The Power of Grandparents

Kara Powell | Aug 10, 2011

Last week I had the chance to speak at Mount Hermons Family Camp, here in CA. Dave and the kids came with me, and we were also there with about 50 other folks from our church (some of whom have moved away and still come to this camp to reconnect with old friends).

Part of what was most powerful in the midst of the 50 folks from our church was that there were three sets of grandparents among usgrandparents who were investing in their kids and grandkids during the week. Grandparents who were playing ultimate frisbee, cooking meals, taking hikes, worshiping, and learning alongside their grandkids.

My mom wasnt there but she lives near us and is with our kids a few days each week. Part of why Dave and I feel peace about my role at FYI (and its schedule and travel) is because my mom is so available and so fantastic with our own kids.

I realize that not all grandparents are sweetness and light. Some are toxic. One of my friends at Mount Hermon that week told me that her mom had been abusive to her as a child, so there was no way Id leave our kids alone with her.

In the midst of our intergenerational themes in our Sticky Faith research, I sometimes forget the power of extended family. Im so committed to seeing the church as a family of families that I forget how extended family can be such an important part of a teenagers web (which is ironic given that I experience that web every week in my own family).

If youre a youth leader, what can you do to encourage your teenagers to connect with their grandparents? How can you engage senior adults as surrogate grandparents, especially for those teenagers who dont have extended family who live locally?

If youre a parent, how can you help your own kids connect with their extended family in meaningful ways? Either in person or by skype or phone, how can you make those conversations and interactions more meaningful? Maybe you can prod your parents or in-laws to share stories with your kids, especially those that relate to their church or journey with Christ. Perhaps you can encourage your child and your parents/in-laws to create special traditions (hiking, card playing, special restaurants, other hobbies), whether those happen during your annual trip to visit them or whether they happen every month.

It takes a village. And grandparents can be a vital part of that village.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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