A little over a month ago I received a very encouraging e-mail from a married couple who are obviously making an impact with their lives. Here is an excerpt from the e-mail: We lead a small group of “Empty Nesters,” all of whom are boomers and members of the same church. Our small group of about 15 have been studying Richard Stearns’ DVD series called The Hole in Our Gospel DVD It is based on his book by the same name. We decided we wanted to do something and not just learn from the needs of the world. We decided in our naivety (but not God’s) that we wanted to drill a well in a third world country. We started the series in February and decided that we would give toward the well project whatever God gave to us in unexpected ways. Research said it would be anywhere from $5000 to $10,000 for a drilled well. Read more
“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?