Roger and Clarisse were already doting grandparents 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 a 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 changed. "Now, every time I see my granddaughters I think about how I can be an influence in their lives for Christ," he said.
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, and found importance in their role through helping the parents, loving the grandkids, and even spoiling them a little. Then they learned there is a greater importance to the role of grandparenting than they imagined.
The little word that changed our lives
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 took a lesser role in our jobs. In fact, we stepped out of a comfortable position of leadership in Awana, a global non-profit ministry. That position had been our life's ministry calling. And we moved from Illinois to California—for the specific purpose of fulfilling the command that followed the "and."
In Deuteronomy 4, the Israelites are told to "keep the commandments of the LORD your God" (verse two). Then verse nine says, "Teach them to your children and your grandchildren" (NKJV). When we saw that little word "and," 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 1,800 miles away, so we moved.
It may not be necessary, desirable, or even possible for you to move closer to your grandchildren. My point is seeing what Scripture has to say. Whether it is in the simple command in Deuteronomy 4:9, or in many other passages that command us to pass on God's Word from "generation to generation," the active role of a grandparent is a pattern regularly implied in God's Word.
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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 children, 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 (NIV), "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 they start over again in a different class with a different teacher.
Grandpa, you have so much 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 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 those are 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?
Copyright © 2016 Larry Fowler. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
1. Read "14 Ways to Leave a Spiritual Legacy to Your Grandchild" and "70 Things We Love About Grandpa."
2. Listen as authors Nancy Downing and Mary May Larmoyeux talk with FamilyLife Today® listeners about ways grandparents can make lasting memories with their grandchildren and stay connected with the next generation.
3. Order a copy of The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild's Heart.