Larry Link, Minister to Boomers & 2nd HALF
First Baptist Church Arlington, Texas
Grandparents in the 21st century face a mix of new opportunities and challenges. Extended life expectancy has dramatically changed the length and look of the empty nest years. Many grandparents now have greater opportunities for work and travel. Tight-knit family relationships have increasingly given way to family members spread over wide geographic distances. Some grandparents face the challenge of getting time with grandchildren because of divorce. A growing number of grandparents have watched circumstances drive them to take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren.
In this context, it’s become less clear what role grandparents can best play. Are they just a good source for gifts and free babysitting? What’s the most important thing a grandparent can do?
STEP ONE: Be there for them
A grandparent’s first priority is to “be there”…one way or another. For the active grandparents whom the Wall Street Journal has described as having a full slate of work and travel, it means stopping to remember how much you depended on grandparents when you were younger—and knowing how critical your presence is. For others, “being there” means taking on the challenge posed by miles or strained relationships that might be keeping you from your grandchildren. Technology solutions such as video chatting have helped some grandparents close the gap.
Being there gives you the opportunity to show the kind of unconditional love that even parents can struggle to maintain on a consistent basis. It gives you a chance to tell the family story—the people, places and plot twists that have made your family distinct. Being there also allows you to teach things that parents may not have found time for—how to skip a rock, how to build and fly a kite, how to make fudge, playing catch, and other priceless lessons.
STEP TWO: Nurture their faith
Most importantly, being there and making memories with your grandchildren gives you the opportunity to impress your faith on them. Psalm 78 presents a concept of extended spiritual heritage:
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers 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 (Psalm 78:5-7).
Nothing you can give as a grandparent is more valuable than your spiritual legacy. Your gifts, time, games, food and other contributions find their primary value when they are offered in the context of a spiritual heritage. So be very intentional about creating opportunities to nurture faith during the years your grandchildren are receptive to your influence.
Pastoral insights from Kurt Bruner, The Center for Strong Families
GOING FURTHER – Resources
Extreme Grandparenting by Tim Kimmel and Darcy Kimmel
Are you ready to take grandparenting to the next level? This book offers timeless and tested principles for grandparenting in the twenty-first century.
It Starts At Home by Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope
Gives grandparents practical suggestions for influencing the faith of their grandchildren.
Grandparenting With a Purpose by Lillian Penner – writes about effective, creative ways to pray for your grandchildren from birth through their young adult years. She leaves nothing out in her thorough approach to this vital topic.
GOING FURTHER – Church Support
Our Boomer Ministry, led by Larry Link, will assist you in discovering your mission in this new stage of life, grow in relationships of people in this same stage, and learning more about how God has designed you to live for these next few decades!
2nd HALF Ministry
Our 2nd HALF Ministry, led by Larry Link, and is designed for adults in the over 70 age range. Throughout the year, programs will be offered that address issues that are being faced on a day-to-day basis by people in this age group. Spiritual formation is a major emphasis in helping this group to have a better understanding that we as Christians are to continue to grow in Christ and in his service as long as we are alive.