Adapted from Grandparenting with Grace by Larry McCall.
What Does It Mean to Be Intentional as a Grandparent?
What comes to your mind when you think of the word “intentional”? What synonyms? Maybe “purposeful,” or “deliberate,” or “planned,” or possibly “proactive.” If there were a “grandparent intentionality spectrum,” where do you think you would land? Perhaps on the left there may be grandparents who are not at all intentional in their grandparenting. Maybe they spend time now and then with their grandkids, but their involvement is mostly reactionary. These unintentional grandparents may respond positively when asked by their kids or grandkids to do something together, but they don’t initiate time together; they don’t plan their involvement with the grandchildren. There’s no overarching goal to their grandparenting and no thoughtful steps planned on how to get there. In the middle of the spectrum, where many of us find ourselves, are the grandparents who are somewhat intentional. They occasionally reflect on their involvement with their grandchildren; sometimes they initiate doing activities together. That’s great. But what would it take to move the needle on the “intentionality spectrum” further to the right?
Let’s stop to evaluate. What is the overarching goal we have as grandparents? Is it to be our grandchildren’s emotional supporters? Their cheerleaders as they move through their childhood and teen years? Is our goal to give our grandkids happy memories as they grow up?
Maybe we should tweak our question to “What is the overarching goal God has for us in our grandparenting?” What does God want us to be aiming at ultimately as grandparents? Consider the following passages (emphases added below):
- “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
- “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:18).
- “We will . . . tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done . . . so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:4, 7).
- “One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
In God’s gracious providence, the torch of faith that was carried by those who preceded us has now been placed in our hands. God wants us to be faithful in passing that torch to the coming generations. The Lord is calling on us grandparents to be diligent—to be intentional—in showing our grandchildren the greatness and grace of our glorious Lord, so that they “should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7). Now, there’s a worthy goal for our grandparenting: that at the end of our lives, our grandchildren will have “set their hope in God.”
So, what has to happen for that to happen? We can gain a good perspective on what it takes to be intentional grandparents by remembering God’s directive to the people of Israel. God’s Word to the Israelites was to be intentionally passed on from one generation to the next. It was for “you and your son and your son’s son” (Deuteronomy 6:2). And, how was God’s truth to be passed from one generation to the next? That transfer of God’s Word was not a one-time event. The passing of God’s truth was to be an intentional, on-going commitment as one generation interacted with the coming generations in daily life. How does Deuteronomy 6:6–7 describe this intentional transfer of God’s truth from one generation to the next? “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” It’s a matter of intentionally making daily life interactions with our grandchildren into opportunities for passing along truths about God, how we are made right with him, and how we should live rightly with and for him.
Intentional Involvement in Our Grandchildren’s Worlds
If we want to impact our grandchildren’s lives in significant ways, we need to be intentional in building relationships with them that lead them to want to interact with us. To gain their love and respect, we must do what our Savior did: he entered our world and shared our life. We mirror his loving sacrifice by entering into our grandchildren’s world and genuinely sharing their lives.
Intentionally Inviting Our Grandchildren into Our World
Think of the possibilities. Though the primary responsibility for training and disciplining the children is on the shoulders of the parents, we grandparents can come alongside and have life-changing influence on our grandchildren. What if we grandparents developed an intentional “with” approach to ordinary daily activities, deliberately including our grandchildren whenever possible, demonstrating for them and coaching them in helpful life skills?
Intentionally Pursuing Adventures with Our Grandchildren
If our heartfelt, prayerful desire for our grandchildren is that they become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, why would we encourage them to “play it safe” or to pursue a lifestyle of ease and comfort? Life is not centered on us. Life is centered on Jesus Christ, and following him is costly. What did Jesus say? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24). Without being unnecessarily harsh, we grandparents can inspire our grandchildren to “do hard things for God.”
Intentionally Engage Your Grandchildren in Meaningful Conversation
What do we tend to talk about with our grandchildren? I’m sure a lot depends on the situation and current age of our grandchildren. But, no matter if our grandchild is eight or eighteen, are the majority of our conversations meaningful? Are we thoughtfully processing life with our grandchildren in our verbal interaction with them, whether those conversations are happening face to face, on the phone, or through social media?
Intentionally Affirming Our Grandchildren
Do our grandchildren know we love them—really love them? We have so many ways we can intentionally affirm our grandchildren and reassure them of our love. Nothing beats just coming out and saying the words, “I love you, buddy” or “I love you, sweetheart.” Some of us grew up never hearing those sweet words from our own grandparents or parents. But, by God’s empowering grace, we can reflect his love for us by regularly verbalizing to our grandchildren, “I love you!
Larry McCall is the director of Walking Like Jesus Ministries. This ministry is dedicated to helping people see in clear, practical ways how to pursue Christ and reflect him in daily life. He has served as a pastor at Christ’s Covenant Church of Winona Lake, Indiana, since 1981. Learn more at wljministries.org
Adapted from Grandparenting with Grace. © 2019 by Larry McCall. Used by permission of New Growth Press. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the express written permission of New Growth Press. To purchase this and other resources, please visit newgrowthpress.com.