The Amazing Potential of a Grandparent
In America, the grandparent role is hugely overlooked and under-resourced, yet it has incredible potential for impacting our youngest generations. Grandparents are second only to parents in their potential to impact children, far surpassing children and youth workers in churches, coaches, and school teachers.
Grandparenting is Overlooked and Misunderstood
Yet, grandparents have rarely attended a class or seminar, or read anything regarding their role. As a result, their perception of what makes a “good” grandparent is informed either by what their grandparents did, or by the prevailing culture’s view of grandparenting. Culture’s view of good grandparenting involves support, encouragement, helping out the parents, and some spoiling thrown in. But there is more that a grandparent can do—through becoming intentional.
Grandparents can pass on faith (the focus of the Legacy Coalition), values, manners, family traditions, and more – and do it effectively, if they will be intentional. We focus on equipping Christian grandparents for passing on faith, but we have found, through research, that approximately 3 of 4 grandparents are not intentional in perpetuating faith and values in their families.
Nearly all grandparents know to pray for their grandchildren—but beyond that, most underestimate their influence potential or they lack the practical tools to be effective in grandparenting intentionally.
A Call to Grandparents in America
The Legacy Coalition is calling for grandparents to become a formidable force in America. We often feel powerless politically or culturally, but we do have an arena in which we can shine – our families. We are calling for a national movement of grandparents, and Christian grandparents in particular, to become intentional in passing on their faith and values to future generations.
The possibilities for impacting our youngest generations are enormous: the millions of grandparents in the U.S. average 6 grandchildren each— and together they are a vast, largely untapped “army” of potential influencers.
The need is great: the decline of culture from what we knew in previous decades, the impact of social media, the sometimes confusing and conflicting messages of education, and the erosion of families all scream for grandparents to do all they can.
Four Kinds of Grandparents
Some grandparents get it. They are purposeful and focused on what they can do to influence their grandchildren. Their time with them is more than just having fun and spoiling, they initiate conversations that guide faith and values. They schedule activities and trips that strengthen relationships within their families. They spend money on grandchildren, not just showering them with gifts, but giving them experiences that will impact. They provide faith experiences, share their faith stories, and record their life stories (including lessons learned) for future generations.
Other grandparents think they are fine the way they are. They measure what they do by the dominant cultural view of grandparents and feel no need to do more. Going to their games, loving on them, taking care of them to give the parents a break, and giving them gifts is sufficient, from their point of view.
Still other grandparents are “blocked” from impacting their grandchildren. Divorce, broken relationships, geographical distance, and differing spiritual and/or political viewpoints can hinder grandparents from having a part in their grandchildren’s lives. These grandparents are hurting deeply and often feel hopeless. On the other end of the spectrum are the grandparents who are raising grandchildren. They also may suffer from broken families, poor choices made by family members, and the result—for them—is not being cut off from grandkids, but rather having to raise them. These grandparents are in the greatest need of help and support from their friends, their churches, and their communities.
Still other grandparents like the idea of being intentional about passing on faith and values, but don’t know practically what that means, or how to do it. They are in a relational position to do it; and they just need equipping.
We, the Legacy Coalition, want to see grandparents fulfill their influence potential, no matter which group they fall in. We don’t want them to miss opportunities to have a lasting faith and values impact in their grandchildren’s lives, so we provide resources and events to equip, inspire, and encourage grandparents.
Because we are a Christian faith-based organization, our materials come from that perspective. We encourage interested grandparents to check out our website, and watch for grandparenting seminars and conferences coming to a city near you.
Join our vision and cause. Step up your grandparent game. Become intentional – and you will leave a lasting impact on those you love — those precious grandkids!
Our guest blog author, Larry Fowler, is the founder of the Legacy Coalition. In 2016, his vision for a national grandparenting ministry brought together a gifted team of family, children’s, and youth ministry leaders to launch this movement of God. His 40 years plus of ministry leadership, including experience as youth pastor, missionary, training staff, international director, and senior executive for Awana, have prepared him for this significant new calling.
Larry has authored books on children’s and family ministry, and is in high demand as a regular main stage speaker and workshop presenter at conferences. His most recent book, “Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers,” helps grandparents navigate family relationships when things aren’t perfect.
In 2012, he was recognized for his lifetime of contribution to Children’s Ministry in America by the International Network of Children’s Ministry, with their national Legacy Award. Larry and his wife, Diane, live in Riverside, California. They have two children and seven grandchildren.