Take the Faith Model Challenge:

My son’s response, when asked about his grandparent’s influence on his faith journey, was this: “The biggest thing they did for my faith journey or really just what impacted me the most is how they lived and not what they said.” Let that sink in: how they lived and not what they said. That is why I am issuing this Faith Model Challenge.  We identify those of grandparent age as First Generation rather than Senior Adult. In First Generation, we are encouraging grandparents to be faith models.

What do we mean by the “Faith Model”?

Research has found that grandparents have a huge part to play in the faith maturity of grandchildren. Parents cultivate and shape spiritual disciplines while grandparents help form “faith identity.” Grandparents who model their faith see higher faith maturity in their grandchildren.  There are three key actions that we can take to be faith models: live intentionally, be a story teller, and have honest conversations.

I asked our Kingsland church staff and leaders questions related to their grandparents influence on their lives.

  • In what way did a grandparent or someone of grandparent age provide a faith model to you that assisted you in your faith identity/journey? In what ways do you “wish” a First Generation person had modeled faith in Christ?
  • As you relate to First Generation (grandparent or grandparent of your children), what do you want from us? What do you need from us? What do you want to ask or say to us?

Their responses were then put into 4 categories: Live Intentional, Tell Your Story, Conversations, and Questions.

Live Intentional

The top 8 responses were:

1. Be involved in my life/TimeI am who I am today because my grandparents were a part of my life. I am more intentional with my nieces and nephews because of how involved my grandparents were in my life.” Christy Cupit, North Katy Campus Preschool Minister

They simply want to be in your presence. Spend time with them. If they live close, don’t let a week go by that you are not investing time in their lives. Sometimes it will mean doing things that you do not personally have an interest in, but because it is important to them, it is important to you.  If you live far away, make the best of a tough situation: FaceTime, talk to them, do social media with them, visit as often as possible. Show them you care by being present.

My son, Wesley, made a profound statement relative to this response, “I would definitely tell your group (First Generation) that taking care of their health isn’t just a selfish thing. It truly buys them the one thing money won’t buy which is time.”

2. Prayer “I can’t remember a time when I visited my grandmother that I did not hear her pray when she went to bed… almost every time she would sing hymns to the Lord, cry to Him, and pray for people she knew.”  Hannah John, Worship Ministry Assistant

When they are in your presence, let them hear you pray at the normal times that you pray: meals, bedtime, quiet time. You are modeling the importance of a prayer relationship with your Father.

3. Service“My grandparents were great examples of what it looks like to be involved in the church. They were incredibly servant-hearted people. They did it all, taught Sunday School, served as elder, deacon, and trustee at various points, ran the church camp, served on committees, and lots more. They showed me what it looks like to be committed and serve with the gifts you’re given.” Maggie Bertram, North Katy Campus Children Minister

When possible take them to church with you to see you serve and connect within the community of faith. When they are with you, let them observe as you talk about what  you are doing in service to the Lord and others. Tell them when you go on a mission trip.

4. Bible“I don’t ever… I mean ever… remember waking up in my grandmother’s house and not seeing her in her chair with her Bible open. She was up early to spend time with her Jesus. That memory has never left me. I hope to pass that along to my kids and grandkids.” Brad Flurry, Executive Pastor of Ministries

In your normal routine of reading your Bible, they will watch you and learn what is important to you. As we move more into a digital age, I would recommend a printed Bible that they observe you reading. For me there is something about holding God’s Word in your hand as you read, study, and meditate. They will be fascinated with your Bible especially if you underline, highlight, and write notes in it.

5. Vacation “My favorite memory is having ‘my week’ alone with Mam-ma and Pap-pa in their simple 4 room home.” Susan Powell, Church Leader

Plan an annual “vacation” with your grandchildren; it could even be a “staycation” where you stay at home but your days are filled as though you were on vacation.  Some of our families most memorable times are when we all piled up in someone’s home or a rented property to spends days together. It is especially memorable if you do as Susan’s grandparents did – “my week”.

In an exercise I will mention later, I asked each of my grandchildren a series of questions which included: “What are three things that you want most from us? What three questions would you like to ask either or both of us?” Our youngest grandchild Avery, age 9, answered the first question of what you want most was “another trip to Disney.” To the second question of what you want to ask was—yep you guessed it: “When are we going to Disney.” Disney is a fun place which we all love, but most of all was the fact that we spent a week with her and her brother living and loving together.

6. Devotionals As you have your daily quiet time with the Lord, allow them to see you doing it. Although it can be a meaningful time if you involve them, they will “catch” more than you realize as they simply see you doing it.

7. Singing Praises Hannah alluded to this in her statement about her grandmother’s prayer time. One of the sweetest things I remember about my Granny Spear was hearing her humming spirituals and hymns.

8. Caring for ailing spouse “One of the best things they have both taught me is how they loved each other. Both of many grandfathers had become the primary caregiver of my grandmothers. I have never seen a love like it takes to care of someone that is clearly failing in health. Being able to watch them care in ways they never planned to shows Christ love to me more than they will ever know.” Christy Cupit, North Katy Campus Preschool

Grandparents who model their faith intentionally make the most of every moment with their own grandchildren as well as the young people in the church.  Grandparents who model their faith in the categories below leave a lasting legacy for their grandchildren. Allow them to observe you reading your Bible, hearing you pray, and watching you serve. Plan vacations, holidays and time with them. Stop in the church hallways to intentionally interact.

Tell Your Story

The top 4 responses were:

1. Salvation Story Your salvation story is your story of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. It is the most important story that you have. Recent research is revealing that your story has a tremendous impact on the faith identity of your grandchildren.  Find a time and/or way to tell your story. While on a family vacation take a moment to tell them how you came to faith. Perhaps you are a writer, if so write out your story for generations to read. If you are not a writer, have one of your children or grandchildren record you with their smart phone and share it with the family via social media.

2. Life stories Tell about life before the iPhone era. Tell them stories about being a child, relationship with your cousins, grandparents… They really do have an interest in learning about you.

3. Talks about God Your faith journey, stories about God, Bible stories told by you. Have conversations about who God is to you, experiences and struggles, questions, God moments.

4. Unanswered questions about God “The fact that I had questions about God that my grandparents could not really answer or explain did not diminish my wonder or estimation of God’s bigness. These unanswered questions, in fact, contributed to my appreciation of the fact that God is indeed much bigger than my capacity to comprehend.” Omar Garcia, Missions Pastor

One of the greatest things you can do to impact the faith maturity in your grandchildren is to tell them your story.  We want every grandparent to share their stories of faith to their own grandchildren and to the young people in our church.  They need your stories: faith conversion, God moments, God’s faithfulness to you in life situations (even when you failed), and ministry service.

Conversations

The top 5 responses were:

“Relationships with older guys (not grandparents)… listening to their advice about what really matters. Amy and I still reach out to older couples to go to dinner to hear their stories about successes and failures.” Brett Laxton, Video Producer

1. Blessing There is a desire to have someone who has “been through” life to speak truth and blessing into their lives. There are plenty of voices telling your grandchildren how bad things are, what they aren’t and can’t do, what they will never have, even critical self-talk. They need someone they love and respect to bless them.  We see the blessing throughout Scripture. John Trent has an excellent resource if you need help, The Blessing.

2. Real life issues they face You need to have those tough conversations with your children and grandchildren. Life can be hard. Having someone they can trust to speak some truth into the hard things of life is important, but do it with grace and not condemnation. You can offer hope!

3. Faith maturity of your grandchildren Encourage your children when they are getting it right as they are the primary faith trainers of your grandchildren. They need you to come alongside them to encourage them and support them. Don’t be a stumbling block.

4. Life/death/getting older issues There are some conversations that few of us want to have. You are a grandparent or of grandparent age. You do realize, don’t you, that there are two or more generations below you now – right? It’s hard enough watching as your parents age. You know! You have or are doing that right now. Think about it. What is the difficult conversation you wish you could have or had in a healthy way with your parent(s)? Have those with your children now. You don’t want it to be harder than necessary for them anymore than you would want it for yourself.  Have those conversations: health decisions, lifestyle decisions, etc.

5. Views about God Religion and politics – right? Really, have conversations about God. For some of us it may be tough. But we nor they are getting any younger. Don’t regret with “I wish I had told my son how much God loves Him…”

Honest grace-filled conversation with family members and fellow believers is key to modeling.  Have conversations with your adult children about the faith maturity of your grandchildren and how you would like to impact them.  Have honest conversations with your children and grandchildren about your struggles, victories, and even doubts.  Have honest conversations about the stages of life/death.  When you talk about these things you are helping to shape their identity and their view of who God is and what He has done for you.

So, What’cha Want?

The top 5 things they wanted were:

  1. Blessing
  2. Time
  3. Share your story
  4. Model your faith
  5. Wisdom

The Challenge

So, what? I want to challenge over the next several months to work through an action plan to accomplish the task of being a faith model. Below are some examples of what you can do – goals to set.

Faith Model

Live Intentional:  Time/involvement, Bible, Prayer, Serving, Vacations, Holidays, Hallway time, Calls/Facetime, Individual time, Other

Tell Your Story: Salvation story, Life stories, Talks about God, God moments, Failure stories, Success stories, Ministry stories, Mission trips, Other

Conversations: Blessing, Real life issues, Children’s faith journey, grandchildren’s faith journey

For each of these three key action initiatives, write out three goals that you would like to initiate in 2020.  For each goal, write out an action plan.

EXAMPLE

Live Intentional

Goal One: Time/Involvement

Action Plan: I am going to set up a closed Family Group on Facebook that we can post what is going on in our lives: celebrations, events, Birthdays, Anniversaries, plan out and build excitement about holiday/vacation gatherings.  I will get the group set up within the next 7 days and will start posting things (Not to be used to preach at, repost other post, etc.)

Live Intentional

Goal One: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: _______________________________________________

Goal Two: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

Goal Three: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

Tell Your Story

Goal One: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: _______________________________________________

Goal Two: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

Goal Three: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

Conversations

Goal One: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: _______________________________________________

Goal Two: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

Goal Three: _________________________________________________

Action Plan: ________________________________________________

If you are having challenges with developing goals and action plans, a novel idea is to ask your grandchildren and children for suggestions.  Get them involved.

Faith Model: Conversations

Some questions to stimulate meaningful communication with your children and grandchildren

Questions to ask your children

  1. In what ways did your grandparents assist you in your faith identity/maturity?
  2. What do you wish they had done?
  3. If you could ask them 3 questions what would you ask?
  4. As the grandparents of your children what do you want most from us?
  5. What three questions would you like to ask now or in the future?

Questions to ask your grandchildren

  1. What are three things that you want most from me/us?
  2. What three questions would you like to ask either or both of us?
  3. What do you want to ask me about God?

By Dennis Wilbanks

For more on this topic, view the teaching session of Take the Faith Model Challenge

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