One of my greatest joys was seeing my son reading the Bible to my grandson not long after he was born. He and his wife have raised their three children in a godly home. I have witnessed my grandchildren’s baptisms and they have given their lives to Christ. But that doesn’t happen just because parents or grandparents are Christians. There has to be an intentional effort to guide children to faith, and grandparents have a unique responsibility in the process.
A paradigm shift in classroom instruction decades ago challenged teachers to become a guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage. That is, their role was to facilitate learning rather than only provide direct instruction. Our role as grandparents is to also be a guide on the side. The responsibility of direct instruction in the word of God is primarily given to parents.
One example of this directive is in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 which tells parents to take every available opportunity to teach their children who God is and what he requires. Paul says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV). Grandparents have the privilege of supporting the godly teaching that comes first from the parents.
Paul said of his protégé Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (II Timothy 1:5, NIV). Timothy would not have been the man of God that he was without the example he had seen in his grandmother.
Our first thought is likely that our grandchildren should see us in church, or reading the Bible and praying. But they should also see an example of faith in how we treat them equally, and in how we treat their parents. Grandparents have to be careful to not usurp a parent’s authority or point of view. Even when we don’t agree with our adult children, we have to still allow them to be the decision makers in their homes. We become an example of faith in action by showing our adult children the love and respect they deserve as adults in front of their children or when they are alone with us. When the parents’ rules are different from ours, we can talk about the difference with our grandchildren as it becomes necessary. Yet, we have to be careful to not condemn their parents. Instead, our speech and actions should reflect and model the love and grace of Christ.
My daughter-in-law’s mother and I often laugh now about how we each prayed for the grandchildren before they were even conceived. Once the children are born, grandparents can guide them to faith by praying with them. When the grandchildren are staying overnight, continue the spiritual disciplines the parents have in their homes. Or introduce new ones that are special to your relationship with them. For example, grandparents can prayerfully select a verse that is unique to each grandchild and begin reciting it to them from the moment they are first placed in your arms. You can continue saying the verse to them as you pray together at bedtime. Over the years, teach your grandchildren the importance of the verse and encourage them to memorize it as well.
But when our children are not believers, the pathway to guiding the grandchildren in the word of God has a roadblock that only prayer can overcome. You may not be able to openly speak to your grandchildren about your faith if the unbelieving parents forbid it. But you can continue to pray and trust God to bring salvation into your family.
Our patience as grandparents seems to far exceed the patience we had when we raised our children. This allows us to be the consistent place of calmness and acceptance for grandchildren, especially as they begin to struggle with social issues or the problems of growing up. Our consistent reminders to them to obey their parents and to obey God can become lifetime gifts. I find myself smiling at things I always heard my grandmother say. Some were spiritual truths, and some were tips for life. But because she consistently repeated them to me, they have stuck. The consistency our grandchildren see in us is a way to help our grandchildren grow in faith.
Our ultimate goal in guiding our grandchildren to faith is this: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (III John 1:4). This far exceeds the academic or professional achievements grandparents like to brag about. When we can see our grandchildren walking with the Lord and know that we were part of their coming to faith in Christ, that is our true source of joy and thankfulness.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster