With the “Age Wave” making its impact on Church ministry, folks over 40 years old are now making up more than half of church attendees, and there is an increasing number of adults who are becoming grandparents. Grandparents hold a special place in the family structure and in church ministry.
Grandparents involved in ministry is returning to its 1950s level of importance. Back in the 1950s, grandparents were still working and were a vital part of the family unit. They were also the backbone of Church ministry. With Baby Boomers now aging into their 60s, the Church is filling up once again with grandparents just as it experienced in the 1950s. The “Age Wave” created by Baby Boomers is producing similar effects in today’s Church as grandparents actively engaged in ministry did in the 1950s.
With our children maturing into adults and having their own children, grandparent ministry is resurging. It’s a vital ministry to our children’s children (our grandchildren) and to the Church at large. We as older adults have more life-wisdom and experiences to offer our extended families than do our adult children. Our offspring might not think that’s true or might not act as respectfully toward us as we think they should. They may even think our knowledge of the world is outdated or irrelevant.
The tension we feel in our relationship with our adult children often stems from us being too opinionated, reacting too quickly, or giving the impression that the way we view an issue is the best way to handle the problem. Our pride often closes down communication. Our opinions don’t appear attractive when in fact our mature wisdom is desperately needed.
Extended family relationships are part of God’s creation design. This means grandparents offer much that will benefit their adult children’s families when they face troubles. As adults age the way in which they think changes. Mature adults tend to be less impulsive, and more oriented to “gut feelings” or intuition based on decades of life interactions with people than when we were in our twenties and thirties. Grandparents are often more conscious of other’s feelings and able to read facial expression better than do grandchildren (who have grown up in a two-dimensional media/internet-saturated world rather than in the real three-dimensional world of personal face-to-face interactions).
Godly aging is a process of simmering constructive thoughts and offering them using mature responses that are relationally smooth when dealing with family conflicts by combining love and truth in a seasoned manner. Grandparents can be a stabilizing and reassuring force in their extended families. God gifts every parent and grandparent with a lot to offer their families.
Here are three things a grandparent can offer in the form of ministry to their family members and their extended church family that matter and are much needed in our fragmented society.
Be a Listening Post
The first thing we can do is be a listening post. Adult children need (and will always need) a parent to whom they can verbalize frustrations. Finding another who will listen and not judge isn’t always easy. Most people, like Job’s friends in the Bible, are too quick to offer solutions and judgments. A friend who listens is a friend indeed.
Adult children and our grandchildren need someone who understands how important it is to be heard. Taking the time to listen to someone displays love and concern for them. It says to the one speaking that their concerns are more important than our solutions. Sometimes listening is all that is needed. To be able to hear yourself reason out why you are in trouble frequently helps to process our actions and discover a solution. Listening allows a person to verbalize their thoughts. It takes a mature adult, using their right brain more than their left brain (empathy vs rationality) to provide comfort and assurance to a person in distress.
The Psalmist learned it was more important to listen to the Lord than to speak (Ps 85:8). You can learn a lot about what a person is facing and their deepest concerns if you are slow to speak and quick to listen (Jm 1:19). The book of Proverbs teaches that we need to hold our tongue (Pr 10:19) and speak from knowledge and understanding (Pr 17:27). This takes a secure mature person and only comes after we have listened (Pr 18:13). These skills are desperately needed in the family.
The gift of listening is a powerful tool in the lives of adult children and grandchildren. It reveals to them our love and interest in them. It put their concerns above ours. Listening skills are a learned art form. It’s becoming increasingly scarce. Listening skills take time to develop and can be a grandparent’s greatest asset when influencing a grandchild to grow in their faith in Christ and to make God-honoring decisions.
Ask Directive Questions
The second thing we can do is ask good questions. A good question leads a person to discover God’s perspective and make what they discover their own. Directive questions are dynamic as they expose flaws in our reasoning and direct us to align the priorities of our thoughts with the Bible. Asking leading questions is a constructive form of influencing another. It is an easily accepted way for people to learn because it’s not overbearing. Asking good questions allows a person to process what they said. It slows them down so they can hear the strength or weakness in their reasoning. Well-directed questions encourage, give direction, and motivate adult children and grandchildren to not give up or lose hope in finding a solution.
Jesus was a master at asking questions that directed his disciples into discovering what he wanted them to know. Once Jesus asked them a battery of three questions to draw out of them who he was. He first asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16:15-15). Then he asked, “But what about You?” Finally, he moved from a generalized question to a personal commitment question by asking “Who do you say I am?” This group of three questions led his disciples into a commitment and confession that he was the unique Messiah. They needed to come to that decision on their own and own their confession. Jesus led them to this place through directive questions that helped them process what they had previously seen him do and heard him teach in contrast to what others were saying about him. Jesus led them in a process that began with an abstract theological thought and ended with a deeply personal commitment to himself.
Grandchildren often lack accurate information (especially about God and other relationships). Yet, they need people in their lives that do more than offer information. Believe it or not, they want to know what Grandad and Grandma think. They sometimes value our opinions more than their parent’s. They want to know our opinions. But also, they need to know why we have come to our conclusions and commitments, so they can discover how they can find what God wants for their lives.
Grandchildren learn the process of making good decisions from grandparents as much as from their parents. In order for them to make godly conclusions and commitments theirs, they need a process, often discovered through being asked directive questions that don’t appear judgmental. Such dialogue will lead them to the same godly conclusions and commitments about life and faith and God that we as mature adults have come to value.
Grandparents have a special relationship with their grandchildren that easily allows them to be good listeners and wise counselors as they lead youth into sound biblical values. We have just enough relational distance between our grandchildren that they can’t anticipate how we will respond to their concerns. Grandchildren find grandparents mysterious. We are older and culture implies we are out of touch with youth, but our relational skills model clearly before our grandchildren that we are full of life’s wisdom which is something they lack and want.
This permits us to use processing questions to lead them to God-honoring conclusions. Asking questions that lead a person to develop their own conclusions and align with Scripture is as much an art form as being a good listener. It takes practice to learn the difference between a “static” what question that only deals with facts and a “dynamic” processing question which leads them to discover God’s truths and make it their own.
Pray for Your Grandchildren
Thirdly, as adults, we have learned the power of prayer. James taught that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (Jm 5:16). Prayer influences results and is part of God’s active ministry to our family. I learned this shortly after I was converted. It was a critical life lesson that I learned early in life. God intends for us to rely on prayer as a means of communion with him. As I age my prayers are deepening. I discuss with God more about other’s needs than my own. And, I don’t wait to pray, rather, I wait to respond or speak until after I have prayed.
God listens to the prayers of his people (Ps 15:29). This being true, how much more should we bring the needs and concerns of our extended family before the throne of grace! Not only do people appreciate it when we offer to pray for them, they very much find comfort in knowing we are praying for them–grandchildren included. So, pray with them right on the spot. After you have taken time to listen and ask penetrating questions, offer to pray for them.
Pray is a way of including God in the process. This is his world. Our adult children and grandchildren are struggling to live in God’s world. This may be due to sin or a lack of knowledge, or it may be caused by doing the wrong things or misapplying God’s principles to life. It could be the result of an injustice or evil. Whatever the case may be, God answers our prayers and directs our thought as we pray. Prayer is the first step in solving a problem.
Prayer is also part of the discovery process in finding and doing God’s will. It’s a divine means of grace for solving problems. When we humble ourselves and pray, and seek his presence and will, God often reveals the solution to our problems as well as motives us to accomplish his will. Prayer generates hope. It reminds us that God is listening to us. God hears and responds. So, pray with and for your extended family, and be known as someone who quickly and regularly seeks God’s wisdom through prayer.
Be an active listener, ask constructive leading questions, and seek God in prayer. These are three ways grandparents can make a difference in the lives of their extended family. It’s part of our ministry to our families and our extended church families. Develop these skills and trust the Lord will use you to care for your family and church family. Being a grandparent includes having a grandparent ministry.
Take a few minutes and watch a humorous short video by Ken Davis about an experience he had at 65 years of age. Life is not a waiting room for death. God is not finished with you. I was at a Youth For Christ director’s training conference year ago and heard him live. He is one of the funniest Christian comedians I have ever heard. And, he always has a great message attached to his presentations. Click here to watch. Enjoy