In my youth ministry days, I was always a little disappointed to hear that youth workers ranked pretty low on the list of “top spiritual influences” in teenagers’ lives. But it was true. Researchers found that parents and grandparents, not youth workers, were at the top of the list. Next came other extended family members and close family friends. Pastors, children’s and youth ministry leaders did show up on the list of spiritual influencers — but far below parents and grandparents. But should this be surprising given the Bible’s verses about the importance of grandparents?
So, later in my youth ministry career, I turned my attention to helping parents leverage their well‐deserved position of influence in their kids’ lives. I conducted parenting seminars, wrote books on parenting, and championed parent ministry in the local church. I did this for more than twenty years.
Strangely, it never occurred to me to help grandparents as well — until recently.
That’s because I am now a grandparent. And it’s also because I have discovered that grandparents are, for the most part, a forgotten, marginalized resource in the church.
Bible Verses About Grandparents
I did a Bible study a few years ago on grandparenting. I learned that the Bible does not marginalize grandparents at all. Instead, it has a high view of grandparents and gives them a vital role in their grandchildren’s lives. There are a few Bible verses about grandparents that demonstrate this role.
One good example is in Deuteronomy 4:9: “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Notice the word “and” in that last sentence. We aren’t finished when our children grow up and leave home. God’s people are instructed to teach at least two generations (children and grandchildren) the stories of our faith and the greatness of our God.
Another example is Psalm 71:17‐18: “Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 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.”
This verse kept me going for a long time in youth ministry. But this verse applies directly to grandparenting. In most cases, when the Bible speaks of the “next generation,” it is referring to our immediate families. “All who are to come” references our children’s children, namely our grandchildren as well as our great-grandchildren.
Throughout scripture, you find that grandparents (often referred to as “elders,” “forefathers,” or “ancestors”) are crucial to God’s plan of salvation for the whole world. Grandparents have the responsibility of making sure that the baton of faith gets passed from generation to generation.
The Importance of Grandparents
Sadly, many grandparents have bought into the modern‐day notion that they should spend their golden years in retirement, leisure, and self‐indulgence. They don’t have time for their grandchildren. Their teaching days are behind them.
Or they see themselves as a free babysitting service. “Our job is to spoil the grandkids. Then we send them back to their parents.” We show up at birthday parties, but that’s about it.
But grandparents on the sidelines are missing out on a great opportunity and God‐given responsibility to make a significant difference in the lives of their grandkids. Grandchildren will listen to their grandparents when they will not listen to anyone else.
What if we could mobilize the more than 30 million Christian grandparents (in the US alone!) to take their role as spiritual leaders in their families more seriously? What if those grandparents intentionally committed to teaching their grandchildren about the love of Christ? How many children do you think this would impact?
Most older adults I know don’t get too excited about the senior‐adult ministries offered in their churches today. They aren’t looking for another senior brunch or bus trip. But they will get excited about a church that takes them seriously and offers them an opportunity to get back in the game. Let’s take the Bible verses about the importance of grandparents seriously. Let’s help grandparents become intentional Christian grandparents who are uniquely positioned and equipped to share the good news about Jesus with the people they love the most.
For More Information
For more information on how to start a grandparenting ministry at your church, contact the Legacy Coalition (legacycoalition.com).