Art Good - 6/4/13
This warning from student ministry pastor Dr. David Fraze to the parents of his congregation during a recent sermon captures the impact parents have on their children’s faith formation. Fraze is highlighting for his congregation what research consistently indicates: teenagers’ faith tends to mirror the faith of their parents.
Nearly 2 years ago my wife, Tracy and I became grandparents for the very first time! So I was especially interested in some recent research highlighting the enormous impact of grandparents on this generation of young people. Consider the following data from Dr. Vern Bengtson from the University of Southern California:
Senior adults’ health is improving and their life expectancy is increasing.
Grandparents have new ways to connect with their grandchildren through technology like Skype, Facebook, and texts.
As more and more parents (including mothers) are working outside of the home, grandparents are providing more after-school care.
As a result of these and other cultural factors, Bengtson and his team conclude that “Gen Xers and Millenials will have greater involvement with their grandparents…than any previous generation of grandchildren in American history.”
That involvement translates into religious influence. According to Bengtson, grandparents can take one of three paths in their religious influence:
Grandparents can reinforce the parents’ religious influence,
Grandparents can substitute for a lack of parents’religious influence, or finally
Grandparents can subvert the parents’ influence.
As the second path indicates, 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 or place little emphasis on faith.
Other recent research highlights the unique power of family stories.
If we could sit down over coffee, I could share with you about my grandmother gathering all the flashlights in her house and letting me take them all apart and then, hopefully, put them all back together again. I could tell you about the time I got stuck in a tree in her yard as she SLOWLY went for help. I learned that day that my grandmother's running days were far behind her.
Most kids love hearing stories of family members’ past experiences. Recent research indicates that children who know more about their family’s narratives also tend to do better emotionally. Here’s a description of some recent findings described in a New York Times article:
The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned…
(Researchers) developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?
As it turns out, the “Do You Know?” scale was the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness in their study. Knowing a family history is also linked to positive identity formation and kids’ ability to show resilience toward stress.
Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”
Now let’s be honest. Who knows family stories better than grandparents?
To help families leverage the influence of grandparents, I have 20 great ideas for grandparents:.
I hope these ideas are a catalyst to help you live out the wise words of one grandfather who said to me: “The bottom line is TIME—our grandkids just want to spend time with us.”
1. Invite your grandchildren for individual “sleepovers” at your house. While they are over, do some of their favorite activities together.
2. Pray with your grandkids. As you pray, thank God for the special qualities he has given them.
3. Teach your grandchild a new skill or one of your favorite hobbies, e.g. fishing, skiing, bicycling, jewelry making, card games, etc.
4. Let your grandchild teach you a new skill or share a hobby with you.
5. Enter a race and run/swim/ride or walk it with your grandchild.
6. 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, walking on the beach, etc.
7. 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.
8. Serve together at a local ministry.
9. Cook with your grandchildren. Play loud music and sing and cook (maybe even dance) together.
10. Build something with your grandchildren.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Have breakfast together once a week or meet by computer using Skype or FaceTime.
14. Start a collection of something with your grandchild, e.g. dolls from other countries, interesting stones, coins, colored glass, comic books, and continue adding to the collection when you travel or when you are together.
15. Text them on an ordinary day and let them know you’re thinking about them.
16. Show up or 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.
17. 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.
18. Climb a tree together.
19. Go on a picnic.
20. 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.
One of the great pieces of instruction for parents (and grandparents) in the Old testament, was to talk about the great things God has done for you with them. The advice is to do it as you are walking, when you sit together, when they lie down...at all times be sure to cummunicate the goodness of God and the closeness of the relationship you have enjoyed with Him. May God bless you and help you be the best parent/grandparent ever!
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We invite you to check it out and discover why we chose that name. Let me give you a hint... we believe Christians ought to be happy, celebrating people! We have all seen too many people who claim to have a relationship with Christ, have their sins forgiven, on their way to heaven, who look like poster children for depression. Christians have problems and challenges, but we also have HOPE!! We encourage you to decide to live life with overflowing hearts in spite of your circumstances! To make the choice to choose to worship in the warm, wonderful Virginia summertime as well as the wintery storms that break through the mountains. We invite you to come and discover the joy of celebrating life and the hope that can be yours! It will change your life!
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