Fulfilling a Grandparent’s Purpose: 7 Practical Tips for Modeling

Recently we turned our attention to the seldom asked question, “What is the purpose of grandparenting?” and found that the clear purpose is discipleship.

We also discovered five methods for carrying out our role – prayer, modeling, observing traditions, sharing our God-stories, and speaking blessing.

In a subsequent post, we discussed the discipline (or method) of prayer and made note of ten practical tips for establishing and implementing the discipline.

This week let’s focus our attention on another of the disciplines.

MODELING THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST

Studies show that grandparents have more influence on the lives of their grandchildren than they might think. When teenagers were asked who they admired most – other than a parent – the most mentioned person was a grandparent. Contrary to what we might expect, it was not a peer, not a coach, not a sports’ personality, not a teacher, and not a pastor. Strange as it may strike us, it turns out that after parents, grandparents are the greatest potential influence in the life of a child.

Your life is a powerful example and an invitation to your grandchildren to imitate you as you imitate Christ. As a model for your grandchildren, you must watch yourself very carefully (Deuteronomy 4:15). Every word you speak, everything you do, every choice you make sends a message to your grandchildren about who you are and what you believe.

In carrying out our role of discipleship, we need to be worth imitating – modeling Christlike characteristics.

ESTABLISHING & IMPLEMENTING THE DISCIPLINE OF MODELING

Discipling our grandchildren calls us to be role models – teaching with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We can best do this by living according to biblical principles and daily displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Tip #1 – Pray

Modeling Christlike characteristics! For your grandchildren! This is weighty work. Work that impacts the Kingdom. This is not something to be entered into lightly. Nor is it a work to be attempted by one’s own strength.

Do not neglect the mighty power of prayer. Invite God into your work. Plead for His sustaining strength as you continue the work.

Tip #2 – Start with Your Own Life

Board any aircraft, and your pre-flight instructions will include the admonition to secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others with theirs. The same concept applies here.

Deuteronomy 4:9 says, ““Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” Notice the beginning words in this verse – “Keep your soul diligently.” This means that before we undertake the extremely important work of modeling Christlike character before our grandchildren, we must start with our own lives.

Our grandchildren are watching. They will notice if there is a correspondence between our own character and what we are attempting to model for them.

Questions for Self-examination:
  • Does my life demonstrate a commitment to the truths of God?
  • Has my life been changed by those truths?
  • Is my heart filled with truth? (Luke 6:45)
  • How am I doing in my walk with the Lord? In my commitments to Christ?
  • Am I spending daily time with the Lord?

Tip #3 – Ponder Your Thoughts

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Does this verse describe your thought life? Are the things currently residing in your mind true, honorable, and just? Are they pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise? All of our modeling – words, actions, habits – stems from our thoughts.

Questions for Self-examination:
  • What am I allowing into my mind?
  • Am I filling my mind with God and His Word?
  • Does my thought life reflect Philippians 4:8?

Tip #4 – Weigh Your Words

When it comes to modeling, our thoughts are the starting point and the basis for our words. And I cannot emphasize this enough. Our words are crucial!

There are three areas we must give close attention to when it comes to our words.

First, we must be careful with the words we are speaking to our grandchildren. Secondly, we must be careful about the words we speak to others. And thirdly, we must be careful with our speech toward God. Our grandchildren are watching and listening. They see and hear it all.

Questions for Self-examination:
  • Am I careful about the words I say to my grandchildren? To others? To God? (Proverbs 25:11)
  • Do my words encourage and build others up? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Is my speech gracious and seasoned with salt? (Colossians 4:6)
  • What are my grandchildren hearing in the words I speak?
  • Do my grandchildren hear me giving praise to our Heavenly Father? (Psalm 67:3)

Tip #5 – Appraise Your Actions

Being an effective model of Christlike character to our grandchildren requires that we are actively involved in their lives. It’s a choice. One that goes against the grain of current culture. A culture that tells us our work is finished, and we are no longer needed.

The Bible tells us otherwise. Passages such as Deuteronomy 4:9 and 6:1-9, as well as Psalm 78:5-8 and 145:4-7 clearly exhort us to pour into our grandchildren. This, of course, requires involvement in their lives.

Questions for Self-examination:
  • Am I actively, intentionally pouring into the lives of my grandchildren?
  • Do I have a plan for spending time with and discipling my grandchildren?
  • Is meaningful conversation part of my relationship with my grandchildren?
  • Do I provide a listening, nonjudgmental ear when my grandchildren need to talk?
  • Do my grandchildren see me carrying out the commands of God?

Tip #6 – Review Your Habits

Actions repeated with such frequency and regularity that they are almost involuntary become our habits. And while the modeling of good personal hygiene and good citizenship habits is important, the greatest importance lies in the modeling of good spiritual formation habits. For it is in these habits, that growth in Christlikeness occurs.

Our grandchildren need to see us actively, consistently engaging in spiritual formation habits such as Bible reading, prayer, and worship. They not only need to see it, but they also need to hear it. We must not shy away from discussing the Bible with our grandchildren if all the lines of communication are open between us. (I do understand that some grandparents have been forbidden to talk about God and their faith with their grandchildren and this must be honored. If this is your current situation, please be encouraged to continue in your habit by praying for your grandchildren and the situation. Even if you cannot talk about it, you can model it.)

Questions for Self-examination:
  • Do my grandchildren see me engaging in the habits of spiritual formation?
  • Am I in the habit of discussing the Bible and other spiritual disciplines with my grandchildren?
  • Do I exhibit intentionality in modeling good spiritual formation habits for my grandchildren even if I am not permitted to talk about my faith with them?
  • Do I allow my grandchildren to see where and how I invest my finances, time, talents, and energy?
  • Am I leaving a pattern of living that reflects my choice to put my trust in God, no matter the circumstance?

Tip #7 – Consider Your Character

Our thoughts inform our words. Our words lead to our actions. Actions become habits, and habits develop into character.

Our work, we said, is to model Christlike character for our grandchildren. And I can think of no better representation of this character than the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23a

When we model the Fruit of the Spirit for our grandchildren, they learn that others are important and made in God’s image (love), to know that God wonderfully watches over them (joy), and to become confident of God’s presence in all sorts of difficult circumstances (peace).

They also learn to trust that God will, in His time, care for all their needs (patience), to pass on God’s grace and mercy as shown to them (kindness), and to reflect God’s goodness in the way they treat others (goodness).

And they learn to honor God by imitating His faithfulness in their consistency (faith), to tenderly meet the needs of others by rejecting acts of manipulation (gentleness), and to learn by faith to live by God’s wishes and rule over their passions (self-control).

Modeling Christlike character for our grandchildren helps to build their foundation and shape their faith just as Eunice did for Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).

Questions for Self-examination:
  • Do I truly understand the impact of my thoughts, words, actions, and habits upon my character?
  • Does my daily life put the Fruit of the Spirit on display for my grandchildren?
  • Am I being intentional to help build the foundation and shape the faith of my grandchildren?

Modeling the character of Christ is one of the most important things we can do for our grandchildren. Anything we can do to speak about or demonstrate these characteristics helps drive them deep into the hearts of the very ones we love and are responsible to disciple.

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