Eighty million strong, the Baby Boomers changed every market they entered, from the supermarket to the job market to the stock market.
Part 3 of a 4-part series on Generations in ChurchWorld
Last week this post introduced the generational lens that shapes a lot of my views. On Monday I began this four-part series by looking at the Millennials; on Tuesday it was Generation X. Today I want to look at the third of four generations active in ChurchWorld leadership roles today, and the implications for you as a leader with your own team. The final generation will be examined tomorrow.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
Ask any Boomer about the greatest invention of their childhood and their antennae go up – literally. The single most important arrival during the birth years of the Boom was the television. In 1952, four million television sets could be found in American homes. By 1960, the number was fifty million. The original “generation gap” was between Boomers and their parents as an entire generation of Boomers could relate to a whole set of reference points (TV shows, characters, plots, advertiser, and products) that were unknown to their parents. As they fine-tuned their sets, the Boomers’ generational personality was shaped. Events that were revealed to the public through this highly visual new medium included deep, divisive issues like the war in Viet Nam, Watergate, the women’s and human rights movements, the OPEC oil embargo, stagflation, and recession. Experiencing these landmark events, whether live or through the miracle of television, permanently changed the Boomers.
Boomers, while graced with many blessings and privileges, have had to fight for much of what they’ve achieved in corporate America against the sheer number of their peers competing for the same jobs and promotions. Boomers have again and again been labeled the “Me Generation” in part because they were privileged to be able to focus on themselves and where they were going instead of needing to sublimate the need of individuals. But there is also a second meaning in this “me generation” label, and that is the deep identification Boomers feel with who they are and what they archive at work.
– “When Generations Collide,” by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman
The common self-awareness and sense of destiny among Boomers was created by the staggering impact of change that took place during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Among the changes were several high impact events, which bonded Boomers into a generation set apart. If you are a Boomer you will understand the significance of these formative experiences:
- Cold War
- Economic growth and affluence
- Education and technological growth
- Rock and roll
- Civil rights movement
- The New Frontier
- Space race
- Viet Nam War
- Energy crisis
- Watergate and the Nixon resignation
What’s the impact of Baby Boomers in ChurchWorld?
In a word – huge.
Baby Boomers are now between the ages of 47 and 65. Sociologists call Boomers the “lead generation,” which means they tend to set the agenda for the rest of the nation. It’s true for the church, too. Boomers hold a high percentage of leadership positions in churches, including both staff and volunteer roles. Beyond just leadership roles, the simple vast number of Boomers means they will be the leading percentage of participants in your church.
With that being the case, ChurchWorld must take seriously Boomer values, needs, and concerns. Since Boomers are experience-oriented, churches must take pains to provide ways for Boomer to experience Christ. Since Boomers are future-oriented, churches must focus on tomorrow more than yesterday. Since Boomers are growth-oriented, churches must look beyond current membership to those who are not yet a part of the church. Since Boomers are action-oriented, churches must do rather than just discuss.
The Baby Boom Generation has had tremendous impact on our society. The sheer size of this generation has caused it to dominate our nation – and our churches. As Baby Boomers reach the end of middle adulthood and prepare to move to the next stage of life, they have a lot to offer ChurchWorld.
What are you doing to take advantage of the strengths of Boomers?
Generational Disclosure: I am a Baby Boomer. Enough said. Well, not really. All my formative years in college and my career have been primarily in the company of my peers. My closest friends are Boomers. In addition, many of the church leaders I work with in my consulting role are Boomers. The person who looks back at me in the mirror is a Boomer, and I am continually learning from him.