According to Dr. Vern Bengtson, from the University of Southern California, grandparents can take one of three paths in their religious influence:
- Grandparents can reinforce the parents’ religious influence,
- Grandparents can substitute for the parents’ influence, or finally
- Grandparents can subvert the parents’ influence.
As the second and third paths indicate, sometimes the faith of grandparents actually “skips” a generation as grandchildren end up following in their faith footsteps despite parents’ choices to walk away from faith.
To help families and leaders leverage the influence of grandparents, the Fuller Youth Institute decided to ask grandparents to share their best ideas to build Sticky Faith in their grandkids. Here are the most popular 20 ideas:
Ideas that can be done any day, any time
- Invite your grandchildren for individual “sleepovers” at your house. While they are over, do some of their favorite activities together.
- Pray with your grandkids. As you pray, thank God for the special qualities he has given them.
- Teach your grandchild a new skill or one of your favorite hobbies, e.g. fishing, skiing, bicycling, jewelry making.
- Let your grandchild teach you a new skill or share a hobby with you.
- Enter a race and run/swim/ride or walk it with your grandchild.
- Talk with your grandchild about a family tradition that you enjoyed with your own grandparents and/or parents, and have passed along to your children. Then continue that tradition with your grandchild. Examples could include seeing fireworks together or going to a parade, having campfires and roasting marshmallows on the beach, seeing the Nutcracker ballet or making tamales during the Christmas season, or riding bikes to a favorite ice cream place.
- Bring out photo albums and talk about when your grandchild was born, how you prayed for them even before they were born, how excited you were to first hold him or her, and how blessed you feel that they are now part of your family.
- Serve together at a local ministry.
- Cook with your grandchildren. Play loud music and sing and cook (maybe even dance) together.
- Build something with your grandchildren.
- Share times when you have blown it, or disobeyed what you sensed God was telling you to do. Let them know how glad you are that Jesus is bigger than any mistakes.
Ideas for grandparents who live far away
- Choose a book series to read with your grandchildren. Read to them using Skype, or as they get older and the books get longer, read them individually and then discuss the highlights of the book by phone.
- Have breakfast together once a week using Skype or FaceTime.
- Start a collection of something with your grandchild, e.g. dolls from other countries, interesting stones, coins, colored glass, and continue adding to the collection when you travel or when you are together.
- Text them on an ordinary day and let them know you’re thinking about them.
- Call or send a letter when kids have special events or milestones at school or church. For instance, while you may not be present for a baptism, calling your grandchild on that special day is still very memorable. The same can be true of soccer tournaments, school plays, or after a church retreat.
Ideas for vacations or extended time together
- On extended family vacations, try to have morning or evening devotions that include questions that all family members can answer. This way the children hear their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins share on a deeper level.
- If financially possible, at the age of 12 or 13, take your grandson/granddaughter on a weekend away with the other significant males/females (of the same gender as your grandchild) in your family, e.g. dad, mom, aunts, uncles, grandfather and grandmother. Have a planned activity that you’ll do together (skiing, hiking, going to a Broadway show, camping, etc.). Include time to discuss what it means to be a Christian man/woman. Give them something lasting that will remind them of things learned over the weekend and commitments that are made.
- Have “Grand Camp” with your grandkids either at your house or another destination. Do things together that they’d do at camp—crafts, sports, singing, cooking, treasure hunts, etc. This could last one day or several days. Or find a camp that hosts weeks for grandparents and grandkids to come together, letting the camp plan the programming and details.
- Go on a mission trip with your grandchild, either locally or abroad. Consider making this a rite of passage experience at a certain age with each grandchild.