Digital Outreach to Digital Immigrants

July 26, 2018  •   LPi

people sitting in catholic church

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on ministry and communication for the baby boomer generation.


When it comes to technology, many parishes are thinking “millennials, millennials, millennials.” Your church’s tech adoption becomes the key to unlocking the next generation of disciples. But what if technology was for everyone? Is it possible to do digital outreach to digital immigrants? Read on to see why baby boomers might just be the next target for your digital communication strategy.


A Booming Online Presence

Pew Research provided statistics on technology adoption by baby boomers. 83% of younger boomers (born between 1957 and 1965) use the internet, but older boomers (born between 1956 and1947) aren’t far behind at 76%. Another survey found that 82.3% of these so-called “silver surfers” have a social media account. Over half of all baby boomers own smartphones. With one in five baby boomers being Catholic, it’s likely these adults are in your pews!

The lifestyle of many baby boomers could bring them online more often. They’re retiring, traveling, and facing life with more time on their hands. And they’re probably looking up your Mass times online before they come into town! Are they finding your content?


Everyone’s on Social Media

The millennials glued to their smartphones is a common stereotype. It could lead churches to tailor their social media presence according to hip cultural trends in an effort to be “relevant.” While this could draw in some young people, it could have the opposite effect for older generations. A video of breakdancing priests has a certain appeal, but filling your news feed with similar content will send a certain message, a message that could have some baby boomers wondering if your church knows how to speak to them, too.

So how do you decide what to post? Pew Research shows some trends across different platforms. Facebook is the most universal, with 63% of boomers logged in compared to 87% of millennials. LinkedIn is the next most popular social media site for baby boomers, with one in three on the platform. Twitter and Instagram, however, skew younger. Only 12% of baby boomers are on Twitter and 11% are on Instagram. Three times as many millennials (37%) are on Twitter, and roughly five times as many (53%) are on Instagram.

If you want to engage younger generations through social media, consider emphasizing that on platforms they use more exclusively. Save a platform like Facebook for reaching everyone — either all together or in a variety of posts. Facebook analytics can give you the demographics of your visitors, so you can see when certain age groups are visiting your page. Schedule posts accordingly!


New Tech: Some Assembly Required

Millennials have a knack for quickly adopting new technology. Even if they aren’t sure how something works, they’ll intuit a solution, puzzle it out, or quickly Google it. If your church is adopting a new technology like WeShare or a parish app, it doesn’t mean older generations will be left behind. Baby boomers may require a bit more coaching, but once they understand the tool, they’ll commit to its use.

When your parish adopts a new technology, consider a more gradual on-boarding process. In addition to written steps, have church staff “experts” on hand to walk people through everything on their smartphones. Having laptop stations available is another hands-on solution for baby boomers who will typically log in online. After a few weeks, consider getting a testimonial from a boomer about their success with the new technology. This storytelling can draw in other adults who initially felt intimidated.


Young (at Heart) Adults

Now that they’re online and engaged, what do you want to say? Parish programming is becoming more and more segmented by demographic. Churches commonly have outreach to young adults and young families. Some churches might be similarly naming programs for older generations as “young at heart” or “senior adult.” Offering specific programs for baby boomers can be a great idea, but there’s no need to rub salt in the wound when it comes to age! Consider naming your events something relevant to the topic itself.

Check out next week’s Vibrant Parish Toolkit blog for programming ideas for the baby boomers at your parish!



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