Teaching and Telling
About the Guest
How influential are grandparents? Pastor Josh Mulvihill talks about the grand purpose of grandparents, which is passing on their faith to the generations following after them. This purpose, Mulvihill adds, is done by teaching God's instruction and telling of God's good works.
Josh MulvihillJosh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation, where he equips parents and grandparents to disciple their family and coaches church leaders to help them design Bible-based, Christ-centered family ministries. Josh has served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition, and has a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage...more
Pastor Josh Mulvihill talks about the grand purpose of grandparents, which is passing on their faith to the generations following after them.
Teaching and Telling
Bob: That’s a better number than I would have imagined; because—when I stop and think about it—MaryAnn and I were talkingrecently about the fact that we are grandparents. In fact, we were talking about the event you are going to be speaking at in November at Stonebriar Church in Dallas. This is a national conference on grandparenting; right?
Josh: Absolutely—first one.
Bob: And I said to her: "When we raised our kids, we really operated more in the moment than we did with a road map. We parented for today and tried to deal with today’s dilemmas; because doesn't the Bible say, ‘Let tomorrow worry about itself’?” I mean, we were trying to apply that Scripture—no! We didn't have the intentionality—that I look back and wish we had had and implemented.
MaryAnn said: "So we’ve got five grandkids. What are we doing in terms of being intentional with them?” And I thought, "Nothing."
Were you marked by your grandparents?
Josh: I love my grandparents very much. Their influence and impact was limited, spiritually. Part of what I have done—investing in this with my life—is because I don't want this to be the case with my grandkids. I'd like to see something different for them. In my own life, my mother died eight years ago from ALS. My mother-in-law / my wife's mother died two years ago from brain cancer.
Bob: So your kids are growing up without grandma.
Josh: Without grandma. By God's grace, my father remarried a wonderful godly woman. Her name's Pam, and my kids call her Grammy Pammy.
Dennis: So you have a blended—
Josh: We have a blended family. We love Pam to death, and Pam has done a phenomenal job trying to step into that.
That's one of the practical applications that I think a lot of families need today—in the sense that—because the subject matter in our society—there is really a lot of confusion about the role of grandparents. It’s left it on a family-by-family basis to talk about “What does that role look like?” We need to get those expectations on the table. So if there is one of the takeaways you have from this discussion, practically, is: “Just sit down and have that discussion: ‘What does it look like to invest, as grandparents, to invest in grandkids?’”
The adult children are the gatekeepers in the relationship. This needs to be a subject that is understood, not just by those who are older, but also by those who are younger, raising their kids right now.
Dennis: I don't want to get too focused on the obstacles here, but there are a couple of obstacles I want you to speak into. One is—we're such a mobile society. When our six kids grew up, they all fled the penitentiary.
I mean, they escaped and they decided they would move to other places. We love them / they love us, but none of them—none of our grandkids are local. They are in four different states. Fortunately, we live in one of them; but we are still 100 miles away from our grandkids. The others are Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee. Speak to the mobility issue and how parents can tackle this and not be overcome by it or be discouraged by it.
Josh: Well, certainly, it is a limiting factor for some—grandparenting will have to take a different shape. Thankfully, due to technology, that is more doable today than it was in the past. A friend of mine, named Walt Pettigrew [spelling uncertain], has created an online resource called Love Your Reader. Resources like this allow grandparents to connect with their grandkids.
Say you want to do a devotion with your grandkid, but they live a thousand miles away. You can go and record that on a resource like Love You Reader and then email that digitally to your grandkid. They can open it up and hear you reading a passage of Scripture in your own voice to them as they follow along in the Bible. Things like that are wonderful for long distance grandparents.
They need to give intentionality to connecting regularly, whether that is for coming and traveling—and you’re going to spend a week or two together: “We're going to come out to Grandma and Grandpa Camp and bring kids out to visit and spend some time with you.”
One of the pieces for those who are far apart from their grandkids and aren't able to invest—the opportunity to be a spiritual grandparent for others exists and to adopt some in their church and neighborhood that they are living by. That has been a great blessing for many young people, and I would encourage some to consider that. That would be a great blessing for many.
Dennis: I’m sure there are listeners, right now, who are facing another obstacle. It’s not one in our family—our kids are kind of nibbling at our heels, saying: “Come on! Come on over here more often. Stay at our house more often. Spend more time with us.” But undoubtedly, there are grandparents who—and I know some—who say, "My kids really don't want my involvement in the grandkids’ lives."
Dennis: Yes; the gatekeepers have shut the gate—“We want to try to influence our grandkids, but we’ve been shut out.”
Dennis: They don't want the spiritual influence—it may be as blunt as that. It could be the relational influence, but it could also be the spiritual teaching and telling that we're talking about here.
Josh: Yes; it's heartbreaking when that happens. You know, I think that is where grandparents are always on their knees praying. For some, the reality is there may be a relational piece that needs attention. There may be some confession that needs to happen that they need to go to their adult child and own up to some things and restore relationships so that can change.
Dennis: Let me stop you there. You’re saying: “If you’re being shut out by your kids, maybe do a little holy introspection and evaluate—ask God—to say, “Have I done something to wound this child?” and to humble yourself and to go to your adult child and to open that door, at least, to the possibility of reconciliation.
Josh: Absolutely. And that’s obviously not the case for every single instance like this but it may be for some. And that may be the piece that the adult child needs to say, “I needed to hear that, and I embrace that.” They need to own their piece as well, which I am sure there’s a component of. Through God's grace, hopefully, there’s some reconciliation there and that changes.
In the event where the adult child has walked away from the Lord or is uninterested in anything spiritual, that’s a difficult situation. One of the areas that we found as a good entry piece, for those parents that aren’t interested in their kids going to church / bringing their kids—grandparents can say, “Can I bring them?”—many an adult child will say,” Yes.”
Another great entry point is through music. We find, where many adult children—that aren’t interested in anything biblical/spiritual—they won't be reading the Bible—they’ll play a CD / they’ll listen to music. If you are intentional about the music that is being listened to, God's Word can come in through another angle. So there are opportunities; and obviously, that doesn’t minimize the heart pain that is there or the challenges that are going to be present. I won't say that it’s an easy quick fix, but those are some ideas I have seen work.
Bob: If the gate’s been shut and the parent says, "We don't want you talking about Jesus and the Bible with our kids,"—as grandparents, do you respect that boundary or do you say, “Wait; I’ve got a Great Commission I’m supposed to follow; and I don't care what you want.” What's your counsel to a grandparent at that point?
Josh: Navigate wisely. But yes; we obviously want to be obedient to the Lord. As I look in Scripture, I don't see any instance where, when somebody says, “Don't speak of the name of Christ,” that there’s agreement to not do that. But obviously, you need to have discernment in how you do that and when you do that.
Dennis: I'd just say there—I would encourage grandparents—and it may sound a little counter-intuitive at this point—but view it as a long haul. They may say to me, “Wait a second, Dennis; I don't look like I have that much of a long haul!” [Laughter]
But I think they ought to think about “How can I win the trust of my adult children so that they will allow me to have, not only a relationship, but able to speak into the needs of that child's soul?”
Let me promise you something—life has a way of opening up some pretty hard slammed doors. Circumstances can cause those doors to be flung open, especially if the grandchildren start struggling with issues. Then it’s good to be there—it’s good to have your relationship with your adult children intact so that you can offer a solution, or a word of encouragement, or even come be a part of the solution for that grandchild.
Bob: I think the theme we keep hitting on, as we talk about this, is the theme of being purposeful and being intentional. Many grandparents are casual about their role rather than being deliberate and intentional.
And of course, I’m thinking of you [Dennis]; because one of your kids named you “Mr. Intentional”; right?
Dennis: Yes; but I kind of share your dilemma, Bob, about what MaryAnn said to you: “We've got these grandkids. What are we going to do now?”
Dennis: The whole intentionality is one thing if they are under your roof. When they are not under your roof, you really do have to take a step back. I think what Josh has written, in a book called Equipping Grandparents—which is really written for the church—helping your church reach and disciple the next generation—which, frankly, is a great idea. If the church began to equip grandparents to feel more comfortable and be intention, Bob, I think that would go a long way towards solving the issues.
Bob: Well, we haven’t talked about this, but you may not have grandchildren of your own; but if you are part of a church community, there are children in your church that you can be a grandparent to.
Or you may be in a blended family and you may have stepchildren that you can pour yourself into. I think the point is that we have opportunity to invest, significantly, in the lives of the next generation to pass along a legacy of spiritual vitality to a coming generation. That’s a part of the assignment God has given to us, as grandparents.
You’re going to be talking about this, Josh, along with a whole group of speakers, at the Legacy Grandparenting Summit in Frisco, Texas, November 15-17. Chuck Swindoll’s going to be there, Crawford Loritts, Josh McDowell, Gary Chapman, John Trent, Tim and Darcy Kimmel—whole group of folks getting together to talk about, “What’s our assignment as grandparents?” If our listeners are interested in joining you, go to FamilyLifeToday.comto find outmore about this upcoming event—the Legacy Grandparenting Summit taking place in the DFW Metroplex.
In addition, there is information about the book that Josh has written on this subject called God’s Design for Grandparenting. I don’t know if it’s in the warehouse or not, because this is something Josh just finished up; but you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information about how you can order a copy of the book, or you can call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information as well—1-800-358-6329. Again, the book is called God's Design for Grandparenting.
Now, we have to shout out today to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Najja and Morgan Thumbutu are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. “Congratulations!” to the Thumbutus on ten years of marriage together.
If today is your anniversary, “Happy anniversary!” to you as well. Anniversaries matter—they are milestones in a marriage. Here, at FamilyLife, we have been celebrating this year our 40th anniversary in ministry.
It gives us an opporutnity to look back at all that God has done over the years. I hope the Thumbutus will take some time to do that today. I hope, on your anniversary, you’ll do it as well. If today is your anniversary, just take some time reflecting on God's goodness to you, as a couple.
Here, at FamilyLife, one of our goals is to help you have more anniversaries and to go the distance in your marriage. We appreciate those of you who partner with us in the work of this ministry. We couldn't do what we do without you.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to spend more time exploring what it looks like to be purposeful and intentional as a grandparent. Josh Mulvihill will be back with us. Hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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