The Role of Grandparents in Discipleship

May 25, 2023

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Today's question says, "How do we as parents encourage grandparents to be involved in discipling our children? What if their views differ from ours? My husband and I have discussed how neither sets of our parents speak God nor share their faith with our kids and with the way culture is changing, this bothers us both, but we're not sure how to address it." Listen as Elizabeth Urbanowicz provides advice for those navigating this terrain, including evaluating the grandparents' spiritual maturity, how to approach these conversations tactfully, and how to incorporate other faithful members of your community into your child's discipleship.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "how do we as parents encourage grandparents to be involved in discipling our children? What if their views differ from ours? My husband and I have discussed how neither sets of our parents speak God nor share their faith with our kids and with the way culture is changing, this bothers us both, but we're not sure how to address it." This is another great question involving discipleship, cross-generational discipleship with our children.

Before we dive into answering this question, as always, I would ask that if you have found this content beneficial as you disciple the children in your care, that you'd make sure that you like and subscribe so that you don't miss a future episode, and would also ask you to consider writing a review and sharing this content with those in your sphere of influence so that we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, as we're thinking about discipleship across generations, and specifically with this question that was written in, if I was to guide someone very specifically in their situation, I would need to know a lot more information. And so I really wish that I could just sit down with this person and ask a whole bunch of questions about their relationship with their parents, about what their own discipleship was like when they were growing up, where they live, where their parents and their in-laws live. But I can't do that on this podcast. So I think there are just a few general questions that anyone can ask themselves to figure out what to do in a situation like this one.

Now, the first question that I think is really key to ask is are our parents at a place in their own spiritual development where we would want them guiding our children? That's a really important question to ask because if your parents and your in-laws are in a place where they're loving Jesus and they're faithfully following him and they're in a place where they could disciple your children, you want to know that. Where if they're in a place where you're not sure if they're actually believing the gospel or if they're spending time with God and his word, or if they're growing spiritually, they might not be in a place where you actually want them speaking in to your lives.

I've seen examples of this in my own life that my parents are wonderful people of God. My dad and my mom both love Jesus. They're seeking him through his word. They're faithfully serving him, and they are intentionally investing in their grandkids lives, that they make it a priority at least three or four times a year to go and fly out where their grandkids live. That my parents live in New York. My brother and his family live just outside of Chicago. My sister and her husband, her husband's in the military, they're stationed overseas and my parents are very intentional at flying out multiple times a year so that they can invest in their grandkids. And this is wonderful because my parents are faithfully following Jesus.

However, I know from other friends that they, they're in situations where it's a good thing that their parents or their in-laws are not necessarily investing in their children. There are many situations I know where grandparents want to invest in grandkids, and the children are worried about their kids' grandparents investing in them.

A friend of mine, her mother-in-law, is always wanting to take her girls overnight and to have them on a weekly basis and to bring them to church with her. However, this friend's mother-in-law attends a church that very much preaches the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, that God always wants us to be happy and he wants us to be wealthy and he doesn't want us to have any struggles where that is very clearly not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has said that behold, in this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world. The Bible also tells us that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. So this is a really difficult situation for my friend and that she doesn't want her girls to be influenced by the teachings of the prosperity gospel, but her mother-in-law is always pushing to have more time with the girls.

So the first question that you really should be asking yourselves is are our parents at a place in their spiritual development where we would want them guiding our children? So for the person who wrote in this question, your parents and your in-laws are not currently investing in your children in this way. And so if the answer to this question is no, they're not really in a place where you would want them investing their faith, whatever version of that is in your children, then you don't need to address this any further.

Just simply thank God for his kindness. "God, I know that my parents and my in-laws are really not at a place where we want them spiritually impacting our children. Thank you so much for your kindness in the fact that they're not trying to do this." Because having them try to impact your children if they're not in a place in their spiritual development where they're going to be teaching your children the truth, that could be a really difficult thing. So simply thank God for his kindness and move on and continue faithfully discipling your children within your home.

Now, if the answer to the question is yes, that your parents and your in-laws are at a place where they're, they have truly repented of their sin, they have trusted and believed in Jesus, they're growing in him, they're reading his word, they're part of a local church, and you think, "yeah, I really want them investing in my children and their discipleship," then the second question that you should ask yourself is if it would be beneficial to have them involved, how do we directly address it?

How do we directly address this? And as I've said in other teaching sessions before, we tend to be really tempted and how could I just passively make a slight little comment over here that could awaken somebody to the truth or that's never beneficial? That's never what's modeled for us in scripture. Nowhere does God kind of passive aggressively give us a little hint. God is always very direct in his communication and we should be as well because if we're just being passive and we're hinting around at things we're doing, what's most comfortable for us, where we're not really loving the other person well by being direct with them. It's so frustrating to have to try to guess what somebody else is saying where it's much more loving if somebody comes to us directly. So think through how could you directly come to your parents or your in-laws and talk with them about this?

And now there is wisdom in how we directly address something. If you directly address your parents or your in-laws and you come to them with a complaint and say, "I am just so disappointed by your failure to invest in my children spiritually. This is your job and you've really failed at it." That's very confrontational and it's very accusatory and the way that they're going to respond to it. Maybe they'll be very gracious, but most people would probably get very defensive with an accusation like that. Where if rather than coming to them with an accusation, you can come to them with encouragement and a desire, you're probably going to have them be much more receptive.

So rather than focusing on a failure on their part, compliment them, not flatter them, but genuinely compliment and encourage them for where they are in their faith. If they genuinely are in a place where you want them investing, and then portray it as your desire, you can say, "what can we do to help our children be more heavily influenced by your years of faithfulness to the Lord? We just see this example in you that we want our children to follow and we want to know what can we do so that our kids can be more heavily influenced by your faithfulness to Jesus?" See how that's so different than "you've failed and you haven't done this," but "you've been faithful, and we want our children to benefit from this. What can we do to make this happen?"

And who knows? Your parents and your in-laws, they might just feel like they've been walking on eggshells and they're not sure if it's appropriate to talk to your kids about these things. But if you open the door and say, "Hey, we want them to benefit from your faithfulness to Christ," you might just open up the floodgates for them to feel permission to do that.

And if they don't know how to do that, then you can just talk with them. If they're like, "yeah, we'd like to do that, but we don't really know that." Just talk through things you can do. "Well, maybe could we start coming over to your house once a month and you'll read a Bible passage to our kids? Or maybe we can have dinner every other weekend? You can start sharing some stories of things that God has done in your life." So consider how you're going to directly address that with them.

And then also, I would encourage you to make sure you're not placing all of the pressure on your parents and your in-laws to be older Christians who disciple your children. That yes, if they're in that place and they can fulfill that role, that's amazing, but even if they can, you should also look for others within the body of Christ. So the third question that I would encourage you to ask yourself is just who in our local body of Christ can take over part of the discipleship role in my child's life?

And when I say takeover, I don't mean that they're taking any of your role or your responsibility because God has given you as the parent the primary role of discipling your children. But look for who else in your local body is an adult who is faithful and who you want your child to emulate. I have two amazing parents. My parents have discipled so many people. I know that there are so many individuals who wish that they had my parents as parents, and I'm so blessed that I had my parents growing up. However, my parents are not the only ones who have discipled me. The pastor in our church was very faithful at discipling the next generation, specifically the children of the elders at our church because he knew that the elders were going to have an influence, a broad influence over the members of the church.

And so he saw it as his responsibility to also invest in the life of the children of the elders. And so my dad was an elder at our church. He still is. And so our pastor very directly made sure that he was discipling me and my brother and my sister. And still to this day, I will call him on a monthly basis to get his advice for things because he has just played a significant role in my own spiritual development. Aside from my parents, he has been the biggest person of influence in my life. And because of this, because I saw the way that he had so benefited me by helping me grow in my relationship with Christ, I have sought out mentors in my own life now as an adult. I've seen how important it was for me to have somebody else, aside from my immediate family speaking into my spiritual growth and development. So that's something I actively seek out.

When I lived outside of Chicago, my Bible study leader there, her name was Barb Wilson, and she's a biblical counselor. And so she's somebody that I just sought out and said, "Hey, I want to know scripture like you do. I want to live my life faithfully in the way that you have. Will you disciple me?" So she's someone still I meet with on a monthly or every other month basis just to learn how to be a godly woman. Somebody else in my life, Rosa Butterfield, she is someone who has navigated a similar path to what I'm navigating with learning how to publicly speak and teach, while also staying faithfully rooted in the local body of Christ. So she's someone that I meet with semi-regularly just to learn how can I live a life faithful to Jesus and what he's called me to do.

Now, another person, Amy Hall, from Stand to Reason, she's a single apologist who just loves God and loves his word. And so I reached out to her about a year ago and was like, "Hey, I want to know how to memorize entire books of the Bible like you do. I want to know how to faithfully use these single years of my life that God has given me. Will you mentor me?" And so it's so important that we make sure that we teach this pattern to our children so that we're intentionally reaching out to those within the body of Christ and saying, "Hey, would you speak into my kids' lives?" And the easiest way to do this is start having people over for dinner. Start identifying a couple or a family or a single person that you want your children to know and to emulate and to learn from them. Start having them over for dinner once a month or once a week just to build that relationship so that you're not putting all of the pressure on your parents or your in-laws to play this role of discipler in your children's lives.

Well, that's a wrap for today's episode, but as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that God would continue to richly bless you as you faithfully disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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