How “Old” Are Your Church Members?

It’s hardly a secret that churches are aging. And many are spending countless hours trying to find ways to lure “younger people” into their churches. It’s an important and difficult task. But don’t allow that to distract you from realizing that there are ways to measure age beyond year of birth.

This point was driven home to me recently while sharing a cup of java with a minister in Fredericksburg. At his community, church leaders think not only about the physical ages of their members, but their spiritual ages as well.

What they’ve learned is that a 30-year-old member who has been in church his whole life has more in common with a 60-year-old who has been involved in church his whole life, than with a 30-year-old who has recently begun attending.

The point, I realized, was so obvious as to be profound. Of course that’s true, I thought, but how often do I (and other churches) act on that data?

There’s good reason why we don’t think about this very often. In the world of advertising, the emphasis is on chronological age groups. I.e., how does such-and-such a product do with women age 30-45? This kind of thinking permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, so it’s no surprise we think about church membership this way.

Why does this matter in the world of electronic communications? It’s important to know how long your members have been engaged with their electronic communications, too. It’s not necessarily how old the user is, but how long they’ve been engaged with Facebook, or Twitter, or email, or any other tool. Users who have been plugged in longer are going to work better with social media or e-communications than those who are relative newbies, whether the users are 25, 45, or 65.

America is not at a saturation point with internet-based tools, but we’re getting closer. And the closer to saturation we come, the less important is the chronological age of the user. But until we get there, knowing your members’ “internet age” is important for deploying effective communications.