But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children. Psalm 103:17
Many grandparents are surprised to learn how influential they can be in their grandchildren’s lives. As much as friends and cultural influences take their part, God has placed a special formative power in the hands of grandparents. But how to exercise this power? Grandparents today face a mix of opportunities and challenges. 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. On the other hand, a growing number of grandparents have watched circumstances drive them to take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren.
In these contexts, it has become less clear what role grandparents can best play. Are they just a good source for gifts and free babysitting? What is the most important thing a grandparent can do?
A grandparent’s first priority is just to be present with their grandchildren, as much as is reasonably possible in each unique family situation. It may help to stop and remember how much you depended on grandparents when you were younger. For others, “being there” means taking on the challenge posed by miles or strained relationships that might be keeping you from your grandchildren. Video chatting and Facebook, which cannot replace real physical presence, nevertheless have greatly enhanced many grandparents’ ability to maintain close relationships with their grandkids over vast geographical distances.
Being there for your grandchildren 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 unique. Each Sunday in the Eucharist, Christ instructs us to “Do this in remembrance of me.” This remembering is crucial for faith formation. And the way we remember is to re-tell our story. Talk to your grandchildren about God’s influence in your life, and point out the moments in the famous family stories where God was especially present to you. They will not forget.
Plant Seeds Of Faith
Being present and making memories with your grandchildren gives you the opportunity to plant seeds of faith within 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 rich spiritual heritage. So be very intentional about creating opportunities to nurture faith and trust in God in your grandchildren. Don’t be “preachy,” but instead model obedience and trust, and share with them your own personal story.
A Prayer of Self-Dedication
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 832
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 828
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 832
For the Absent
O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 830
- See also the Bringing Faith Home resource
• The Empty Nest Years
- Extreme Grandparenting By Tim Kimmel And Darcy Kimmel
Offers timeless 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.
- God Knows Grandparents Make A Difference: Ways to Share Your Wisdom By Priscilla Herbison
Encourages grandparents to embrace their influential role.
- The Power of Godly Grandparenting: Leaving a Spiritual Heritage By Stephen And Janet Bly
Offers ideas for how to give a rich spiritual heritage.
- Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles By Cheri Fuller
Offers creative tips to breach the miles which separate you from your grandchildren.
Offers resources and recommendations to “promote effective grandparenting which is intentional about helping children and grandchildren know and follow Christ anywhere wholeheartedly.” ChristianGrandparenting.net
- Get Connected.
Join with other grandparents from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor Together.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to grandparenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.