You’ve done your job: you raised your kids and watched them leave the nest to start families of their own. It’s time to relax with, enjoy, and spoil the grandkids . . . right? Well, yes and no.
Grandchildren are called the “crown of the aged” (Proverbs 17:6), so we’re supposed to enjoy (and maybe even “spoil”) them. But Scripture doesn’t let grandparents, or even seniors without their own children or grandchildren, off the hook for impacting the next generation. In other words, you can’t sit down in the easy chair and think you’re all done.
There are many references throughout the Bible to the multi-generational impact that followers of Christ can and should have:
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. (Deuteronomy 4:9)
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:14–15)
How Can We Leave a Godly Legacy for the Next Generation?
The Christian life is a race, and we’re called to run to the very end (Hebrews 12:1–3), not just to an arbitrary retirement age! God can use you to make an impact on the lives of those around you regardless of your age (young [1 Timothy 4:12] or old!). Of course, we will likely have the greatest impact on our own children and their children. For some people, this may not be the case due to estrangements or sinful attitudes, but most parents have an opportunity to still pour into the lives of their children and grandchildren long after those children have started their own lives outside your home.
Here are five ways you can be a godly grandparent and leave a legacy for the next generation:
- Pray. Even if you no longer have contact with your children or if they are unbelievers who refuse you to have spiritual conversations with their children, you can still pray. Lift your children and grandchildren by name before the Lord on a daily basis. Here are some specific things to consider praying for:
- Your child’s marriage. The institute of marriage is under attack, and that means the family is under attack. Pray for strong, healthy, godly marriages.
- Parental wisdom. If you are a parent, you know it’s the hardest job a person can have. Pray that your child will have wisdom in how to raise their children in the admonition of the Lord. And pray they would have the wisdom to seek help and counsel when they need it.
- Spiritual growth. Pray that your children and grandchildren would not stay where they are in their relationship with the Lord but that they would continue to grow. Pray your grandchildren will grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” just like Jesus did (Luke 2:52).
Be present. Make an effort to be a part of and influence in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Obviously, this does not mean you should be overbearing, overly critical of your children’s decisions and parenting choices, or overstay your welcome when visiting (Proverbs 25:17). But it does mean you should be available and willing to take the lead in initiating time spent together.
If you live near your children this is much easier. If you live far away, this may require that you plan trips, or it may require you to step outside your comfort zone and learn how to use new technology to connect with your grandchildren. Most of the time, your grandchildren will be happy to help you learn how to text, video chat, or even Snapchat them. If they are young or unable to help you from a distance, most local libraries—or just a teen at your church!—can show you how to use a smartphone or applications on your phone, tablet, or computer. Your grandchildren will appreciate that you took the initiative to connect with them.
- Tell stories. Many grandchildren, and even children, know surprisingly little about the lives their grandparents or parents lived. You may not want to talk about yourself, or you may be much more interested in what’s going on with the grandkids, but tell them stories. Share about the good times, the funny times, and the hard times. Tell how God’s mercy and grace got you through hardships. Be open about struggles you’ve had and how God’s Word gave you the wisdom and answers you needed. Your wisdom can help your grandchildren know what you did right so they can emulate it. And it can highlight what you did wrong so they know what not to do!
Age with grace. Sadly, some grandparents become hurt, bitter, or self-centered. But this is not a time to allow sin nature to dictate what you do with your life and how you deal with your children and grandchildren. Give them an example of aging with grace.
Proverbs tells us that grandchildren are the crown of the aged, but it also says, “
And the glory of children is their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6). You can be the glory of your children by maintaining maturity and selflessness, even in your latter years.
- Listen to your children. Many children feel they cannot approach their parents with requests regarding their children or plans. Be approachable. You have already made many sacrifices for your children, but that doesn’t mean you have “served your time” or that it’s time for payback. Yes, your children should be the first to honor you and to care for you if you need help, but being a godly grandparent means you should take the concerns, feelings, and even convenience of your children, particularly as they are busy caring for their own children, into consideration. Listen to your children and seek counsel from others, if necessary.
That the Next Generation Might Know
Being a grandparent is an exciting calling. Many a grandparent has said that if they knew grandchildren were so much fun, they’d have skipped the kids and gone straight to the grandkids! Have fun with your grandchildren. Build lifelong memories. Share wisdom. Serve the Lord alongside them, if possible. Listen when they are struggling. Be a shoulder to lean on. But, above all, be a godly example and influence, not afraid to speak up with God’s truth, even when it’s difficult.
Our goal should never be just to be liked by our grandchildren. It should be to share God’s works and goodness with them so that the next generation and the generation after may praise and glorify the name of the Lord God.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded to our fathers
To teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
And arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments. (Psalm 78:5–7)