It’s only once you become a grandparent that you recognise the important role you play in the lives of your grandchildren. A growing number of grandparents believe that the time has come to carve a new path. They want to inspire and equip fellow grandparents to realise their potential and leave an enduring faith legacy.
The upcoming National Grandparent Conference (NGC) seeks to equip and encourage grandparents and ministry leaders to be intentional in passing down their faith. The diverse range of inspirational speakers seeks to encourage grandparents to embrace the possibilities of seeing the generations that follow us, grow both spiritually and emotionally.
The Conference will take place both online, and in Figtree, NSW, on the 16th September. Ian Barnett, founder of the National Grandparent Movement, recently joined us on 20Twenty to share his passion to help grandparents leave a living faith legacy.
Ian believes that a lot of people start to wonder about what’s next when they reach the later stages of life. ‘My view is we can’t sit around waiting for things to change,’ he says. ‘We actually have to make a decision as grandparents to make sure the life we’ve lived gets passed on to those who follow us, especially our grandkids. We have to be intentional about that.’
When children are under about the age of 10, grandparents have an opportunity to have a very special relationship with them. ‘You can engage with them, talk to them, pray with them, things like that,’ says Ian. ‘But once they start to move beyond ten, the responsibility and your activity changes.’
Once kids are a bit older, the relationship progresses to talking and watching them grow and change. There’s an opportunity to listen more to what they’re experiencing and being able to speak into that with the wisdom that God has given us.
‘They’re hanging out with their friends more, and connected through social media and things like that. So we probably have to work a bit harder to be in their space to make our connections that much more special. That is one of the significant changes we all experience.’
When your grandchildren reach an age where they are trying to find their own identity, that can cause some division in the family. You might be called on as a grandparent to take sides. It can be very difficult to appropriately deal with situations like this.
‘It’s unwise to take sides,’ says Ian. ‘It’s always best to make sure that you support the parent’s decision. You may not agree with it, but it’s all about maintaining a healthy relationship. If you go down the path of seeking to support the grandkids over the parents, I hate to say it, the outcome of that is that you may not even have contact with the parents anymore.’
Care and Compassion
According to Ian, the National Grandparent Conference is another way of training people for Grand Parenthood. ‘The whole thing is we’ve got to be rubbing shoulders with other grandparents,’ says Ian. ‘You never know how the experience of another grandparent can mirror your own.’
‘God does give you a certain level of capacity to speak and care and have compassion that maybe you didn’t have for your own kids. But you can learn so much from hanging out and talking to other grandparents.’