No More Ignoring Second Place

On the other hand …

1. The role of grandparents is given little attention in churches. Most church leaders have never thought about such a ministry; they properly have a focus on parenting and minister to senior saints, but overlook the group in between—younger grandparents.

2. There are simply too few resources. For the nearly 30 million Christian grandparents in America, there are very few books, videos, blogs or seminars that address their potential for influence. We can do better.

What must churches do?

1. Redefine what they mean by “family ministry.” Most churches target the nuclear family, but don’t think of the exceptions (i.e., grandparents raising kids) or the extended family including grandparents.

2. Recognize their mental image of a “grandparent” may be wrong. Too many think “senior saints” when they hear the word, but the average age for becoming a grandparent is 47. The emerging grandparent is who we can and must target.

3. Recognize the passion of this group. They are called “empty nesters” or named by their age group; how much better to name them after their greatest passion (their grandkids)!

4. Envision them for being intentional. I have not found a more eager audience than grandparents when you start talking about their grandkids and how to help them grow spiritually. They are typically much more receptive than parents.

5. Equip them for ministry. There are many barriers, like uncooperative adult children or their spouses, broken relationships and distance. They need to know of tools they can use and resources they can find.

6. Create a core group of impassioned grandparents and launch something—a seminar, a small group or a class. Just get it going!

How does this impact children’s ministry?

If you want it to do that, I suggest you take a new approach to engaging grandparents. Usually we try to guilt grandparents into staying involved, and we get the answer back, “Well, I did my time.”

Try the side door since the front one isn’t working so well. Get them passionate about ministering to their own grandchildren, and then ask, “If your grandchild was in another city (of course, many are), wouldn’t you want a grandparent there to be an influence on your grandkids? So how about you return the favor by being an influence to the kids we have in our church whose grandparents live in another city?”

Then, create a position that better allows them to be who they are. One of our best Awana ministries has created an option for game time that is called Grandpa and Grandma Time, where kids who don’t want to play can just go sit and talk one-on-one with a grandparent. The kids love it and so do the grandparents.

There is simply incredible potential for grandparents to influence our youngest generation, and we’ve overlooked that potential too long. Now is the time to harness the wisdom, the resources, the energy, the savvy and the passion of millions of Christians in America—grandparents.

It’s for this cause that I am part of a group launching a new organization—the Legacy Coalition. It will be a coalition of family resource providers that will begin to equip churches to minister to grandparents, and a coalition of churches that will commit to launching and sustaining ministry that envisions and equips the second most powerful influence in the lives of our children.

Watch for it. Join us. Together, let’s tap this incredible resource.  

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After 40 years in children’s ministry, Larry Fowler isn’t sleeping well at night because God is stirring his soul with the need to engage 30 million potential children’s workers in a new way: getting the Christian grandparents in America to be intentional in influencing their grandchildren! He is now Chief Catalyst of the Legacy Coalition, a new national ministry devoted to envisioning and equipping grandkids.