What are we thinking?

There are certain things you have to do every year.  This morning I raked leaves from a beautiful Red Maple tree that I planted 15 years ago. It took me nearly 3 hours of raking and moving the leaves! I am not complaining about the work. It was a beautiful day, and I needed the exercise. My problem was I planted 10 Red Maples 15 years ago!  Now that I am 75 years old, I have to ask myself what was I thinking?

In October, Shepherd’s Centers of America hosted a well-attended zoom webinar. Dr. Rusty Ryan, Kay Wallick, and I spoke about our new Shepherd’s Center book, A Proven Experiment: The Shepherd’s Center Story. We heard several share a similar observation: members of our local Shepherd’s Centers are getting older. What can we do to attract younger (Boomer) members?  I want to address this vital question in this and perhaps, other articles.

I learned from Dr. Elbert Cole in 1973 that to develop a community ministry you have to listen. More specifically, you have to know the “felt needs” of those you want to serve. I have always tried to listen to the needs of those I serve.  Some of the best sermons I ever preached were Biblically based and focused on the “felt needs” of my congregation. This was true for starting new ministries.  We would also survey the needs of others. We would study the demographics of our church and community.

Chapter 5 in the above mentioned book is titled, “Empowering Church and Community.” In it is a key phrase, Demography is Destiny.  How well do you know the demographics of your Shepherd’s Center and the community you serve? By 2029 all Boomers will be 65+. That will be more than 20% of the U.S. population. Your potential for growth could be much more or even less depending on the region you serve.

When I started a Boomer-based ministry in the last church I served we did some research. Some of our leaders were stunned to realize there were twice as many people in pre-retirement and early retirement stages than we thought. We quickly asked what are the needs of these age groups. We listened. We surveyed. There was an urgency to help these age groups with “Pre-Retirement Programing.”

The result was a new Boomers ministry hosting an annual Pre-Retirement Seminar. 

There are certain things you do every year. Our church’s annual pre-retirement seminar with workshops, and information-invitation signup tables continues every year. It gets better and usually bigger. It has grown during the pandemic period as it was offered via Zoom. Besides researching and listening every year, marketing is critical.

We have to ask ourselves, “what are we now thinking?” And I believe that Dr. Cole would say this Boomer ministry needs to be done by, with, and for Boomers. 

*You can order a copy of the book, A Proven Experiment at Amazon here.

Rev. Dr. Clayton L. Smith 

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