a strong sense of their own worth, and see Christianity as a threat to this). So why would they? They are the golden generation that holds a lot of the wealth of this country in their houses, bank accounts and pension pots, but who will continue to fight for their rights as pensioners to underpin their lifestyle. I can see why commercial markets are interested in this generation. I can see how the Church would benefit from a large influx of this generation into its pews. But I don't see any indication that it is happening, or likely to happen, through any forms of 'attractional church'. The Christian faith presents some serious challenges to this generation, in terms of what they have allowed our society to become. They are the business and banking leadership that has got us to where we are today. They feel they 'know' about Christianity and they feel they 'know' they don't want it. Is retirement really going to put them into a place of crisis, that might make them think again about their priorities and values, and perhaps rewrite their view of life?


  1. Perhaps the chill winds of austerity, or the cold hand of mortality may awaken them

    1. Hi Graham: yes, perhaps. Death is an interesting one. I always feel ambivalent about death-bed conversions – everything to gain (possibly), and nothing to lose. And of course it does nothing for the overall Christian mission. I also don’t think this generation is afraid of death, only of the experience of dying. They have spent a lifetime telling themselves there is nothing to fear after death. I think they will mostly go down bragging about it.

      And the Boomers will be least affected by austerity, as they have disproportionate amounts of this world’s goods stored up for themselves.

      So I am still looking for the natural 'way in' in terms of Christian faith, the 'resonance' that provides a kind of bridge for the gospel. And it might be that the 'resonance' is a challenge rather than a form of attraction.

  2. Glad that you're blogging, and as a boomer who finds opportunity to talk to my age group about life beyond the 'generativity/stagnation' axis, I have been thinking much about this new 'mission field'. We are a powerful force in this Western society...