Aside from my parents, my maternal grandparents have been the single most important spiritual influence in my life. They lived next door to us until I was 8 years old or so, and then they moved to the street my elementary school was in. I often stayed there for lunch or after school. And in the summer there were long sleepovers, sometimes for weeks as my parents visited missionaries for a missionary organization they were a part of.
My grandparents didn’t just talk about Jesus with me. Their faith was visible for me in everything they did, even when I was a kid. They prayed for me, prayed with me, read the Bible, and constantly shared God’s love.
In the last years there’s been a positive development towards family ministry; a style of doing ministry where we don’t just reach the teens, but encourage parents in their primary role as spiritual examples. But families are more than just parents and siblings. Families include other family members as well, especially grandparents.
For many kids, grandparents hold a special place in their hearts. And there are few grandparents who are not proud of their grandkids. There’s power to this special relationship. I know that my grandparents were sometimes able to say things to me, I would have never accepted from my parents. Advice on dating for instance. My grandma often stressed the importance of dating a Christian guy. From her, I took this way more seriously than I did when my mom said the same thing.
In youth ministry, we need to leverage the spiritual influence of grandparents. They are in a unique position to reach out to their grandkids about faith. They are also potential supporters of our youth ministry, both in prayer and practically. Here are some questions to help you think about this further:
- What is your youth ministry doing to encourage and equip grandparents to further the spiritual development of their grandkids?
- If you’re not doing anything right now, what are some small steps you could take to make grandparents aware of the role they could play in their grandkids’ faith?
- How could you help grandparents whose kids are in the same church?
- What would grandparents need whose kids are in another church?
- A big worry (and heartbreak) for grandparents is to see their grandkids lose faith. How can we encourage these folks?
- Are the grandparents in your church aware of the issues their grandkids are facing? Do they know the signs of possible trouble (depression for instance, or bullying)?
- Grandparents are often prayer warriors (mine sure are!), or have the potential to be since they have more time. How could you encourage them to pray for their grandkids, or for (your) youth ministry?
- Do you have roles in your ministry where grandparents would shine? I know that I once had an amazing team of two grandparents who led a small group!