“Are you a grandparent? What do you like to share with your grandchildren? How do you share your faith with them?”
Tapping Trees with my Grandfather
My grandfather and I shared a birthday. He was a quiet man, full of kind words and strong deeds. He shared his time with me, and by doing so, shared who he was and what was important in his life.
When I was about 10 years old he gave me time and stories that have been formative throughout my life. Every afternoon for about 2 weeks, my grandfather would meet me at the bus stop, put me on the tailgate of his red pickup truck, and we’d drive around to gather the sap from the maple trees we’d tapped. He had hand-whittled the spigots – or spiles – that you put into a hole near the base of the tree. The sap drips out and into a bucket on the ground. We’d drive to our trees, he’d stop the truck, and I’d hop off the back and get the bucket. The he would pour the sap into a larger container.
Finally the weekend came when we put all that sap into big black kettle in the backyard, lit a wood fire, and boiled it. And boiled it some more. At the end of the day, we took it inside and my grandmother boiled it some more on top of the stove. When we were finished, we had two cakes of maple sugar and a small jar of maple syrup. I was extremely disappointed. All that work and time, and this was all I got?
Of course, that wasn’t all I got, was it? My grandfather took something that was important to him – that he loved to do – and included me in it, teaching me along the way. And that boils down (pun intended) to the important role of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren and other children. Grandparents have many things to share. I believe the most important are stories and time.
Grandparenting in Action
How does one learn to be a member of a family? Very simply: you hang out with that family. Grandparents are an important part of that. You hear the stories, you look at photo albums, you share meals, and you do all sorts of things together. Children learn their identity as a member of that family – they know where they belong, who loves and cares for them, who will spend time with them, and whom to go to when life is hard.
As a grandparent, what experiences and stories can you share? What are your grandchild’s interests? How can you participate in those? Even if you live far from each other you can do these things on vacations, and through the internet with online classes or Skype.
How can you share your faith with your grandchildren? The same way as you share other important parts of your life, through stories and time. Share what you love with your grandchildren. Talk to them about your faith, why it is important to you. Tell them biblical stories, read to them from age appropriate Bibles. Tell them stories about church from your childhood. What was it was like to go to church; what were celebrations like? What is church like now for you? Go to church with them if they have a faith community.
Grandparenting in the Gap
What do you do, as a grandparent, if the parents are not involved in a church; or perhaps even are averse to organized religion? I think you still start with stories. But include the parents in your stories. Tell stories about things you’ve done at church. Stories from your childhood are important, and may seem less like you’re trying to convince them of something. Craft your stories so that you are inviting your grandchildren into the experience and community. As a wise friend of mine said: “People come to church today looking for community and experience, and along the way they find God.”
If you want to take your grandchild to church, consider starting with events or programs, rather than Sunday worship. This can be less threatening and seem less like you’re inserting yourself between parent and child. Perhaps your grandchild can join you at a church dinner or picnic, a local service event, or a bowling night, etc. Perhaps your grandchild would like to join the children’s choir at your church. And remember: children are amazing evangelists – they may bring their parents along to one of those church picnics!
The Fuller Institute and Sticky Faith have done some interesting research on the role of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren, both young ones and teenagers. You can read a list of 20 ways to connect with your grandchildren. If you are looking for a children’s Bible to share with your grandchildren, check out Building Faith’s Which Bible is Best for Children and Shine On! Story Bible.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. You can follow her on Twitter @episcoevangel and Facebook as EpiscopalEvangelist. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.
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