Josh Mulvihill: Biblical Grandparenting

Biblical Grandparenting
(Bethany House, 2018)

WHO: Josh Mulvihill, executive director of church and family ministry at Renewanation.

HE SAYS: “God has given grandparents the role of transferring faith to future generations.”

THE BIG IDEA: The purpose of this book is to encourage grandparents to pass on their faith and to train pastors and seminary students to develop ministries to help grandparents do just that.

In Part 1, “Getting Started,” is an easy-to-read overview of the book complete with themes and concepts. Part 2, “God’s Design,” lays introduces the problem of grandparents not fulfilling their jobs to pass along the faith and explores the biblical terms used to describe grandparenting.
Part 3, “Culture’s Messages,” provides a comprehensive summary of the past 50 years of research on the role of grandparents. The book concludes with Part 4, “Discipleship Methods.” Here the author summarizes 25 interviews with evangelical grandparents across the country.

“Every grandparent was asked how their church has equipped them to be grandparents; not a single grandparent could remember a sermon preached on the subject.”

“Read this work carefully, constantly seeking ways that your church might equip grandparents to be more effective as disciple-makers in the lives of their grandchildren and in the life of the local church.”
—Timothy Paul Jones

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How can pastors/churches encourage biblical grandparenting in their church?

Pastors can preach through texts of Scripture that address grandparenting such as Psalm 78:1-8 and make biblical application to grandparenting from passages that talk about children’s children, son’s son or multiple generations. There are many opportunities to encourage grandparents as a pastor preaches through the Bible.

Pastors should develop a multigenerational view of the family. The trend in many churches is to focus primarily on young families, but when this happens at the expense of other demographics, it can be discouraging to those individuals. Pastors should expand their understanding of family ministry to include grandparents, and when it does, it includes all members of the church and energizes the young and old.

Pastors can train grandparents to disciple their family by providing Bible-based resources as well as equipping opportunities. I encourage pastors to build grandparenting into the existing structure of the church by incorporating it into an adult class or by offering a small group focused specifically on grandparenting.

Some churches have found it helpful to bring me in to offer a biblical grandparenting seminar or conference. One easy way to encourage Christian grandparents is by being intentional about Grandparent’s Day, which usually lands on the second Sunday in September. This day is similar to Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, and provides churches the opportunity to acknowledge grandparents, honor them and a cast a vision to disciple the family by passing on a heritage of faith to future generations. Pastors can also train grandparents to help their grandchildren develop a biblical worldview so that they have a deep and lasting faith in Christ.

What are some ways to stop the trend of grandparents abdicating their responsibilities in the spiritual education of their grandchildren?

The first thing God addresses is the heart of each grandparent. Deuteronomy 4:9 states, “Watch your soul diligently … and teach these things to your children and children’s children.” In this passage, grandparenting has more to do with right affections than with right methods. Some grandparents need a renewed passion for Christ and when this happens there will be a growing desire to disciple our family. What we love dictates what matters most to us. So the place to start is to look at our own passions are priorities and ask ourselves if we have a greater love than Christ.

In addition, my research discovered that 3 out of 4 Christian grandparents operate according to cultural expectations rather than biblical principles. Most grandparents have difficulty articulating the role God has given them and are unable to discern the erroneous messages from society about their place and purpose in the home. The combination has been lethal and led to Christian grandparents who look more like culture than Christ, which in turn has significantly limited their spiritual influence on future generations. When Christian grandparents recognize and reject the cultural messages, understand their biblical role and seek to align their life with Scripture, it is encouraging to see the spiritual influence that is happening.

Why did you feel this was an important book to write at this time?

I discovered that there are millions of Christian grandparents with limited training and resources. In fact, when I did my Ph.D. research, I could only find a handful of books on the topic, most where self-published and only one ministry addressed grandparenting: The Christian Grandparent Network. Everywhere I looked I saw a huge need as well as the potential influence that millions of equipped grandparents could make in the lives of children, families, churches and society for the sake of Christ.

My goal in writing the book is to help individuals understand and apply what the Bible says about grandparenting. I believe the Bible is sufficient for all of life, including grandparenting. The Bible has a lot to say about grandparenting. God designed grandparenting, so he gets to define the role of a grandparent as well as the methods to pass faith to future generations.

Josh Mulvihill
Josh Mulvihill

Josh Mulvihill (@DrJoshMulvihill) is the executive director of church and family ministry at Renewanation, which trains children to develop a biblical worldview.