When 30 adults from Joy Lutheran Church crowded in front of a big-screen TV on Super Bowl Sunday, Don Heatherly knew they weren’t there just for the game. And for that matter, he knew they were hungry for something more than potato chips and beer.
These parishioners—who range from their mid-40s to late 60s—showed up to connect with one another as members of the congregation’s Empty Nesters group, a loose gathering of baby boomers who attend the 363-member church in Moore, S.C.
“We’re all about the same age, so that helps us create an environment where people can relate to each other in this time of life,” said Heatherly, 53, a father of two grown children and one of the Empty Nesters’ charter members. “We have a common bond, and we’ve got a great network to go to when we face the issues that come up in our lives.”
At a time when youth and family ministry is seen as the antidote to dwindling church rolls, baby boomers are often overlooked as a segment for targeted ministry. Heatherly points to the boomers at Joy: they craved fellowship with their peers and yearned for candid discussion about their unique time-of-life issues, which range from rebellious teens to retirement savings.
“I think people sometimes feel taken for granted in this age group,” Heatherly said. “Once the kids are gone, people find themselves asking, ‘What do I do with my spare time? I need some kind of activity because I’m not constantly running and doing for the kids anymore.’ As much as you want to make family events and youth ministry strong, you also have to support and make this group of people feel at home too. Otherwise, they’re not going to keep coming.”
The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.