Christian Grandparenting. Grandfather and granddaughter watering plants.
Paradigms

Christian Grandparenting

What is Christian grandparenting? Are there distinct roles and responsibilities? How is Christian grandparenting different from secular grandparenting? Read on for some answers.

An Unclear Role

Many grandparents are uncertain, ambiguous or confused about their purpose and roles. How should they interact with their grandchildren? Social contract experts promote closeness at a distance, personal autonomy, and non-interference. According to popular culture, being a senior is enjoying a leisurely lifestyle, socializing with peers, and focusing on oneself. As author Andrew Blechman identifies in his book Leisureville, the senior years are about independence and indulgence.

Little wonder that many grandparents find themselves on the periphery of family life. Is this what God intended? Is grandparenting mainly about adoring our grandchildren from a safe distance, sometimes caring for them, and occasionally spoiling them? Or is there a higher calling? One with meaning and intentionality that transcends marginal or optional roles?

A Sacred Trust

Functionally and biblically, there’s a higher calling. God designated and ordained grandparents to support parents in nurturing and nourishing the faith formation of future generations. Being old should never stop us from loving the Lord and loving others. Every Christian grandparent, without exception, exists to tell and teach their grandchildren the Good News about Christ’s atoning suffering and death, resurrection and ascension, the converting work of the Holy Spirit, and the second coming of Christ to finally set everything right.

God designated and ordained grandparents to support parents in nurturing the faith formation of future generations. Share on X

Christian grandparenting is a BIG deal! Make no bones about it. Sharing the Good News of salvation and sanctification in Christ Jesus is a sacred trust God entrusts to grandparents so this generation, and the generations to come, would love and live for Him.

A Multi-Generational Obligation

The Bible specifies what grandparents should be and do. Several Scripture passages inform and undergird God’s discipling role for grandparents. Two formative texts should be noted:

Deuteronomy 4:9 – “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Note the phrase, “your children and to their children.” The responsibility to nurture children’s faith formation doesn’t stop with our children – it extends to two or more generations (Psalm 78:6 mentions four generations). In other words, a grandparent’s role is to engage, equip, and encourage their grandchildren to eventually be faith-forming grandparents to their grandchildren.

The responsibility to nurture children's faith formation doesn't stop with our children – it extends to two or more generations. Share on X

Psalm 78:4-8 – “We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which 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. They would not be like their ancestors – a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”

Note the verbs “tell,” “teach,” and “know.” Grandparents must also describe the might and marvels of God – explaining the Scriptures in ways that help their children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s children to “never forget the works of God but keep his commands to the letter” (MSG).

Songwriter Robin Mark reflectively sings, “When it’s all been said and done. There is just one thing that matters. Did I do my best to live for truth? Did I live my life for you?”

Some Implications

The words “heritage” and “spiritual legacy” encapsulate a grandparent’s role. There’s an intimate influence uniquely given to grandparents. Only grandparents can do what God designed for them. A grandparent’s faith-nurturing responsibilities are not transferrable or interchangeable, nor can they be annulled. Parents, while primarily responsible for discipling their children, can’t fulfill the grandparent’s role. Nor can children’s workers, youth pastors or Christian teachers.

Grandparents have the most influence on children's faith formation after their parents. Share on X

Through long-term involvement, close personal relationships, and cumulated wisdom and experience, grandparents have the most influence on children’s faith formation after their parents. So, parents and children should welcome input and involvement from godly grandparents. And local churches shouldn’t be silent regarding the purpose and roles of grandparents. As the grandparenting expert, Larry Fowler notes: “Church leaders must challenge culture’s message about grandparenting and help grandparents listen to Scripture’s message instead.” Churches must also prioritize training and resourcing – giving grandparents the skills and confidence they need to excel as Good News envoys.

A Grandparents Prayer

In the evening of your life, when you look to the sunset, will you be found faithful? Christian grandparenting matters! Don’t miss the opportunity to pursue what God prioritizes. When grandparents disciple children, it has incredible kingdom potential. So, if you’re a grandparent, be intentional. Watch yourself. Maintain your spiritual health and fervour. Find opportunities to “still bear fruit in old age” Psalm 92:14. Intersect and connect. Champion the Good News. And pray earnestly.

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come” Psalm 71:18 (NIV).

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© Scripture Union, 2023

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