Is There a Grandparent Role in the Church?

On April 24, 2012, I became a grandparent for the first time.  Prior to my grandson being born, I began asking other grandparents what it was like to be a grandparent.  All I ever got was “it’s fun.”  I replied, "but being a parent was fun, so what do you mean by it’s fun?”  But the response was always, “I don’t know, it’s fun.”

The big day finally arrived. My wife and I went to see our new grandson.  To my surprise, it didn’t feel the same as when my own children were born.  Not sure what I felt.  On the ride home, I asked my wife, “What am I supposed to be feeling? This is not what I expected.”  She wasn’t sure either.  We went to bed and when we woke the next morning my first thought was, “want to go visit him?”  It wasn’t the same as having your own child but it was delightful.  After several weeks I realized, being a grandparent is indeed fun.

After thinking about this and analyzing it for a while (I know I’m weird) I came to the conclusion that there are at least two reasons why being a grandparent is fun for me.

  1. As a parent, your antennas are always up. You are always partially attuned to your children’s welfare.  Are they happy? Are they safe?  What do they need? And so on and so on.  With your grandchild there is nothing coming across the airwaves.  You are not responsible for them, their parents are.  Sure you have to hold your tongue and not continuously tell your kids how to raise their children.  However, once you learn that art, it is very freeing to only have to give advice when appropriate.
  2. As a parent I was always trying to give balanced advice, preparing them for life in the real world.  As a grandparent your job is to be prejudiced.  You are to be their biggest fan, there is no greater grandkid than yours and it is your job to tell them so on a regular basis.

It really is fun being a grandparent.

This got me thinking about older saints in the church.  At some point in time, wouldn’t it make sense for them, and someday me, to transition to this grandparent role?  One where they

  1. Transition to a different role and turn over much of the responsibility of running the church to the next generation.  Sure they need to learn how to hold their tongue and not tell the next generation how to run the church, but once they learn that, it is very freeing.  Sure occasional advice is helpful and needed but let the weight of the responsibility pass to another generation.
  2. Become the biggest fans of the next generation.  Take on the job of telling them how much you delight in who they are.  They greatly need encouragement and someone to believe in them.

I think many older saints are not having the fun they could in their older years because they are still trying to be the parent rather than the grandparent.  They are still trying to hold on to power and attempting to control the church rather than experiencing the freedom that comes from passing the baton to next generation of laborers in the church.

The next generation wants to lead the church in their own way and in the direction God is leading them, as they should.  If the older generation won’t pass the baton to them, then they will go somewhere else.  Unfortunately, that is what has happened in so many declining NE historic churches.  The next generation is absent.

I think it is time for the older generation to experience the joy of being a grandparent in the church and pass the baton on to the next generation.  This often needs to begin with hiring a younger pastor and freeing him or her to minister to other generations of your community.  It also means engaging the younger generation by listening to them and encouraging them to be who God made them to be and serve where and how God is calling them.  It takes some faith at first but it is a delight to watch God at work in the up and coming generations of the church.

Consider finding out just how much fun it is being a grandparent in the church.

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The Author

Jim Harrell is president and co-founder of Overseed. Jim has his Doctor of Ministry in renewal ministries and Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Jim's background is in discipleship, mentoring and church planting.

Jim is also the Vice President of Systems Engineering for Winslow Technology Group, LLC.