Now this is the commandment, the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them . . . that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged (Deuteronomy 6:1-2).
God undoubtedly desires His people to keep a trans-generational perspective. The Lord delights in His people teaching His Word to their children, so that they may teach their children, and so on. And God loves to see redeemed Grandparents bouncing grandbabies on their knees while singing, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.” Our Lord is faithful across the generations. And our aim should be to see His grace produce trans-generational faithfulness in our own families.
While I am not yet a grandparent, and do not anticipate being one for several more years, I do pastor many grandparents. I enjoy watching them with their grandchildren. It is a visual reminder of God’s goodness. But grandparenting in our culture has become far more complicated than in previous generations. We have some grandparents in our congregation who have had to take it upon themselves to raise their grandchildren full-time. They’re essentially parenting all over again. I commend them for stepping up and standing in the gap with the souls of their grandchildren on the line. And we have grandparents who “watch” their grandchildren several days a week. In many ways, they too are raising those children. It’s easy for pastors to get so focused on the parents and young couples in a church that we forget the grandparents. So, for what my thoughts are worth, I offer a few practical pointers to all you precious parents that are “grand.”
- If you are actually functioning as a full-time parent, you need to ask for God’s grace to transition from the role of grandparent to parent. Not easy. But essential. There are significant differences in the parent-child relationship and the grandparent-grandchild relationship. To effectively parent, you need to be a parent.
- If you are parenting as a grandparent due to some kind of brokenness in the biological parent (your child), then study up on biblical forgiveness and seek grace for kindness and patience. Speaking ill of your grandchild’s parent in front of the child is disastrous. Avoid it! And gently urge the parent (your child) to get whatever help he or she needs. The goal should be, if at all possible, to see the parent and child fully restored.
- Do not enable grown children to live in sin or indulge a sinful lifestyle. Paying for biblical counseling for the grown child – yes! Giving cash to the grown child battling addictions – no! Helping buy school supplies for the grandchild – yes! Allowing the grown child to give herself consistently to sin under your roof – no!
- If the situation with the parents is desperate and not reconcilable in the long-term, pursue legal custody of the grandchild(ren). This makes so many things simpler on you if you find yourself functioning as a parent.
- If you provide regular childcare to your grandchildren, do not do it for free. I know this sounds harsh to some, but I do not believe you are doing your children any real favors by serving as a free, permanent childcare solution. Charge them half what they would have to pay an actual daycare. This at least forces responsibility back where it belongs – on the parents. You can always put the earnings into your grandchild’s college fund!
- Do not agree to provide regular childcare for your grandchildren without asking the parents some hard questions. Like, “Why do you need this childcare?” And, “Have you downgraded your lifestyles in order to do everything possible to allow mom to stay home with the children?” And, “Let me see your budget.” Far too often in our culture parents are simply taking advantage of grandparents in order to maintain a certain standard of living. And the problem exists as much inside the church as outside!
- Do take every opportunity to laugh and frolic with your grandchildren! You never know how many more opportunities to do so the Lord will give you.
- Do teach your grandchildren the Gospel. Read the Bible to them. Read gospel-centered books to them. Christian bookstores are stocked with shelf after shelf of great biblical children’s books now!
- Pray over your grandchild. Pray blessings on their heads. Pray with your grandchild. Teach them to pray and relish the precious words they utter to God. When they pray something amazing or just cute, write it in a journal. You’ll enjoy the memories and smile each time you read the journal entry. In today’s world, you might even film some of your prayer times or fun times with them on your phone.
- Use technology to stay in touch with grandchildren. For those separated by distance, there really is no excuse today for not still being connected to your grandchildren’s lives.
- Find out what your grandchildren enjoy and encourage and support them. I’ve seen 8-year old boys verifiably giddy just because grandpa showed up to their baseball game. As long as God gives you the health, get out there and enjoy life with those grandbabies!
Well, that’s enough to keep us busy for a while. When it comes to matters of parents and grandparents in the church, my strong desire is to see parents working hard by God’s grace to allow grandparents to just be grandparents. That will bless families across generational lines in ways we cannot imagine. In some ways, many of the above tips pain me to write. I wish they were not so needed. May God restore peace and gospel wholeness to our families. May the Lord give us a revival of Psalm 78:1-8 families. For the sake of Christ, and the joy of all you parents who are GRAND!