Sunday, January 15, 2017

Boomers not in church

Joyce Sasse - Why are the Boomers staying away from church? What do they mean when they call themselves “spiritual but not religious (SBNR)”? These are some of the questions Sheila MacGregor addresses in her excellent article “Bring Back the Baby Boomers” (United Church Observer Dec / 16). Many of her observations come from her participation in the “Boomerstock” conference she attended in Nashville this fall. The participants’ concern was to address “how churches can engage boomers”.

Many Boomers are the “unchurched” folks who “didn’t leave the establishment because they were angry … but left because they no longer saw the point.”

This generation includes those who find it difficult to believe religious dogma, statements about absolute truth, sin, heaven and hell and life-after-death. Nor do they have a tolerance for religious exclusivism. But they are asking profoundly theological questions and are seeking to fulfil spiritual needs in personal ways. They believe in a spiritual force and are “interested in world religions and other religious paths and practices.” Hence the expression “spiritual but not religious”.

Members of the Boomer Generation, according to MacGregor, have experienced the following traits: brokenness (because of having witnessed numerous traumatic public events), loneliness (note the high divorce rates), and fear that there may not be a future.

The antidote suggested – “a sense of belonging” such as can be experienced within a community of faith. The messages shared within such a community, in addition to Scripture studies, might include wellness programs that enhance physical and mental health.

Faith communities can “call on Boomers’ idealism and activism” by “responding to their needs and including them” in their fellowship. Such endeavours would allow for roots and a sense of belonging to deepen. In this context, they could find opportunities to serve and have access to spiritual nurture.

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