BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – The title “grandparent” it is a very important yet delicate role. Each grandparent strives to love and spoil their grandchildren while also not crossing the line of their own children’s rules.
Reggie Joiner spoke on this topic at the Legacy Grandparent Summit held at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham in October. Joiner, who founded a non-profit ministry to “influence those who influence the next generation,” offered many good tips for grandparents striving to be spiritual examples for their own children while helping their grandchildren see Christ as well.
Here are four of them:
- Adjust your schedule to fit theirs.
- Don’t give advice unless asked.
- Disagreement does not mean disrespect.
- Remember how you thought of old people when you were young.
These tips and goals will be difficult to accomplish, Joiner said.
As a grandparent you might have a picture of your children and grandchildren in your mind, and it’s usually a pretty perfect picture, he said. Unfortunately, people seldom measure up to our mental pictures, and far too many families are broken because of drugs, alcohol, addictions, divorce or other obstacles in life.
Everyone comes to the table with broken pieces of a picture, Joiner said, often those who feel they don’t measure up simply give up and walk away. Grandparents must to shift from a perfect picture to a bigger story.
God doesn’t use perfect pictures; He uses real people. This is evident with families in Scripture. Adam and Eve, Noah, Jacob and Esau are just a few examples. Even Mary and Joseph misplaced Jesus for three days!
Scripture reveals to us that there are zero families in the Bible who are perfect. God wants to tell a story of redemption and restoration through the bigger story of Jesus Christ. Grandparents have the opportunity to invite their children and grandchildren into this bigger story through open conversations.
As a children’s minister, I often see grandparents forced into the role of parents to their grandchildren. I know many parents who desire to one day hold the title grandparent, so when a grandparent is robbed of this honor and role, it breaks my heart.
Calvin Harper spoke on this topic at the summit.
Harper said grandparents who are parenting again should remember they are part of God’s family and God does not expect families to be perfect when they come to Him. God wants everyone, with all our flaws, to go to Him and be part of His family.
The situation may not be ideal, but it is not a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes.
In the midst of the challenges, take care of your soul. Make sure you are being fed by God’s word through your quiet time, Bible study and preaching.
Harper had helpful tips for how pastors and ministers, members of the congregation and other grandparents can help those who are facing this hurdle.
His advice to church leaders: Identify grandparents raising their grandchildren in your congregation, seek them out and embrace them. Let them know that they are accepted in your faith family. Consider them as you prepare sermons and plan events. Invite them to part of baby dedication services. After all, they are now the spiritual leader of the child or children entrusted to their care.
Other grandparents and congregation members can help first by giving these families rest days. Many are exhausted as they parent again long after they thought they were finished. They need respite. Second, give them resources to help them with their finances, legal issues or school. Third, provide parent mentors. Pair grandparents with younger parents to help them learn the ropes at school, sports and church. Fourth, provide surrogate grandparents to the children. The grandchildren also miss out on being grandchildren who are spoiled with love and gifts.
Harper suggested the Facebook page Racheal’s Story, which chronicles one grandmother’s story of parenting her grandchildren. Rachael speaks on the responsibility and joy of impacting another generation for change and offers comfort to those faced with this new challenge.
For those grandparents who never get to be grandparents, my thoughts and prayers are with you. God has given you a special task by placing these sweet babies in your home for this season. While it is not the ideal, God knows these children are better off with you. You can do it! Find a church that embraces you, and churches, let’s embrace them as we should all grandparents, parents and the children they love.
This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist. Julie Redmond Donavan is children’s and preschool minister at North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham.