All posts by fowlershome

The Legacy Grandparenting Summit

Legacy Grandparenting Summit

It’s crazy how much I love my grandkids. I think about them often, pray for them regularly and spend time with them as much as possible. And I want to be sure my time with them is meaningful – that I’m intentionally building into their lives.

But I have to admit, I’ve mostly been guessing at how to do that. There isn’t a whole lot of information out there to help grandparents make the most of the unique relationship they have with with their grandkids.

Until now.

LEGACY GRANDPARENTING SUMMIT NOV. 15-17, 2016 | FRISCO, TX

I’m going! Will you join me?

Creating “Double Identity” for your Grandkids

Originally published in the July 2016 issue of Home Front magazine

Tyler, Travis, and Tori had an uphill climb regarding their family identity.  Their dad was adopted, and didn’t know his biological origin.  As a result he struggled with his identity.  His relationship with his adoptive parents was strained, and then both of them passed away while the three kids were just toddlers.

Then their dad became emotionally uninvolved, and he drifted further out of their lives.  A divorce followed. The three kids struggled with hurt and anger toward him and, frankly, didn’t want to have his name as theirs.

Tyler, Travis, and Tori are my daughter Andrea’s three children—my grandchildren.

Their grandmother and I wanted them to get identity from us.  We talked to them about being part of our family; that while they didn’t bear our last name, they had our blood.  We told them, “Being part of the ‘Fowler line’ is awesome!”  We did what we could to create a strong sense of identity with our side of the family.

All kids need identity, don’t they?  If they don’t find it in their family (the best scenario), they will create their own—in a group of their peers, or in unwise relationships.  And as believers, we want our grandchildren to have double identity: as part of our family, and as part of God’s family.  If you’re a grandparent, don’t you want the same for your grandchildren?

So what establishes family identity? (Think both of your family and your local church)  Here are five elements:

  • Unconditional love.  In our families, we need to not only love one another deeply, but we need to express it to one another regularly.  We’ve all been pretty unlovable at times, but we can count on our mothers loving us no matter what!  But it shouldn’t just be moms: that is what families do—or ought to do.  In your family, how do you do at expressing unconditional love?
  • Incredible grace.  Let’s face it; it’s often much easer to show grace to a stranger than it is to a family member.  After all, we know one another, warts and all.  But forgiveness (grace) endears us together because we all fail each other at times.  In your family, do you need to extend grace to a family member?
  • Unmatched closeness. Developing deep relationships through “doing life together” is a critical part of creating family identity in both the church and in our families.  We have to laugh together, play together, and cry together to give our grandchildren a strong identity.  That takes time and intentionality.  In your family, how can you improve “doing life together?”
  • Common bonds.  A shared interest, like camping or baseball, a family business, or ministering together; a common goal, or even a common pain or obstacle provides “glue” and gives identity.  You’ve probably said it, but for sure you’ve heard it: “A family that prays together stays together.”  Whether it is praying together, attending church together, or another spiritual activity, the operative word is together.  In your family, how would you describe the “glue” that holds you together?
  • A family history.  The Word of God is “His story.”  It not only binds believers all over the world together but also gives us a sense of identity.  In the same way, our family history helps grandkids know who they are.  Passing on our family stories (even if our history includes some horse thieves and thugs) can greatly help our grandkids to “belong”.  In fact, a few “horse thief stories” might very well help them to know that they will still have family identity when they fail—and they will.  In your family, are you intentionally passing on your family history?

About Tyler, Travis, and Tori: they now have a new last name and a new family identity.  Their mom eventually remarried, and their new dad, Paul, has become the father they never had.  He has adopted them, loved them, guided them spiritually, and given them his name.  Now they carry his identity.  And more important: their identity as Christ-followers is set as well.  Double identity.  They’ve got it, and we are thrilled!

No More Ignoring Second Place

Originally published in Kidzmatter magazine

I was dead wrong.

My first staff position in a small church was as a youth/children’s pastor. To be transparent, I was afflicted with a young man’s ego, and saw myself as the be-all and end-all to discipling the kids in my group. It never occurred to me that the parents might be better positioned to influence them. God did use me, but I was so wrong to not consider the parents. SO wrong.

I eventually saw the error of my own ego, and moved into a role of training others, but my approach still put the responsibility for discipling children on workers in the church. I trained them with fervor. And I still didn’t really consider the role of parents. Still wrong.

 Then, I saw with new eyes the commandment of Ephesians 6:4, and like many, many others in the early 2000’s, became convicted that I had ignored the truth revealed in that verse: that parents are to be the primary spiritual trainers of their children. My approach was forever changed. Got that part right.

At the same time, I became a grandfather, and that changed my perspective. After three little ones, my daughter’s marriage failed. They moved in with us, and I become both dad and grandpa. I began to have a new fervor—to influence my grandkids. But I was neither the children’s worker in the church nor the parent, and I still never thought beyond those grandchildren to a broader ministry implication. More perspective change, but still more learning to come.

I was like my friend Wayne Rice, the co-founder of Youth Specialties and one of youth ministry’s most respected voices (children’s ministry people know him as Mary Rice Hopkins’ brother). Wayne told me recently, “For decades, I taught youth pastors that parents had the most influence; grandparents were second, and youth workers were third. It just occurred to me that in all those years, I talked about the first and the third, but never once talked about the second.”

Then another verse—that I had read so many times—became new to me: Deuteronomy 4:9. “…make them [the things of God] known to your sons and your grandsons.” The ”and” riveted my attention. I began to study the “generation-to-generation” passages in the Bible, and I became passionate about the truth that I had a two-generation responsibility to influence my family. And my desire to be an intentional Christian grandparent grew.

I observed that my peers—other grandparents—often lacked this vision. I looked for books on the subject and found very few. I tried to find videos, and found only two. I work with lots of large churches, and began asking, “Do you have a grandparenting ministry?” And none that I’ve asked said yes (I later found one). And a new calling began to become clearer.

Now I’m on a mission—to help the church, and the grandparents in it, to see the model that is in Scripture: that while parents are primarily responsible for the spiritual training of children, grandparents have a secondary responsibility that is nearly as powerful as that of the parents.

I want to see my peers go from being Christian grandparents to being intentional Christian grandparents. I want to see churches recognize this potential for discipleship and begin to equip it. I want to see resource providers begin to develop studies and materials that will encourage and equip grandparents for their role in discipling children.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Grandparents are second only to parents in their potential to influence children spiritually. They have way more potential than the children’s worker in the church because they have the child’s heart, and they usually have way more time with them.
  1. Grandparents are usually highly motivated to influence their grandchildren for Christ. Sometimes it’s because of their own failures, sometimes because of the widening chasm between culture and biblical truth, and sometimes because of the lack of interest in spiritual things by their adult kids. They are often more passionate than parents about the spiritual development of the grandkids. Children’s pastors tell me that at least ten percent of the children in their ministry are brought by grandparents—some because they have custody, and some because they simply care more than the parents.
  1. Intentional involvement of grandparents in their grandchildren’s spiritual development is congruent with the family patterns that are revealed in Scripture. In other words, it is Biblical.

On the other hand,

  1. The role of grandparents is given little attention in churches; it is a mostly overlooked ministry with a huge potential to influence our youngest generation. Most church leaders have never thought about such a ministry; they properly have a focus on parenting, and minister to senior saints, but overlook the group in between – younger grandparents.
  1. There are simple too few resources. For the nearly 30 million Christian grandparents in America, there are very few books, videos, blogs, or seminars that address their potential for influence. We can do better.

What must churches do?

  1. Redefine what they mean by “family ministry”. Most churches target the nuclear family, but do not think of the exceptions (i.e., grandparents raising kids) or the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
  1. Recognize their mental image of a “grandparent” may be wrong. Too many think “senior saints” when they hear the word, but the average age for becoming a grandparent is 47. The emerging grandparent is who we can and must target.
  1. Recognize the passion of this group.  They are called “empty nesters” or named by their age group; how much better to name them after their greatest passion (their grandkids)!
  1. Envision them for being intentional. I have not found a more eager audience than grandparents when you start talking about their grandkids and how to help them grow spiritually. They are typically much more receptive than parents.
  1. Equip them for ministry. There are many barriers, like uncooperative adult children or their spouses, broken relationships, and distance. They need to know of tools they can use, and resources they can find.
  1. Create a core group of impassioned grandparents and launch something. A seminar, a small group, or a class. Just get it going!

How does this impact children’s ministry?

If you want it to do that I suggest you take a new approach to engage grandparents. Usually we try to guilt them into staying involved, and we get the answer back, “Well, I did my time.”

Try the side door since the front one isn’t working: get them passionate about ministering to their own grandchildren, and then ask, “If your grandchildren were in another city (of course many are), wouldn’t you want a grandparent there to be an influence on your grandkids? So how about you return the favor by being an influence to the kids we have in our church whose grandparents live in another city?

Then, create a position that allows them to be who they are. One of our best Awana ministries has created an option for game time that is called “grandpa and grandma time”, where kids who don’t want to play can just go sit and talk one on one with a grandparent. Both the kids love it, and so do the grandparents.

Here’s another idea, but I’ll present it in a story: I was teaching series on grandparents at a church in my town to an adult class on Sunday mornings. The last session was on how to give a blessing to their grandchildren. I taught them the Levitical blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), and then had them practice on each other. The children’s pastor, Kerry, and I, had planned together for what was next, and then I told them “Okay, now we are going to practice on some real kids.” Kerry was at the door with enough kids to have two or three per table, and they came in to our room. As we were sending the kids to the tables, and giving instructions, Kerry said to me, “Larry, I’ve got a problem. I’ve got a bunch of angry kids back in children’s ministry who wanted to come be blessed by a grandparent. I had way more want to come than I could bring.”

It took just a few minutes for the grandparents to practice the blessing, and then we gathered the kids together on the side of the room. I asked them, “so what did you think?” I got a lot of thumbs up, but one boy raised his hand to talk. “I really liked it because I don’t have a grandpa or grandma.” The aahs were audible all over the room. “How many of you don’t have a grandpa or grandma living close by?” I asked. More than half raised their hands.

At that point, Kerry took the kids back to the room. We had planned together; I asked the grandparents if they would be willing to serve in children’s ministry for the last few minutes. Our idea was that they would stand at the doors and as parents were coming to pick their children up, they would ask the kids “would you like a blessing from a grandparent before you leave?” We felt it would be easy service, appropriate for a grandparent, meaningful to the kid, and a great example for the parent.

As we were talking about it, Kerry came back in and interrupted. “Larry, can I show everyone what I was given when I got back to the room?” “Sure, go ahead,” I responded. He held up a paper torn out of a note pad, with large capital letters across the top: “WE DEMAND TO BE BLESSED BY GRANDPARENTS.” On the paper, front and back, were the signatures of the kids who had been left behind. They had started their own petition!!!

Little did we realize how hungry they were for grandparent involvement.

Do you see it?

There is simply incredible potential for grandparents to influence our youngest generation, and we have overlooked that potential too long. Now is time to harness the wisdom, the resources, the energy, the savvy, and the passion of millions of Christians in America – grandparents.

Join me.  Join a growing army.  Let’s impact the future–for the sake of our grandkids.

 

 

The Incredible Importance of Grandparenting

Roger and Clarisse were already doting grandparents and wonderful secondary caregivers for their two granddaughters: they loved caring for them and were involved in their lives at every opportunity. They knew their role was an important one, and they treasured it.

After they had attended our grandparenting study, Roger shared how he had changed: “Of course, I was already a grandfather—in fact, I was a Christian grandfather,” he said. “But it had never occurred to me to be an intentional Christian grandfather.”

Roger’s view of the importance of his role as grandfather changed. As he got a clearer picture of how God saw his role, so did his approach to his grandchildren. He told us, “Now, every time I see my granddaughters I think about how I can be an influence in their lives for Christ.”

Roger’s transformation was immediate. He began to converse more with his granddaughters about Christ; he prayed more with them, read Bible stories to them, and blessed them. He simply needed a vision of the spiritual significance of his role as a grandfather.

Many grandparents are like Roger and Clarisse were: they are Christian grandparents, yet they find importance in their role through helping the parents, loving the grandkids, and even spoiling them a little. However, there is a greater importance to the role of grandparenting.

We—my wife, Diane, and I—became convinced of it a few years ago. For us, it started with “seeing with new eyes” a passage of Scripture that we had read many times. In fact, it started with seeing the significance of a single little word—the word “and.”

Because of the “and,” Diane and I moved. We took a lesser role in our jobs. In fact, we stepped out of a comfortable position of leadership in Awana, which has been our life’s ministry calling, and move from Illinois to California—for the specific purpose of fulfilling the command that followed the “and.”

Scripture’s view of the grandparenting role gives it importance

What “and” was it? The one in the last part of Deuteronomy 4:9: “teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”[1] When we saw it, we realized that we were responsible to teach two generations, not just one. We couldn’t just spoil our grandkids or dote on them or be a secondary caregiver, we were to be spiritual influencers. We were to teach them. And, we knew it would be easier to fulfill that command from nearby than from 1800 miles away, so we moved.

Moving isn’t the point: it may not be necessary, desirable, or even possible for you. But seeing what Scripture has to say and following it IS the point.

And whether it is through the simple command in Deuteronomy 4:9, or the many passages that use the phrase, “generation to generation”, the active role of a grandparent is a pattern regularly implied in God’s Word.

When you add a multi-generational vision to the command to instruct grandchildren, you get an even clearer picture of how God wants grandparents to think and act. That multi-generational vision is described by the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 78:5b-7: “He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”[2]

Do you see? According to Deuteronomy, we are to teach two generations, but according to this passage, we are to think four! Let’s put ourselves in the role of the “ancestors” that Asaph mentions: we (generation one) are to teach our children (generation two) about the things of God so the grandchildren (three) not yet born would know them, and they in turn will tell their children (four). Our vision is that a generation beyond the one not yet born will follow God. Is that your desire? Is it more than a desire—is it a strong passion and a vision that guides your talk and activities with your grandchildren? Does it help you see the great importance of your role?

The incredible potential for discipleship gives grandparenting importance

Grandparent, are you aware of your power for influence? Here’s the truth: you are second only to the parents in your potential to impact your grandchildren spiritually. Most grandparents enjoy a great relationship with their grandkids, especially in the younger years—and that loving bond is ideal for nurturing spiritual growth.

Grandma, you have much more potential for influence than a Sunday school teacher. My children’s ministry friends tell me that in their churches, the average child attends 1.3 to 2 times a month, depending on the church. A Sunday school teacher will see an individual child 15-25 hours in a given year, and that is all! Then usually, they are on to start over again in different class with a different teacher. Grandpa, you have so much more to offer! Your unconditional love for your grandchild, your seasoned perspective, and your willingness to spend time make you an ideal discipler. Do you see that?

But potential influence doesn’t mean there is automatic impact, does it? There are oh, so many barriers to influencing grandkids spiritually: here’s what we have found just in our small circle of friends: Janet has a granddaughter who lives in Sweden. Bill and Teresa’s grandkids live with an estranged daughter-in-law. Tina is a single grandma on a limited income, and the “other grandparents” are wealthy and shower expensive gifts on her grandkids. Pete and Barb’s son and family are into sports and spiritual things are unimportant. Winnie’s daughter has walked away from her Christian faith and converted to Buddhism. And that’s just a few of the barriers!

Yes, there are so many obstacles. But the potential for impact is still there, and we can’t forget that. Roger and Clarisse weren’t living up to their potential, though there were no barriers. Now they are.

How about you? Could you “up your game?” As you think about the importance of your role, could you connect with your teenage grandkids more frequently? Could you read Bible stories to your adorable toddlers? Could you tell your grandkids your faith journey?

It’s important. It’s really important. Why don’t you start today?

* * * * *

If you are interested in the topic of intentional Christian grandparenting, check out the Legacy Grandparenting Summit, the very first-ever national conference on Christian grandparenting! Go to http://legacygrandparentingsummit.com to get all the information.

[1] NKJV

[2] NIV