Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

17 May

Why Boomers are Killing the Church

Posted in Uncategorized on 17.05.15 by Merlyn

Why Boomers are Killing the Church

I believe the Boomers are killing the Church in North America today. Don’t get me wrong – granted I am from Generation X, or the Me Generation and we are no fans of Boomers. The same is true of the Millennial Generation who are leaving (or never even came to) the church in droves. The Boomer Generation are those born roughly 1946-1964. This was the biggest generation (until the Millennials) both in number and proportion. They are the generation that may break the Social Security system when they (eventually) retire. Additionally, most leaders in our churches today, including lay leaders, Pastors and the highest-level staff members, are Boomers. The Boomers have waited for some time to ascend to power. I have worked for many Boomers, and one commitment I have made to myself is that I would never work for another Boomer again.

I am not saying Boomers are bad people: in fact, many of them are good people. Many of them are good pastors and leaders and many of them love Jesus. Their commitment to the church is admirable and certainly something to be honored and learned from. That said, as leaders Boomers have been very destructive as they have taken the mindsets and philosophy of their generation and applied it to the church with negative results. While there are always exceptions (though I have not observed many), Boomers have had a negative impact on the church as leaders. They are not the sole source of the challenges the church faces today, but are one of the primary sources.  Below are seven ways in which Boomers in leadership have had a negative impact on the church.

  1. Consumer Mentality

The Boomer generation was the first generation to truly be consumers. The customer mentality is very important to this generation. I have heard Boomers refer to church members and visitors as customers. I have heard Boomers refer to students and parents as customers in the public school setting. If you do not see the problem with this mentality and approach, you might be a Boomer (if not, you may think like a Boomer)! People, children, and all those created in the image of God are not customers or commodities. They are the precious, adopted and beloved children of God. McDonalds and the Church should be fundamentality different. In churches, we strive to build community, not please customers.

2. Church as a Business

As a follow up to number one, Boomers believe the Church is a business and treat it as such. If I had a dime for every time a Boomer told me the church was a business, I would have retired three years ago! The church is not a business; it is a community of faith. It is the family of God. It is the bride of Christ! While the church should (and must) apply some business principles, and in some ways (particularly around finances) it does operate much like a business, the church is not a business. Nowhere in the Scriptures or any original documents or understanding of the Church is it considered a business.

3. Lack sense of Mission

Many Boomers (but not all) lack a true sense of mission. Sure, they make sure the church has a mission statement, but it is no more than an organizational requirement or a marketing tool. Sadly, many Boomers lack a sense of mission when it comes to the church. The Church (universal church) has a mission; every local church should have a mission. The mission of the universal Church includes (but is not limited to) being the community of faith, serving the world, making disciples, and living out its identity as the bride of Christ. Boomer-lead churches are focused primarily on programs and not on mission. While missions are considered through monetary donations, trips and special events, these are merely programs with mission in their title.

4. About marketing and attraction

The Boomer generation and those from this generation that lead in the church (staff and volunteer positions) are focused on marketing and attraction. The word evangelism has become a religious replacement for the word marketing (the word actually means to share the good news of Jesus). The primary question that Boomer leaders are asking as they lead their churches is ‘how can we attract more people,’ rather than thinking about how to better love, serve or help people come to know Jesus.

5. Corporate approach

The Boomer generation is very corporate. They came to the workforce during the rise of corporations and big business. They carry with them a very corporate mentality. This mentality, like all mentalities has its benefits and drawbacks. It does not, however belong in the church at all (see #2). The Corporate approach is focused on numbers, policies, procedures, success and many other values of business. Most of these values do not belong in the Church. The Church is a community of faith focused on relationship: relationship with God, one another and the world. The corporate approach is anything but relational and often hurts, ignores, slights and devalues people.

6. Selective application of process

Boomers are notorious for the selective application of process. Being corporate in mindset, Boomers believe in, apply and create systems, policies and processes for their churches. While some of these can be good, they are rarely consistent. I could not begin to count the number of instances where I have heard or observed church leaders ignore process out of convenience, control, fear or a simple need to get rid of a volunteer or staff member.

7. Focus on authority, hierarchy and power: an unhealthy focus on the institution

Having been the largest generation and having had to wait to earn positions of power and influence along with other influences, the Boomers have a focus on authority, hierarchy and power. Boomers often value the institution of the Church more than the community of the church. For reasons already highlighted above, Boomers are more focused on the institution than the mission of the church. This may produce a more efficient organization, but it almost always leads to a less effective ministry, especially in terms of creating fully committed disciples of Jesus. This approach attracts many fans of Jesus and the Church, but retains few followers of Jesus.


I will end with an apology to all my Boomer readers and friends. I am sorry if I have offended you. God loves you. You are valuable. I (and my generation) have contributed to the challenges the church faces today as well. It is not all your fault: you were born into this generation and mindset. The good news is that you can choose differently. Every generation has its shortcomings and one of the greatest needs in the Church and the culture today is a need for every generation to come together, learn from one another and think and live differently, especially when it comes to how we approach and lead the Church today. To all those Boomers I have worked for, I apologize to you as well. I may not have liked or repeated how you lead, but I did learn from you. I thank you for putting up with me as I learned (and continue to learn). As leaders in the church, regardless of which generation we were born into, we can lead in a healthy, Christ-like way. We can be different. The Church, through and perhaps even in spite of us, can be the light of the world once again.

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