How to be a better grandparent by being a better disciple
In 1978 President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday of September following Labor Day as National Grandparents Day in the United States. The observance is an opportunity for people to appreciate and express their love to their grandparents. But it might also be a time for grandparents to reflect upon their roles in the lives of their children’s children.
Being better grandparents, particularly grandfathers, was the topic of a panel United Methodist Mark Dehority led during the national gathering of United Methodist Men in Indianapolis, Indiana in July, 2017.
Dehority, who attends Grace United Methodist Church in Decatur, Illinois, works with men’s ministry around the country. His message to the men attending the gathering was based on a book by Dan Erickson titled, “Grandfathering: Live to Leave a Legacy.”
“The primary thing that I want to share with the men is that they’ve got a role, an intentional role, in developing the lives of their grandchildren and helping them transform into the men and women that God plans on them to be,” said the man who became a grandpa himself 21 years ago. When asked how many grandchildren he has, Dehority says “31 on earth and two waiting for us in heaven.”
He says the United Methodist Men organization has a goal to help men “develop into the fathers and grandfathers and husbands that the Lord wants us to be. And developing a relationship with your grandchildren helps lead them to Christ. It just fits in very well with the United Methodist Men. One of the things we’ve got most in common is the fact that we have grandchildren. And as we look at transforming the hearts and minds of the men that we serve, one of those ways is to help them be active in transforming the lives of their descendants, the people that they choose to be grandfathers to.”
Choose to love
Dehority’s family, like many today, is a blended one. “I’ve got 31 people that call us grandpa and grandma. And there’s not a genetic link to every one of them, but they are indeed grandchildren and we consider them our grandchildren. With modern society and marriages and remarriages, there’s a lot of people that you’re not directly related to. And of course sometimes we choose to grandparent children. There are a ton of people, a ton of children, in our country, in our churches, that need a strong male role model.”
Check your priorities
He has forceful words for those who might think there is not enough time to get more involved with grandparenting. “What is more important to you than living in eternity with your grandchildren? What would you put on your bucket list that’s a higher priority than getting your grandchildren to heaven with you? Where does that stack up with your boat and your 401K and your golf game? There is no greater priority than to live out the great commission through your family. We’re sent out to disciple the world, but that starts at home.”
Dehority continues, “The reaction I get when I talk to men about grandfathering, one is kind of a wake up, kind of a gut-check on what am I doing and am I intentionally living the life that the Lord wants me to live. There’s nobody that doesn’t have a fond spot for their grandchildren. And a lot of us as parents make mistakes, and we get another chance to raise grandchildren…it’s a real opportunity to talk about Jesus and having fun doing that with your grandkids.”
Love one another
The role of grandparent also is a responsibility for any person of faith. “Look at the two great commandments, to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and to love your neighbors—to love God’s people as yourself, and to show that love. We’re commissioned to do that. And what better group to demonstrate unconditional love of the Lord with than your grandkids? Again, as a lot of us with children, there’s just a lot of life in the way. But with grandkids there’s not. It gives us an opportunity to make an impact in those kids’ lives. Again, it doesn’t have to be a biological grandchild. The world is begging for men to take an active role in developing younger boys and girls and young men and women.”
Keep your own faith strong
And Dehority’s final advice is to continue to nurture a strong faith as an individual so your offspring can learn from you. “We can’t sell something we don’t possess. So we need to have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and life based on prayer, Scripture and the other disciplines so that we can pass that on to the next generation.”