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Flexibility: A Must for Engaging Boomers as Volunteers

“It’s not that I don’t want to lead the small group, I just want to be able to be gone from time to time. My wife and I like to travel to our granddaughter’s soccer games and we don’t want to be tied down with a weekly commitment.”

Some type of scenario like the one I’ve described is not uncommon to those of us in churches, ministries or non-profit agencies seeking to recruit the new old as volunteers. When it comes to involving the new old in meaningful ministry opportunities, we cannot ignore their desire for flexibility. In fact, many boomers are retiring from their careers and are entering into new jobs that afford them more flexibility.

So, how do we make this a win-win for our church and for the individual?

1. Encourage co-leaders or co-teachers. For example, you know that both Susan and Mary would do an excellent job leading the church’s food bank ministry. Ask them to share the responsibility. If one of them is going to be out of town, the other one can lead the team meeting. If one of them is babysitting their grandchildren on a particular day, than the other one can train the new food bank volunteers. Same thing works with teaching a small group or Sunday school class. Let two or even three people share the load. You are more apt to have people say yes when they know it doesn’t all fall on their shoulders alone.

2. Involve them in projects that they can do on their own time and while traveling.
Millions of baby boomers that are entering the retirement phase of life have the capacity to lead. Good leaders know how to manage their time and get tasks done. They don’t have to do the work at the church building ‘every Tuesday at 10:00am’. With cell phones, e-mail, skype and other technology, people can accomplish important tasks without being physically present.

Just because boomers desire flexibility they should not be written-off our list of potential volunteers. We would be making a tremendous mistake if we ignored the capacity of this group. They are too valuable and have too much to offer. Sure it may require that we adjust how we do things, but it will be well worth it.

What ideas do you have for involving boomers in ministry while responding to their desire for flexibility? What have you seen work in your ministry context?

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6 comments

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    February 8, 2011 8:31 pmPosted 7 years ago
    Bobby Bragg

    I have found Boomers volunteer for three basic reasons: they are going to do a task that makes them feel alive, to learn a new skill or ability, or to make a significant contribution to the world. Dychwald point this out as the real goals of boomer; to live, to learn, or to make a significant contribution. When all three of these goals are rolled up into one activity it has success written all over it. I have found that ministry or mission trip that have these elements draw Boomers to the activity.
    Boomer have created excitement at every staff of their life. They have been creativity with life itself, so why should we expect them to roll over and play dead at the closing years of their lives. Boomer want to experience the excitement of living, learning, and being significant. Our challenge in the church is to ask how can we make that happen? We serve a creative God who puts a creative touch on everything He touches. How do we create a spirit of excitement for the creative activity of God?

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    • March 2, 2011 3:19 pmPosted 7 years ago
      Amy Hanson

      I love all that you have said here, Bobby! Let’s appeal to those desires among boomers and create opportunities that include:
      1. Creativity
      2. Adventure
      3. Something new to learn
      4. And the chance for relationships to form

      Reply
  • February 17, 2011 11:24 amPosted 7 years ago
    james craver

    I have also found that most Boomer teachers/leaders do not want to be put in a place of leadership on a daily or weekly ritual. They want some flexibility in their leadership position. I have found that it is much easier to recruit teachers/leaders when given the option of being a co-teacher or co-leader of a ministry. I allow them to find their co-leader, assist them in their goals, and let them lead their class or ministry. It is awesome to see their excitement and use of their leadership skills!

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    • March 2, 2011 3:18 pmPosted 7 years ago
      Amy Hanson

      James, I like what you said about encouraging the leader to find their own co-leader. This is empowering and that’s always a good thing!

      Reply
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    February 28, 2011 5:02 pmPosted 7 years ago
    Laurie Shellenberger

    I am so happy you are leading this conversation with church and the older adults (boomers) but not seniors. It is so frustrating to try and figure how to encourage midlifers to take next steps in creating meaning in life – and it doesn’t help when the church (as a whole) has very limited to choose from that might fit into this life phase. I will continue to learn from you all. Thanks –
    (would love to have you joing my fanpage as we are starting to have good conversations about midlife in general – would love your input).

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    • March 2, 2011 3:19 pmPosted 7 years ago
      Amy Hanson

      Thanks, Laurie, We are all learning from each other as we seek to reach this new generation of older adults.

      Reply

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