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Intentional Grandparenting

A few weeks ago, my wife Susan and I listened to a radio interview of Larry Fowler, who runs The Legacy Coalition.  TLC has as it’s mission, to encourage grandparents to be more intentional about their spiritual legacy. What follows are Larry’s answers to Dr. James Dobson’s questions.

Dr. Dobson: Larry, how many grandparents do you think there are in the United States, and how many of them have a faith in Jesus Christ?

Larry Fowler: Well, our government census says there’s somewhere around 75 million grandparents. And from what we know of other studies, about 40% of our generation professes to be born again believers. So we extrapolate that there are about 30 million Christian grandparents in America. And Dr. Dobson, each one of those, on average, has four grandchildren. That means that we have the potential to impact 120 million of the youngest Americans. We could start a national revival through the grandparent-grandchild relationship. If we just exerted our influence with those in our own families, we could change this nation. And I think about the things that are happening at the elementary school, close to where I live. I can’t do much about that, I can’t do much about the universities, can’t do much about the politics, I can’t do much about a lot of things. But you know what? I can do something about my grandkids.

If we would all band together and use our spiritual influence and apply truth and grace, both to our grandparent-grandchild relationships, we could change this country. I believe it with all my heart.

Dr. Dobson: Larry, how do you begin talking to your grandchildren about the Lord? How do you make that meaningful to them? Because unless they’re unusual kids, they get bored real quick. How do you take the gospel directly to them?

Larry Fowler: Well, a lot of different ways. Number one, we tell our own story. Moses, when he was leading the children out, he said, “You tell your children and your children’s children about all the things that you’ve seen.” And he was talking about the plagues and all that happened. He said, “You tell them what your eyes have seen.” And if we will follow that example, we will tell our children what our eyes have seen of God’s goodness. And so, we’re to share our faith stories with them.

Dr. Dobson: Describe that for us. How does that work?

Larry Fowler: I’ll tell you, our youngest grandson is now five. When he was two, he would spend the afternoons with us and he’d take a nap. And right before it was time for nap, my wife, Diane, would say, “Micah, it’s time for your nap.” And he would scream and holler, “No, I don’t want to take a nap.” And she just wouldn’t listen to him. She’d say, “Why doesn’t grandpa give you a blessing before it’s time for your nap.”

And this little guy that can’t stand still for anything, something would happen to him. He would come over and he would stand in front of me, and he’d stand still, of all things. He put his hands down to his sides, I put my hands on his head on either side, I look him in the eye, give him a great, big smile, and I’d say, “Micah, the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace. Now go take your nap.” And you know what? He never protested his nap after I did the blessing on him.

And I believe the blessing is the opposite of prayer. Prayer is talking to God on behalf of others, at least intercessory prayer. Blessings are talking to others on behalf of God. I am speaking God’s words of favor into the lives of my grandkids. That’s such a powerful thing to do.

As a spiritual patriarch, who better than me, to pronounce God’s favor into my life and my grandkids’? Now, when they live at a distance and when they’re teenagers or older, you don’t do it the same way, but you adapt according to how old they are and the opportunities that you have.

Dr. Dobson: Have they believed what you taught them?

Larry Fowler: The jury is still out on the younger ones, because they’re five, seven and nine.

Dr. Dobson: I mentioned in the first program that my parents talked about the Lord all the time, and it was my great grandmother and my grandmother that did the most effective job. But if you can believe this, I learned to pray before I learned to talk, because I was imitating the sounds that my parents made when they prayed when I didn’t even know the meaning of the words. I mean, you can’t start too early.

Larry Fowler: Well, another thing we do right now that’s really working well with our three youngest ones is they watch Superbook. And Superbook is an animated Bible 4 story series. And I want to tell you, my grandsons love Superbook. So, this is a shout out to Superbook. So, we watch it, we talk with them because then that starts the conversation. The Bible stories and they’re dramatized really well. So that starts the conversations then. Too many grandparents and parents will just let a child watch a Christian video as a type of babysitter, but do not follow that with a discussion. 

Our generation grew up with a high, high view of scripture, and I know you’re right there with me. We value church so much, we look for churches that teach the truth, we teach the Bible, we go to Bible conferences and seminars and everything. When grandparents have children or grandchildren that are struggling in their faith, I think it’s important for them to think about representing Jesus to them and take the time to explain Scriptures to them.

Well, what does it mean to represent Jesus? Go to John 1:14 in the last phrase where it says “Jesus was full of grace and full of truth.”   We have to be full of grace and full of truth to our children and to our grandchildren. I think it’s pretty easy for us to be truth to them. We like to tell them the truth. It’s a lot harder to be full of grace.

And you know what’s fascinating to me, Dr. Dobson, is even though Jesus was 100% truth and 100% grace, when he dealt with people, especially when he dealt with sinners, he most often lead with grace, not with truth.

Dr. Dobson: That’s true.

Larry Fowler: You think about the story of the woman caught in adultery. These men bring this woman to Jesus and they asked Jesus to speak truth about her. They said, “We caught her in the very act and the law says to stone her. What do you say?” They were wanting Jesus to pronounce truth, and he refused. Remember he started writing in the sand.

Dr. Dobson: And his last gracious words to her were, “Go and sin no more.”

Larry Fowler: One lady told me, “My church has just been telling me ‘ just give them the gospel, give them the gospel, give them the gospel, they’ll come around.’” In the meantime, her son was a declared atheist. I said, “So how’s it working?” “Well, not too well. The wall seems to be getting higher.” Well, I said, “So how long have you been doing this?” She said, “About 10 years.” “So you’ve been leading with truth for 10 years?” “Yeah.” Hadn’t had any result. “How about if you do what Jesus did and start leading with grace?” And leading with grace is not to the elimination of truth, it’s so that they will hear truth.

Dr. Dobson: Never underestimate what kids are picking up below the surface. They’re watching, they remember. And they’re influenced by very subtle things that are passed. You don’t have to beat them over the head with it.

Larry Fowler: You don’t. Deuteronomy 4:9 starts with the command of watch yourselves, meaning watching your own spiritual life. This ought to be the time of our life that we are the most godly. We ought to be the least critical, the least cynical, the most hopeful, the most grace-filled that we’ve ever been in our whole lives. And the power of that kind of a lifestyle with or without words in the lives of our grandchildren has an incredible, incredible impact.

Dr. Dobson: What are you and The Legacy Coalition doing specifically for churches? You told us in the first program that there’s not much going on there in the grandparent-grandchild relationship that the church deals with. What are you doing to change that?

Larry Fowler: We’re providing the churches with the tools for small group classes, for seminars, for sermons, for everything that we can, because I believe in the local church. But if this focus on grandparenting does not get into the minds and hearts of the leaders of the local church, it’s not a sustainable momentum. We have to have the involvement of the local church across America in order to reach the hearts of all the grandparents.

So we now have several hundred churches that are carrying on ongoing classes or meetings of some sort or another for grandparents. There are many examples of churches that are doing something like once every six weeks. Of course, Coronavirus has cut that back for right now. But just having a gathering of grandparents to encourage them, to get them to pray together for their grandkids, to just give them the tools on how to overcome problems like distance. And so, we’re trying to equip the churches with tools to do that.

Clare’s thoughts; I’d suggest going to the Legacy Coalition website and see the resources they have to help you, help your grandchildren live for God.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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