Verenigde Pinkster- en Evangeliegemeenten   Zoek Contact opnemen

Zoek in WBP

Contact met WBP

Wat is WBP?

WBP Tutorial



WBP Producten




Terug naar het overzicht van gemeenteopbouwartikelen

The baby boomer, Sunday school and God

By Steve R. Mills

On January 1, 1946, one second after midnight, Kathleen Casey Wilkins, the first baby boomer, was born in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. Between that moment and midnight December 31, 1964, 76 million more babies were born. The explosive number of births gave this generation the name "baby boomers" ("Nationline," USA Today, January 1, 1988).

The grandparents of the boomers are called the "survivor generation." They lived through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. Their mentality is that of survival.

The parents of the baby boomers are called the "consumer generation." This generation of Americans experienced the greatest economic and industrial expansion in the history of civilization. Prosperity and materialism led them away from the church.

The Boomers' Uniqueness

The baby boomers have many subgroups, but they are united in attitude and perspective by common cultural experiences. They remember campus riots, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, the Beatles, and Vietnam.

Their uniqueness results from several factors. They are:

  1. The first generation to be raised on television.
  2. The first generation to be raised largely with absentee fathers.
  3. The most educated generation in history.
  4. The wealthiest yet most indebted generation in history.
  5. The first generation whose grandparents had little influence on their life preparation and job skills.
  6. The first generation that can't afford to live at the standard in which they were raised.
  7. The first generation to live under the threat of nuclear war.
The Boomers' Belief System

The church and Sunday school must understand baby boomers before it can effectively reach and minister to them. In his book, The Baby Boomerang, Doug Murren says there are at least nine aspects of the boomer's belief system that must be understood if the church and Sunday school's ministry approaches and methods are to have any impact on them.

Boomers are not belongers. They are not as interested in membership as they are in participation. They are more interested in the individual than the institution.

Boomers detest formality. They are looking for a church that provides warm, friendly environment for developing relationships, yet is casual and practical in its approach to life. They have a low sense of denominational loyalty and won't tolerate anyone putting guilt trips on them because they are not committed to the institutional church.

Boomers have grown up wanting experience rather than theory. They want to experience life personally rather than be told about it. Their approach to spiritual life is no different. John Naisbitt, in Megatrends 2000, says that the decade of the 90s will be a time in which people will seek a "spiritual experience."

Boomers come to church to get something applicable to their lives. They are interested in how-to sermons and teaching. They look for relevancy, not simple, pat answers.

Boomers expect women to be treated as equals and to be given leadership roles. Husband and wife teams in ministry are a great way to help meet this expectation.

Boomers want the contribution of singles to be celebrated and expected. By the year 2000, singles will comprise more than 50 percent of the adult population over 18 years old. Churches must accept, understand, and minister to the diversity and needs of singles. The church must be willing also to encourage the contribution of singles to the life and ministry of the church.

Boomers believe that the high level of dysfunctionality within their group needs to be addressed. They have grown up with major life problems: alcohol and drug abuse, broken homes, and sexual promiscuity. One in four women has been sexually abused. Deliverance, recovery, and support groups are part of the healing process. Sunday school classes that function as recovery and support groups should be very effective.

Boomers applaud innovation. They like to try new, adventurous things. They enjoy variety and spontaneity, expect challenge, and despise mediocrity.

Boomers have a sense of destiny. They want to make a difference. They support what they feel will make the greatest impact. They are looking for a cause that is challenging and worthy of commitment. They are active rather than passive in their general approach to life. They are busy and want to stay that way. Time is more important than money to them. Therefore, they will get involved in what they feel is the best use of their time.

The Boomer and God

The baby boomer is returning to church. In the 1970s only 33 percent of the people in this age group attended church or synagogue. Today nearly 43 percent of persons born between 1946 and 1958 attend religious services. But they are not returning to just any church. Jack Simms, a nationally known authority on the baby boom, lists 10 characteristics common in churches that are effective in reaching the baby boom generation:

  1. They are open to a spiritual experience.
  2. Their Bible teaching stresses practical living.
  3. They place a healthy emphasis on relationships.
  4. They have fewer titles and less formality.
  5. They understand the new family in America.
  6. They share their faith by what they say and do.
  7. They recognize the ability of women.
  8. They place an emphasis on worship.
  9. They have a high tolerance for diversity.
  10. They are action-oriented.

Simms suggests that the church that wants to reach baby boomers should evaluate itself on a scale of 1-10 in each category listed above.

If the score is:

  • 65 or less -- The church needs dramatic improvement.
  • 66 to 80 -- The church is not doing badly.
  • 81 or more -- Folk will miss the NFL pregame show and arrive 30 minutes early to get a parking spot.

Robert Bast adds the following as characteristic of a church that attracts the baby boomers:

  1. A strong worship focus.
  2. A meaningful educational program for all ages.
  3. An orientation toward experience and practical action rather than intellectual and theoretical approaches.
  4. A high degree of tolerance and an acceptance of diversity.
  5. An emphasis on inclusion, with a particular concern to include women and newcomers in leadership.
  6. An informal style that is highly relational.
How can your church and Sunday school
reach baby boomers?

Let me suggest at least six ways:

  1. Provide multiple options in programs and ministries. Elective classes give options and choices. In a society where people are struggling with major life problems, such as alcoholism, addictions of many kinds, and immorality, recovery and support groups provide a positive means to health and growth. Some classes can meet at different times during the week other than the traditional Sunday school time. With a class or group meeting on Tuesday night, as well as the normal Sunday school time, more people might become involved. The traditional concept of church and Sunday school must give way to new methods and approaches to reach this generation.
  2. Keep the teaching practical, positive, and personal. The self-help and how-to sections of a bookstore reveal subjects of interest, such as how to have a happier marriage, how to be a better parent, how to manage your money, how to deal with your job and boss, how to deal with life problems and addictions, how to deal with your past successfully, and how to know that the Bible is God's Word. In a world marked by hopelessness, the good news is that Jesus is the answer. But we must present the good news in everyday terms to which people can relate.
  3. Provide opportunities for relationships to develop. In an impersonal, high-tech society, people are searching for a place in which they feel loved, cared for, and significant. Sunday school classes need to be structured so people have time to develop significant relationships. This can be done in small group interaction during the class, by fellowship time before class, or by group activities outside of class. Three things can help you have a successful class----a coffee pot, good discussion, and ministry to personal needs of those in the class. These help build a sense of community, a need which this generation feels.
  4. Develop active lay ministry involvement. The baby boomer wants to make a difference. These people will give time to things they feel make the most difference. Causes that stimulate action include social problems, children, poverty, abortion, illiteracy, elder care, substance abuse, AIDS, and environmental protection. The Sunday school class can take advantage of these interest areas and use them for ministry and evangelism.
  5. Cultivate a casual, informal atmosphere. People are looking for a place where they can be themselves. The Sunday school class can be relaxed, informal, and interactive by using more participation and less lecture. Even the way people dress can cause the atmosphere to be cold and formal. Let people know you are more interested in them as individuals than you are about how they dress.
  6. Develop a quality children's ministry. The decline of the nuclear family, the growing divorce rate, working mothers, single parent families, mixed families, and economic hardships on families provide great opportunities for the church to minister. The church and Sunday school that provide quality ministry for children attract baby boomers. Emphasize children and provide special ministries and activities for them. Train and equip workers to provide the highest quality ministry possible, and baby boomers will be excited about their children's involvement.

The church cannot cater to every whim of the baby boom generation. Yet to ignore or refuse to be attentive to their needs and desires will render the church ineffective. To understand, adapt, and change will help us reach this generation.

If you want to do more study about baby boomers and how to reach them, see the following:

  1. The Baby Boomerang by Doug Murren, Regal Books.
  2. Help! I'm a Baby Boomer by Hans Finzel, Victor Books.
  3. Dying for Change by Leith Anderson, Bethany House Publishers.

Terug naar het overzicht van gemeenteopbouwartikelen



Web site:
Bij technische problemen met deze pagina, neem contact op met:

©2000 The General Council of the Assemblies of God
©2003 Verenigde Pinkster- en Evangeliegemeenten