One Generation to Another
by Amy Diller

When we’re looking to recruit volunteers, we often turn to the parents of children in our ministry. They are the most likely candidates since their kids benefit from what we do on Sundays and mid-week services. We also look for teens to help. But there is an untapped generation of people in our churches we often overlook. Whether grandparents of the children in your ministry or the older generation in your church, there is a needed role for them to step into.

 

The Bible talks about one generation declaring the things of the Lord to their children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 exhorts, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 6:2 directs, “…so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” Psalm 89:1 declares, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” What a beautiful privilege for the older people in your congregation to play such a vital role in passing down their faith to future generations. So how do you enlist their help in the ministry of the church and in their families?

 

Encourage

Sometimes grandparents don’t understand just how important they are to their families and to the church. Although they have transitioned from active parenting of their kids, their grown children and grandkids still need the influence that an older generation can provide. They have the benefit of years of life experience in their walk with Jesus to speak into and be an example for the younger generations. Next to parents, grandparents have the second greatest impact on the faith instruction of their grandkids. Older people need to know this. There are some in your church who don’t have grandchildren or whose kids and grandkids live far away or are estranged. Their example can still positively impact kids in your ministry, especially those who don’t have active grandparents in their lives. The older generation’s investment provides an opportunity to instill a legacy of faith in young people.  

 

Invite

We all know that personal invitations are the best way to get people to volunteer. This takes time to develop relationships, but it’s worthwhile in the long run. It’s easy to think you’re not needed until someone shares a vision and invites you to get involved. The older generation may sit back, believing someone younger and with more energy would fit the bill better than they would. They may think their time for volunteering is in the past and develop a “they don’t need me” mentality. But the Bible calls for the older generation to pass on their faith to the younger generation. Think of Timothy and the influence his grandmother and mother had on his spiritual development (2 Timothy 1:5). There is no “too late” when it comes to discipleship. You can ask grandparents and older people in your church to step into a variety of opportunities and actively take part in discipling parents and children through praying for families, reviving the practice of pen pals with kids and parents, greeting families in your ministry area, participating in service projects with kids, short-term volunteering (like VBS or other special events), etc.  

 

Equip

In the same way, parents need tools in their hands to disciple their kids at home, grandparents benefit from resources specific to their role as well. We know some grandparents are not only the ones who bring their grandkids to church; others are actively raising them. They need encouragement not just in grandparenting but also parenting as well. If the older generation didn’t experience the spiritual involvement of grandparents in their lives, they don’t have an example to follow. Teach them about their biblical calling and offer practical ways to walk it out. Consider creating small groups or forming classes to share resources, conversation, and prayer. In the same way, you train parents to be the primary disciple-makers for their children and train older people in their calling to leave a legacy for their families. A valuable source of information for grandparents is legacycoalition.com.  There are many blog articles, podcasts, and video elements for grandparents and churches to utilize.  

 

In an article written by Christina Embree, founder of ReFocus Ministry, about bringing generations together, she says, “Our goal is always to move from connection to relationship to discipleship.” Intentionally speaking into the lives of the older generation facilitates a rich depth of faith-building for all involved. It’s another foundation layer for the children and parents in your ministry. Older adults offer spiritual wisdom through their life experiences following the Lord. Any time we can connect one generation to another, blesses all who are involved.