Boomers and basketball,
We are in the tail end of “March Madness.” I don’t know who called it “madness,” because all I see is a bunch of very fit college students playing basketball really really well and making their universities a lot of money. Remember when we had basketball teams in our church? The program was driven by the baby boomers who were both players and later coaches as parents. The golden days were the late sixties, seventies and eighties, but Parkview still had teams until after the year 2000 I believe. However, even when I started at Parkview, it was already becoming clear that small churches would be struggling to get teams of each age group. Sooner or later the bigger churches would have all the teams, with the advantages and disadvantages of that for everyone. And of course the Sacramento community was also changing.
About two weeks after I came to Parkview, a reporter from the Bee contacted us so he could write an article about the congregation. That never happened again. I think it was sheer coincidence, but perhaps not good timing, because I didn’t know what I was doing. They quoted me saying:”as a congregation we have to be Sansei sensitive.” In other words we should be focusing on the then younger generation with small children. Well, we got an earful from one the Nisei members and right she was. Now that sansei/boomer generation is reaching the age the Nisei were at then. The right thing would now be to say: “let us focus on the next generations: The Generation X and millennials.” We have to the have young if we want the church to survive in the long run. Well, one thing I have learned, you can focus all you want on whoever you want, you can focus until you get a headache, but society is going to do what it does and people will do what they think is right. Generation X and millennials are dechurching at rapid rates. Their opportunity for activities and entertainment are boundless. Church does not really fit into that picture much. The big churches will attract most of the ones that do attend. Like basketball, the bigger programs will have most of the teams.
Now I actually mean to be positive. Being a pastor of graying temples now I have learned a thing or two and I can say once more: “How about being sansei/ boomer sensitive?” I hope I won’t get an earful this time. I don’t mean to focus on the boomers. I just mean to recognize their potential. And that’s what the Nisei member was really trying to say: “We Nisei have a lot to offer. Don’t count us out.”
Our boomer generation has a lot to offer. Many are about to retire or already retired. They are active and tend to take care of their health. They are skilled and experienced, inquisitive and compassionate. I think this generation will be driving mainline churches in the next decade. They want to try new activities and make meaningful contributions. We should find ways to harness their energy more as we continue to think of ways of attracting the young people we need. Let us be grateful for boomer power!
May God bless our ministry. See you in church. Aart