By Lawson Murray
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, 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 the faith formation of future generations. Every Christian grandparent, without excep- tion, 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.
Make no bones about it. Being a Christian grandparent is a big deal! 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 responsibility
The Bible specifies what grand- parents should be and do. Two key Scripture passages inform and undergird God’s discipling role for grandparents: Deuteronomy 4:9 and Psalm 78:1–8. Note the phrase in Deuteronomy 4:9, “your children and to their children.” The responsibility to nurture the faith formation of children 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.
Note in Psalm 78:1–8, 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).
Through long-term involvement, close personal relationships and accumulated 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. They must prioritize training and resourcing – giving grandparents the skills and confidence they need to excel as Good News envoys.
A grandparents prayer
Grandparenting matters! 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. 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).
Lawson Murray is married to his best friend, Karen. They love spending time together with their children and grandchildren (11 so far!). Lawson is deeply committed to connecting children, youth, and families with Jesus and His Word. He is a writer/author, researcher, ministry innovator, conference speaker, adjunct seminary professor, international trainer, Bible engagement specialist, children’s and sports ministry specialist and President of Scripture Union Canada.