The Best Untapped Sticky Faith Resource in Your Church

Photo by Meral Crifasi.

In celebration of the release of The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, stickyfaith.org is hosting a “Blog Tour” to share some of the book’s research highlights and practical ideas. This story about an amazing senior adult and research about grandparents is from chapter seven: “Grandparents and Senior Adults: The Magic of Intergenerational Interaction.”

Every kid needs a Ruth.

Every family needs a Ruth.

Every church needs a Ruth.

Even though I spent only a few minutes with Ruth, she permanently colored my picture of senior adults’ impact in faith-pursuing families.

Ruth wore thick glasses and appeared to be in her late eighties. After hearing me present our research about Sticky Faith families at an evening church seminar, she approached me as I was putting away my laptop, to share her own strategy for helping students stay connected with God.

Ruth explained, “At the start of every fall, I ask our church for a list of the high school seniors who have just graduated. I get those students’ names and addresses, and I write them all letters to let them know I’m thinking of them and praying for them. I tell them they don’t have to write me back, and most don’t. But when they come home at Thanksgiving or Christmas, they thank me for writing them.”

As I drove away from the host church, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ruth. Her willingness to put pen to paper to write each student one letter at the start of every fall was inspiring.

The next day, I felt prompted to share about Ruth as I was teaching our Sticky Faith research in the same city but to a different audience. Or as I was about to find out, to a mostly different audience.

After I described Ruth and her amazing commitment to write one letter at the start of every fall to each high school graduate, an audience member raised his hand. I called on him, and he stood to explain, “I was here last night and saw Ruth talking to you. I know Ruth. We’re part of the same church. She doesn’t write those high school graduates once at the start of every fall. She writes them every week.”

Maybe you’re thinking what I and many audience members said aloud that day: Wow.

Ruth reminds us that there’s a group of people with untapped potential to don a jersey and join your family’s Sticky Faith team.

Senior adults.

Grandparents Are More Involved Than Ever

Grandparents. Some are biological grandparents, meaning they are related to your kids. Others are adopted, or “functional,” grandparents, meaning they are not genetically related to your family but play the same role and relate to your kids like grandparents.[[Adapted from the definition of “functional family” in Diana R. Garland, Family Ministry (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1999), 38.]]

Either way, the data supports what you may have noticed as you’ve looked at who is picking up kids after school: grandparents are more involved than ever.

According to gerontologist Dr. Vern Bengtson from the University of Southern California, the following factors are contributing to this increase in grandparents’ engagement.

• Senior adults’ health is improving, and their life expectancy is increasing.

• As more and more families have two parents who work outside of the home, grandparents are providing more after-school care.

• Grandparents have new ways to connect with their grandchildren through technology like Skype, Facebook, and text messaging.

As a result of these and other cultural factors, Bengtson and his team surmise that “Gen Xers and Millennials will have greater involvement with their grandparents—and, for some, their great-grandparents—than any previous generation of grandchildren in American history.”[[Vern L Bengtson, Norella M Putney and Susan Harris, Families and Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 100.]]

In what ways have you seen senior adults build Sticky Faith in children and teenagers?