Tapping Unlimited Potential
There has been a lot written about the up and coming Millennial generation. Miles wrote an eye opening post last week that is a must read. I would like to introduce you to a generation that has unlimited potential in the church, the Empty Nesters. Sure we know them as Baby Boomers or even as Framers but there is a group of people out there that aren’t ready for the Lazy Boy recliner or the forty-foot Winnebago just yet. They are couples who are done raising their children, and most likely their grandchildren, and are still unsettled. They want to do something significant with their lives and are finding that meaning in the church.
Our situation may be unique but we have a ton of people who are finishing up their second retirement (20 years in the military and now 20 as a civil servant) and are still under sixty. They have the time to devote to worthy causes. In our church we have had empty nesters do our bookkeeping, lead our food ministry, head up our hospitality, and lead numerous small groups. Almost all of them were dynamic influencers in the marketplace and were very successful in their careers and now they want to direct all of that experience and energy towards their faith in Christ and do it through the church.
This is a potential gold mine for the church. Not only do they have the time to devote to serving but also come with the maturity necessary to serve. They usually aren’t looking for the limelight and don’t need the financial incentive to do the job. What better gold mine to tap into than one that has time, experience, and comes at the best price… Free!
There are a few things that you need to prepare for. First is that this group is very comfortable working on their own. They like the autonomy and don’t like to be micromanaged. They will seek your feedback and input when they need it but usually like to be left alone. They also like to do things around their own schedule. Many of them golf, are involved in civic duties, or need to watch a grandchild and so they need to be able to do what they do on their schedule. Give them that freedom.
If your church can tap into this unlimited resource you will have a volunteer force that is unmatched in size and ability. Free from the constraints of raising a family and usually financially more stable than a Millennial (once again read Miles post) they are group that is hungry to do something meaningful with their life. Like the old adage goes: “Many have climbed the ladder to success only to find that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.” This group is ready to pour their energies into the right work so tap into them.
There is great potential within each of these generations, even within our seniors group of 70 and 80 year-olds and up we have a solid intercessors, encourages and the like. Sometimes the most difficult part of the equation is drawing them out of an America oriented retirement mindset. But once done, they do tend to be an incredible wealth to the kingdom.
Great point about boomers and beyond having a more individualized framework for getting things done.
You bring up a good point in that many people get into the retirement mentality long before they even retire. That spills over into the church. I think the key is to try to inspire them for what could be.
or help show them what shouldn’t be 😉
Chuck — I just ran into an old friend a couple of days ago who was taling about this very thing. I couldn’t agree more!
One additional item that came up in regards to this generation you’re referring to was that of “relevance”. The friend I was talking to is one of these “empty nesters” and told me if she heard the word “relevant” from the pulpit one more time she was going to scream. Why? Because in her experience being a “relevant” church simply meant being a church that caters to the youngest and newest generation. While that may work great for that generation, it makes a church IRrelevant to the “empty nesters” who are — as you’ve written above — a potential gold mine of a resource!
May we be careful in our means and methods to recognize the entire body of Christ. I see no issue with being truly relevant, so long as we are reverent first (of the lead role of the Holy Spirit), and cognizant of whole body of which the younger generation are members; but only members, not the whole.