My friend and I were discussing the joys of grandkids when the conversation took a hairpin turn.
“I really haven’t said much of anything about God to my daughter’s kids because she doesn’t approve. I don’t know why I struggle so much with this. I guess I’m afraid she’ll get mad at me.”
Sadly, many grandparents face this dilemma. Their children don’t value faith in God, so grandchildren are growing up starved for spiritual nourishment. For some, the situation is even worse. Their children vehemently oppose God, teaching their children to despise His ways.
Yet God exhorts grandparents to influence their grandchildren to know and love Him.
Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly (Proverbs 13:22 NLT).
Leaving a monetary inheritance would be nice, but what better legacy can you leave to grandchildren than love and respect for God?
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” (Psalm 92:14-15 NLT)
Grandparents must deliver the good news about Jesus first and foremost to their families.
While there is no doubt grandparents have a spiritual mission to their grandchildren, a question remains. How do you share the gospel with your grandkids if their parents are non-believers?
First, we’ll consider four biblical principles about sharing the gospel under adverse circumstances. Then I will offer some practical ideas for implementing a plan.
1. You will suffer opposition to the gospel, but God equips you.
“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” Matthew 10:16 NLT).
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples before sending them out to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. He also sends us with the same message into the same broken world filled with “wolves” who oppose us. Perhaps those wolves will be your own children or grandchildren.
But we are not to fear! Jesus continued with this encouragement:
For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:20 NLT).
The Spirit of God living in us imparts wisdom and words to speak. We don’t have to figure it out by ourselves.
2. When words are prohibited, your godly life speaks.
Even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives (1 Peter 3:1b-2 NLT).
Peter gives this principle in the context of wives living with non-believer husbands, but I believe grandparents may also rely on it. It agrees with Matthew 5:16, in which Jesus explains how His light will shine from believers as behaviors that glorify God.
3. Spiritual opportunities occur more often within the context of relationships and time spent together.
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord (Romans 1:10-11 NLT).
Emmanuel, God with us, demonstrates the power of an in-person relationship. Knowing this, Paul also deeply desired to visit the people in Rome to share a spiritual gift that would increase their faith. The act of traveling to them to spend time together communicated gospel truths better than other, more distant forms of communication.
4. God listens to your prayers for the lost.
Just before His death on the cross, Jesus prayed to His Father for his disciples. But His prayer didn’t stop there.
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message (John 17:20 NLT).
Jesus’ prayer passed resurrection power from generation to generation all the way into our lives here in the twenty-first century. If Jesus, who is God, prayed for those who would believe in the future, don’t you think we should continue to pray for them?
13 Practical Ideas
1. Project God’s character through your winsome attitude and lifestyle.
Make your actions and message hopeful and appealing rather than gloomy and critical.
2. Respect your non-believing children by promoting family unity.
God commands children to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). Grandparents’ efforts to share the gospel with grandkids should never undermine parental authority or communicate disdain.
3. Spend time with your grandkids.
Display an interest in them, showing up for holidays, special events, sports, and everyday life. Discover what they enjoy doing and join in. The love you communicate through time spent together may result in respect for your values and a desire to know more about God over time.
4. Invite the grandkids to go to church with you.
If non-believing parents are more apathetic to God than hostile, offer to take the grandkids to Sunday school and church. Better yet, invite them to sleep over the night before to spend more time together.
5. Concretely demonstrate your spiritual life and relationship with God.
If the grandkids spend the night, allow them to see you study your Bible and pray every morning. At mealtimes, pause to pray, even if no one else joins you.
6. Talk about God’s work in your life.
If your non-believing children will not permit you to directly tell your grandkids about God, avoid statements that dictate what they should believe. Instead, simply and naturally explain how you view the world using “Here’s what I believe” statements such as these:
Sunday is the best day of the week because I get to go to church.
Reading the Bible every morning helps me start the day on the right foot.
When I talk to God, He gives me peace in my heart.
When I have a problem, I read my Bible to find answers.
7. Communicate everyday biblical principles without preaching.
For example, when talking with your preteen grandchild about money earned from shoveling snow, you can reinforce the biblical concept that when you’re faithful with a little, more will be entrusted to you. Without mentioning the Bible, you will have planted God’s truth in your grandchild’s mind.
8. Reinforce the importance of righteousness in every area of life.
For example, when playing games together, say, “We want to do the right thing by following the rules.” Always emphasize the importance of the truth. Help a teen needing friendship advice to see the wisdom of putting others first. This develops a thirst for moral values in your grandkids.
9. Watch for signs of spiritual readiness.
God created each person with a desire to know Him (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Sooner or later, your grandkids will display a need to know more about God. Ask God to help you perceive their heart needs and be ready with thoughtful questions to lead to opportunities to share truth.
10. Demonstrate the love of God through carefully chosen gifts.
Gifts for your grandkids should reveal the beauty of Christ. For example, while their non-believing parents may allow the ugliness of vampires, you don’t need to reinforce such interests. While you may not be allowed to give an overtly Christian gift, many “non-Christian” gifts stir up interest in spiritual matters. If the gift involves time with you, it adds an even better purpose for relationship building. For example, give your grandkids a game that promotes open-ended conversation (e.g., Ungame) in which you can insert spiritual truths. Then play it with them. Or take them to a classic play or movie with Christian themes (e.g., Les Miserables).
11. Offer interesting books that pique spiritual interest.
Perhaps even read them aloud together. As a preteen, I had a teacher who gave me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. At the time, I had no idea it contained a Christian theme. But its message softened my heart to create understanding and connections for subsequent encounters with the gospel.
12. Endure scoffing with grace.
Your non-believing children, or even your grandkids, may tease you or mock your faith. Take on the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:5) rather than taking offense. Forgive and love rather than defending and arguing. God may use your meekness to prick their conscience.
13. Love and encourage your non-believing children.
Build them up by praising their strengths and avoiding criticism. They will not only experience the love of God through you, but you will also be maintaining open communication and access to your grandkids.
Adjust Your Approach as God Gives Insight
These practical ideas provide a starting point for sharing the gospel with your grandkids if the parents are non-believers. You will need to tweak them, though, depending on the attitude of your unbelieving children. If they are simply uninterested in matters of faith, they may not disapprove if you openly share the gospel with your grandchildren. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this wonderful open door to influence their hearts for Christ. But if your unbelieving kids are hostile to God, you must become more creative in your interactions. Your relationship with the grandchildren will be the bedrock of opportunities, so prioritize spending time with them. You may be the only Christian influence in their lives.
My friend Michelle allowed fear to deter her efforts to share the gospel with her grandkids. Perhaps fear has caused you to hesitate too. You may worry about anger directed toward you. Or you may fret about destroying your relationship with your non-believing children and being cut off from your grandkids. But God addresses these common fears.
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety (Proverbs 29:25 NLT).
Ask God to conquer your fears and lead you to step out in faith that passes on a rich spiritual inheritance to your grandchildren. Our faithful God may even surprise you by bringing your unbelieving children into His family along with your grandkids.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Rudi Suardi
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.