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Are Churches Reaching Out to Older People?

Leigh Ann Hubbard March 28, 2018

Many older people are preparing for worshipful weekends. But are churches and synagogues preparing for them?

Religious institutions have been working hard to reach millennials—especially since 2015, when the Pew Research Center announced that religion was declining among young adults. But there are concerns that as a result of this focus, older people are being left out—even shoved aside.

Highlights & Insights: Curated excerpts from though-provoking articles

Keep Older Adults in the Church
CE National / Ed Lewis

I recently took time to ask a group of 10 respected older believers why they had difficulty with all the methods and changes in the church. I asked what the major struggle is for them… Is it that the church is changing to reach younger adults? No. Is it because they do not like the music? They may not find it their choice but that is not the reason they struggle. Is it that the informal service is the issue? No. Is it that the church has gone to small groups instead of Sunday night services in most places? No. Is it that the preaching style has changed? No. Then what is it?

They overwhelmingly stated that they struggle with the changes in the church because they feel they are not needed… not included… overlooked… made to feel like they are “in the way.” What??!!

Are Religious Leaders Reaching Boomers?
Next Avenue / Holly Lawrence

Interviews with religious leaders across denominations found commonalities in their responses about boomer ministry. For instance, Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopal faith leaders explained they take a more “intergenerational” approach to their ministries, rather than offer boomer-targeted ministries. At the same time, the leaders said they focus on youth and Millennials…

Successful change management comes with education, inspiration, and buy-in. A growing number of denominations are initiating this process through national conferences about boomers for their religious leaders.

Will Baby Boomers Ever Find Religion?
Psychology Today / Lawrence R Samuel PhD

“The quest culture created by the baby boomers has generated a ‘marketplace’ of new spiritual beliefs and practices and of revisited traditions,” [Wade Clark Roof, author of Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion,] wrote, with “some Americans exploring faiths and spiritual disciplines for the first time, others rediscovering their lost traditions, others drawn to small groups and alternative communities, and still others creating their own mix of values and metaphysical beliefs.”…

Meanwhile, leaders of religious institutions are actively looking for ways to recruit more boomers into their flock. One more popular way is to integrate elements of Buddhism into Christianity or Judaism, thinking that such a fusion of Eastern and Western spiritualities is a best-of-both-worlds approach. Jews in particular are blending dimensions of Buddhist philosophy with their faith. 

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Leigh Ann Hubbard

Leigh Ann Hubbard is a freelance journalist specializing in aging, health, the American South and Alaska.

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