The following is an edited excerpt from Footsteps for Future Generations: the Faith Legacy Grandparents Leave, available now from Youthworks Media.
The world that our children and grandchildren are growing up in is profoundly different to the one we experienced. In fact, it has changed even more significantly over the last ten years. Who among us would have chosen this moment to raise our children or our grandchildren?
Many of us grandparents have a deep desire to leave a living faith legacy for our grandchildren to hold fast to in this strange new world they are inheriting. But how can we do this? What follows in this book will answer this question and many more.
The greatest legacy grandparents can leave
Let’s begin with the Bible’s call on all of us:
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no-one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:1–4)
The great Billy Graham said something that captures the very heart of what this book is about: ‘The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith’. Too often the communities we live in (such as mine in Australia) say, ‘If you’re a grandparent, your time of influence has come and gone. No-one is listening to you. No-one wants to know your stories and no-one really cares what you have to say’. It is an attitude that we have already passed on all we have. But if you actually believe that, then you have bought into a lie. So, grandparents and others, gather around and listen up, because you might just be about to start the journey of your greatest impact.
As grandparents, we are often the one constant in the lives of our grandkids. No matter what is going on around them and the changes they constantly experience, grandparents are the people who have seen it all before and who seek to be there no matter what. The late-night phone calls, the ‘Can you help?’ questions, the ‘Do you mind if we drop in?’ and ‘Can we bath the kids and stay for dinner?’ requests. We don’t mind—we love it really—but often when they head home, we do find ourselves needing a good lie down. Yet what I am talking about here is the life of being a courageous grandparent who is seeking to leave a legacy showing that we have, all these years later, maintained an unshakable faith in Jesus, a faith marked by compassion, authenticity and humility.
The world’s view of what makes a good legacy for our children and their children is epitomised by businessman and publisher Malcolm Forbes: ‘He who dies with the most toys, wins’.
It would be wrong not to admit that I do all I can to help my children feel financially and materially secure, to have resources available that make their lives easier. However, what I really want to leave them is the hope and faith in Jesus that their mother and father shared—to feel secure in their spiritual riches in Christ. This to me would truly become a legacy that would outlive us and help both our children and grandchildren see that in this life there are more important things to possess than the stuff that will surely pass away.
God’s great purposes for grandparents
Let me share with you some Bible verses about the faith legacy grandparents can leave.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:9)
Notice the ‘and’ in that last sentence. We aren’t finished when our children grow up and leave home. God’s people are instructed to teach at least two generations (children and grandchildren) stories of faith and the greatness of our God.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.
Even when I am old and grey,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:17–18)
In most cases, when the Bible speaks of the next generation, it is referring to our immediate families. ‘All who are to come’ refers to our children’s children and our great-grandchildren, who might not yet be born. Grandparents have a responsibility to make sure that the baton of faith gets passed from generation to generation, so the process of disciple-making continues. In fact, I think the stakes are raised even higher, as now you know the end is near. And one thing you will find is that—unlike society—the Bible does not marginalise grandparents at all. Instead, it acknowledges the vital role they play in their grandchildren’s lives.
You can still live a life of purpose and intentionality, knowing that God has not finished with you yet. This work is still happening when you finish your full-time work. It does not stop when you turn 60, 70 or 80. In fact, maybe now you have more time, more desire, more opportunities to speak, to share, to engage. Maybe for some the most important work to be done through the power of the Holy Spirit is to be done after turning 70. For example, maybe you realise what you should have been like or should have done with your children—now you can do it with your grandchildren.
Too many grandparents, especially men, have bought into the modern-day notion that they should spend their golden years in retirement, leisure and self-indulgence. They don’t have time for their grandchildren or even their children. They show up at birthday parties, but that’s about it. Their teaching days are behind them. Or maybe they see themselves as a free babysitting service, saying things like, ‘Our job is to spoil the grandkids; then we send them back to their parents’. But grandparents on the sidelines are missing out on a great opportunity and God-given responsibility to make a significant difference in the lives of their grandkids.
My experience, and the experience of many other grandparents, is that our grandchildren will often listen to us when they will not listen to anyone else, even their parents.
So let us all seek to build a spiritual legacy for those who follow us so that they can navigate this life with confidence and trust in God. Say to them as John the Baptist said: ‘Look, here is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one you must look to’ (John 1:29–34).
Footsteps for Future Generations: the Faith Legacy Grandparents Leave is available now from Youthworks Media.
Footsteps for Future Generations
Being a grandparent is an exciting privilege that most are thrilled to take on—but in a world veering further and further in its daily routines and shared values from what today’s grandparents grew up with, it can be a challenge. How can we connect with grandchildren experiencing so much that we never had to face?
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