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.” 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.”
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?
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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.