The Question I most often have from Grandparents is this one “How can I help my grandchildren, come to know the Lord, when their parents have rejected faith?”. It is a continual source of frustration for very devoted, loving Christians wanting to pass on the faith they hold so dear. They feel disappointed by children that have walked away, and still want to share this important part of themselves with the next generation.
It seems to me that there are 3 parts to this dilemma.
- Is how to negotiate with their children about what can and can’t be shared regarding faith with their grandchildren.
- To understand what Spirituality is and what it must do with faith, so that they understand what it is that they are trying to discuss with their children.
- How they can express their faith in their own homes, respect their children but remain true to themselves. Or how to be missional in your own home.
Before I try to expand this conversation, and these dilemmas, I want to make it clear that I value your thoughts so please help me out here and share your own thoughts.
Also, I have always written short non-academic posts for sharing with time poor parents/grandparent/guardians. To continue in this vein, I will break this post down into parts over the next few Sunday’s.
But the very first thing I have the privilege of sharing with Christian Grandparents is the privilege of prayer. Every grandparent I have spoken too, when asked, has admitted that they pray for their children and their grandchildren. As Christian’s they have been doing what is expected, they take it to their Lord. And I believe in the power of prayer. From my own life experience, to the studies we read in Pastoral Care classes. There is a connectedness in prayer. Right through the Gospels, our example of Christ, takes time out to pray (Matthew 14:23,26:36, Mark 6:36, 14:32; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:28) so in their example these Grandparents have been bringing their faith to their family. Some have negotiated the path to being able to say, “I pray for you each day” to their children and grandchildren, the best others can do is to tell their family that they think about them each day. But for some even this “toning down of ideas” tends to result in a family schism, so nothing is said. This is when we trust to the power of prayer.
In their conclusion in Families and Faith, Bengtson, Putney and Harris, make some recommendations from their research and from other sources to conclude that “families do matter in determining the moral and religious outcomes of young adults.”(p.195). Their study was longitudinal, over 35 years and involved different generations, and they make the point that “increasingly grandparents are the defacto moral and religious teachers”(p.197), thus we can extrapolate that their second point on the warmth and affirming family relationships being associated with “higher religious transmission” applies equally to the grandparents as to the parents. So, your relationship to your grandchild is important, as is your relationship with your child. And don’t give up on your adult children, Bengston and Co’s research suggest that “prodigals do return” (p. 197). Finally, “families where grandparents reinforce the parents’ religious socialization efforts succeed more than where they do not”.
Families and Faith: How religion is passed down across generations, Bengtson, Vern L., Putney, Norella M. and Harris, S. (2017, Oxford University Press, New York)
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