Essentials for Christian Grandparents

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

One of the greatest joys many people experience in the third third of life is the arrival of grandchildren. The resources on this page explore the role of the grandparent—including how you might contribute to the faith formation of your grandchildren.

Articles

  • What Is My Role as a Grandparent? Deb Koster provides a great job description for grandparents, who, as she notes, are called to be doing much more than the stereotypical “spoiling” of their grandchildren. Her list of things grandparents should offer and be includes unconditional love, cheerleader, and sounding board.

  • Biblical Guidelines for Grandparenting. Kim Sullivan offers biblical perspectives on the role of grandparenting and lists some important things for grandparents to do, including blessing their grandchildren and telling them about God’s goodness.

  • Being Grandma, Not the Babysitter. Robert Ritzema discusses the danger of grandparents becoming like the bucket that collects drips under the sink—always there when needed. He cautions children not to take their parents for granted and grandparents to set limits on the help they provide in caring for grandchildren.

  • Grandparents will appreciate these 101 Generation-Bridging, Boredom-Busting Activities for Grandparents and Grandchildren.

Videos

  • The Modern Grandparent and Their Role in Today’s Family. This video stresses how valuable it is to include grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents not only can fill in for times when parents are working or busy, but they can also engage children in different ways than their parents do and sometimes view them through wiser eyes. The video even suggests that if third-thirders don’t have grandchildren of their own, they might act as surrogate grandparents for other children. 

  • Grandparents vs. Parents. Because child-raising techniques have changed and grandparents play a different role with kids than parents do, conflicts may emerge. Also, sometimes grandparents may feel taken advantage of or disregarded. This video suggests that ongoing communication between spouses and between grandparents and their children is essential for good relationships.

  • Watching Grandkids Has Health Benefits for Grandparents. This video describes a study in Australia that suggested that caring for grandchildren one day a week actually has a positive effect on the cognitive abilities of grandparents.

Grandparents as Faith-Shapers

Ministry leaders tell us that they are seeing an increase in the number of grandparents who are primary caregivers of their grandchildren and/or grandparents who are taking on the responsibility of bringing their grandchildren to church. It’s important that as faith communities we keep these faith-shapers in mind when we think about supporting, encouraging, and equipping families.

Resources

  • Grandparents Discipling Grandchildren. Syd Hielema suggests a variety of ways that churches can support grandparents, equipping them to pass on the faith. He also lists some valuable resources that grandparents can use for that purpose.

  • The God Loves Me series of Bible storybooks provide a wonderful way for grandparents to tell God’s stories to the little ones in their care. They are sold in a set of 52 books or individually

  • The publishers of Please Pass the Faith: The Art of Spiritual Grandparenting point out that almost a third of North Americans will be over age 65 by 2030. “How will this affect the church?” they ask. For author Elsie Rempel, these statistics present an opportunity for spiritual growth. Her book aims to help seniors and other adults develop faith-forming relationships with children and youth. How might your church actively engage older adult members to be part of the “village” it takes to raise children in faith?

  • These four assessment tools can help grandparents think about how they might engage in faith formation with their grandchildren.

  • The post How to Help Your Grandchildren Grow in Faith: Ideas for Grandparents includes easy ideas for grandparents as well as a helpful list of do’s and don’ts. 

  • In response to research indicating that grandparents influence the faith of their grandchildren, Fuller Youth Institute compiled this wonderful list of Twenty Ideas for Grandparents.

  • For more about resources and other tools for grandparents who are committed to faith-shaping, see the Family Faith Formation Toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries.

Websites

  • Helpful posts on grandparenting can be found on Reframe Media’s Family Fire site.

  • The Legacy Coalition exists to “encourage grandparents to be intentional disciple-makers who pass a rich heritage in Christ to future generations.”

FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION

  • How can your church honor and support grandparents?

  • What might your church do to help equip grandparents for their role—especially as faith-shapers?

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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