Culture

Boomers, are you staying in the game?

I remember sitting in a colleague’s office years ago, and there was a picture on his wall of a man in a hammock. The hammock was strung between two palm trees, and the palm trees were on a white-sand beach with an azure ocean in the background. Under this picture of paradise it said, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And under that in smaller type it said, “And this probably isn’t it.”

Life in a hammock looks comfortable and relaxing. I’ve taken some fine naps in hammocks. But a hammock isn’t a calling. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. God does indeed call us into seasons of rest, but after we’re rested, he prompts us to get back into the game.

A lot of research has been done recently on the disengagement of Baby Boomers from the church. Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. I was born in 1953—right in the middle of the post-World War II baby boom. As boomers retire and disengage from the workplace, they’re also disengaging from the church, according to Barna Research. Many of them no longer see a logical place to connect at church. They used to have kids in middle school, high school, then college. They used to be engaged in those ministries as volunteers. But now that they’re empty-nesters, their lives don’t seem to intersect with the church.

Another trend leading to disengagement from the church is boomers’ mistaken belief that they’ve become irrelevant. In the 1960s, when boomers were in their teens and 20s, they didn’t want to have anything to do with older generations. Back in the 1960s, older folks represented the establishment, and younger people in the 1960s were anti-establishment. Today, that has largely changed. A lot of people in their 20s now value their elders’ wisdom and life experiences. But today’s boomers make the mistake of thinking the youth of today have the same mindset they had when they were young. But that’s no longer the case.

My sense is that boomers at Blackhawk are not disengaging at levels recorded nationally by Barna. Many retired boomers are using their extra discretionary time to actually engage deeper at Blackhawk.

Take Dave and Linda Longenecker for example. They recently retired after 40 years of dairy farming—23 years in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before that. They just sold their 360-acre farm near Montfort, Wis., where they had 250 dairy cows, and bought a house in New Glarus. They didn’t start attending Blackhawk until the summer of 2017. They had a connection to Blackhawk through their daughter Kara Anderson. Despite being relatively new to Blackhawk, they didn’t waste any time getting involved. Dave and Linda joined a life group and they serve as ushers in Traditions. Dave attends Men’s Community and sings in the men’s choir and on the worship team in Traditions. Linda also attends women’s Encounter.

There are plenty of opportunities for boomers at Blackhawk. If you’re a baby boomer, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve become irrelevant. Quite the opposite is true. Stay in the game; the game needs you!

 


About the Author: Steve Rodgers
Steve Rodgers, director of marriage and parenting at Blackhawk Church. After spending most of his career in journalism, Steve started his “second career” at Blackhawk in 2014. Steve and his wife Anne (both Madisonians) started attending Blackhawk in 1980 because they were looking for a small church. They’ve been married 40 years. They have 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 2 dogs.