Boomer Boom And Bust

Churches now “service” the consumer generation, but the challenge is to convert it.

It has been nearly eight years since the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation turned forty. Time magazine noted that event with a cover story, and books continue to explore the collective psyche of the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. By force of numbers, the Baby Boom has reshaped virtually every social institution and view that it has chosen to touch or ignore. Its demographic weight has imposed Boomer values on everything from Levis (once skin-tight, now “a looser fitting copy of the original” to accommodate aging anatomies) to elections.

The church also awakened to this “Generation on the Doorstep,” as one article put it, and began looking for ways to minister to them. It has not been easy. Despite Boomers’ obvious interest in religion (prompted, no doubt, by their desire to give their kids the best of everything), they are not exactly First Baptist material. If we built them a church, would they come?

Some have, but many haven’t. According to a survey by Wade Clark Roof, professor of religion and society at the University of California at Santa Barbara, 58 percent of Boomers with religious backgrounds dropped out for at least two years during adolescence and young adulthood. That is far more than previous generations. Only about one-third of those who rejected organized religion have come back, at least for now, he says. The largest group of Boomers—more than 40 percent—is still looking for spiritual answers “in its own highly individualistic way,” he wrote in American Demographics.

Megachurch to the rescue

Those somber numbers have not stopped the evangelical church from trying. Led by “seeker” models ...

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