By Andy Gustafson
Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship & Financial Development
There are two major demographic events occurring. The “Baby Boomers” are beginning to retire and the “Builder” generation is passing away, leaving billions of dollars to their “Boomer” children. Much has been made about the negative effects the retirement bubble will have on Social Security and Medicare. Much has also been written about the importance of reaching out to the “Builder” generation to make planned gifts before they pass away.
We know that these retiring boomers will be by and large healthier and more active than prior generations. Many of them will also be coming into sizable inheritances. They will now have the time and the money to do things they have wanted to do, but were not able to. They will be looking for meaning and purpose in this new season of life. What could this mean for our churches that have large numbers of “Boomers” in their congregations?
There will be an opportunity to engage the Boomer members of our congregations in volunteer ministries. They may not want long-term or year-round commitments on committees or boards that would interfere with their plans for travel and other activities. However, they could be ideal candidates for specific tasks, such as leading a mission trip, chairing a capital campaign, visiting shut-ins, facilitating a discussion group or organizing a fundraiser. They are apt to have their own ideas of what they want to do, so it will be important to engage in dialogue to listen to how they would like to use their time and talents in the service of God’s mission.
Some of these Boomers will have the ability to make major gifts from their inheritances. Rather than wait for a capital campaign sometime in the future to invite major gifts, we should be thinking about how the needs of the church might match up with the interest of these prospective major gift donors right now. This will require personal, one-on-one conversations both to discover interests and to ask for the gift.
It is time for us to add a fourth leg to the three legged stool by adding Major Gifts to Annual Gifts, Capital Gifts and Planned Gifts as part of a church’s comprehensive plan of financial development. A new book, “The Millionaire in the Pew: A manual on major and deferred gift fundraising” by Russell L. Wilson, is a timely resource to help churches engage in major gift solicitation.
Boomers are now going to have the time to nurture their spiritual side. For some this could lead to licensed or ordained ministry. For many others, it will indicate a growing need for more and better quality bible studies, spiritual retreats, and faith exploration opportunities. In addition, retiring Boomer clergy could become an important source of experienced, part-time clergy for small congregations.
As Boomers enter their “golden age”, this could also be a “golden age” for the church. However, this opportunity will only be realized if we intentionally embrace it by entering into serious conversations with our Boomer members about things which really matter – our relationships with God, each other, our neighbor, our world, our money and our time.
The late Andy Gustasfon served as the Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development from 2004 to 2014.