Twelve Canadian Tribes The Demographic Shift
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7. Twelve Canadian Tribes

Baby Boomers

CongregationThe Canadian pollster, Michael Adams, in his ground-breaking book, "Sex in the Snow - Canadian Social Values at the End of the Millennium", identified twelve Tribes in the Canadian population together with their characteristics. There were three broad categories.

Different Characteristics

TelevisionThey were the Elders, The Baby Boomers and Generation X. Added to this were the more recent groups of Generation Y and the Millenniums. These groups were largely defined by the different characteristics of the people in each group and were broadly the same in other Western countries like the United States and Britain except that they occur at different times because of the variation of the dates for the Baby Boom Generation. The Baby Boomers were extremely influential because of their very large numbers of about 10 million people in the Canadian population.

Sales Target

Lady looking in MirrorBecause of the size of Baby Boomers, television commercials and advertisements were aimed at them and the size of the educational system was determined by them. Once the Baby Boomers completed school, many schools closed down or amalgamated because of the lack of new students and large schools were no longer needed. These three groupings were broken out in Canada into twelve Tribal Groups. As I reflected on the characteristics of each tribe, I could not help but think about various friends and acquaintances who fitted the model of each Tribe. I believe the author has correctly identified these Twelve Tribes in the Canadian population.

Not Individualistic

Baby BoomersThere were three tribes of Elders, four tribes of Baby Boomers and five tribes of Generation X-ers. These tribal groups proved that we are not as individualistic as we would like to think we were. Of the three "Elder" tribes presently over seventy-five years of age, two are described as "religious" and "supportive of the institution of the church." These are the aging leaders, power holders and financial supporters of most of the Churches in the United States, Britain, and Canada. Church leaders and supporters are currently aging and passing away.

Religious and Supportive

Baby Boomers ScriptThe third tribe, called the "Cosmopolitan Modernists" does not have the same characteristic of "religiosity." Not a single one of the nine other tribes have religious characteristics at all nor do they support religious institutions. This is a massive challenge for the institutional church today and threatens its future existence.

Canadian Church Supporters

Twelve population tribes including the Boomers make up the profile of the population Christmas Tree. Canadian Church supporters of the average Anglican church are predominantly Elders who are now at the end of their lives. The average Anglican congregation is made up of predominantly Elders who are supportive of religious institutions, so the experts tell us. There are so few people in our churches between fifteen and sixty-six years of age because being supportive of the institution is not characteristic of Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers. Baby Boomers are not religious in the same way as their parents and grandparents were. We have instinctively felt this for a long time but are now discovering statistics that support this principle.

Toronto Diocese Crest

CrestThe four Baby Boomer Tribes now occupy most of the good jobs in Canada and will soon be moving into the top positions of power. One Boomers Tribe, called the Disengaged Darwinists are strong in Metro Toronto, particularly amongst men and blue-collar workers. Their key values of "fear" and "nostalgia" would encourage us to develop a few historical churches. Comfort for their fears could be our theme. They might come looking for history but this alone will not support a church building.

US Strength

Church Garden 2Unlike the U.S. where faith in institutions has remained high and attendance at church is still about 40%, Canadian Supporters who were once more religious, are now markedly less so. Canadian church supporters will be frowned upon in the future, and be given less acknowledgment and power. When the Church speaks, the media will say, "So what!" and even "Be quiet!"

Twelve Population Tribes

I believe the chances of the characteristics of either the Boomers or Millenniums in the twelve population tribes changing are unlikely at best. The twelve population tribes will not alter as they get older, their values are fixed. This is not all bad, however. Michael Adams writes, "I believe, beyond doubt, that we can live quite happily in a secular world of twelve population tribes. But that is not to say a world without meaning." The Boomers have high regard for family, freedom, individuality, and community but also, unfortunately, lower ethical values with a decrease in such basics as truth and sexual morality.

Aging Church Profile

These examples of an aging church profile clearly show a pattern of age/sex heavily weighted at the top and light at the bottom. Significantly, the characteristics described in the Twelve Tribes are also supported by the age/sex aging church profiles produced for Anglican parishes over recent years. When statistics are compiled for any of the Western countries like the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States the same pattern of age and sex emerges. In each case, they resemble a fir tree. Going to the smaller level surprisingly the same phenomena appear whether it is State or Province or County. The same applies to urban as well as rural areas. Individual towns and villages bear the same results.


These aging church profiles were from many different kinds of churches, large and small, rural and suburban, modern and historical, BCP and BAS, High Church, Evangelical, and Liberal. Over and over again the aging church profiles were "Top Heavy," i.e. with a high percentage of persons over fifty. I give you three examples:

Boomer Phrases

Key phrases of the Boomers are:

Christmas Tree Shape

The general population profile produces a Christmas Tree shape of ages and sexes which is typical in Canada, the United States, and Britain. The general population profile for Ontario, and Toronto is also a typical "Christmas Tree" shape. Surprisingly, the lower part of the population (now called the Millenniums, though formerly Generation X and Y) is smaller than the central section (known as the Baby Boom Generation.) The upper portion of the Christmas tree indicates a less numerous "Elder" group. Only at Easter and Christmas in our surveys did the cross-section of a congregation begin to match the area's general population profiles. It is a good idea for a church to take an Age/Sex survey of a typical congregation. This should be without warning. Young people with clipboards at the door could not down the people arriving with an approximate estimation of their age. This could then be drawn up into your very own congregational Christmas tree.

"Twelve Canadian Tribes"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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