by Dr. Ken Canfield

Do you hope to pass on your faith to your grandkids? For many grandparents, that’s one of their top priorities and a big part of the legacy they hope to leave behind. (And if you aren’t a person of faith, these principles still apply to the values and morals you hope to convey to your grandkids.)

In some cases, the grandkids’ parents are thrilled to have you help them train their children in the faith.

Many different issues can complicate parent-child relationships. Because your connection with your grandchildren has fewer of those issues, you’re in a great position to help shape them. Your adult child probably recognizes this and is grateful to have someone in your position with the same beliefs and values, as well as a special connection to their child. So they may appreciate any efforts you make to influence their children.

Sharing your faith with your grands is more difficult, however, when you and your adult child don’t share the same faith—or possibly you don’t share the same commitment to faith. Adult children may take a different path, or they may express their faith differently than you do.

Sometimes our children don’t make their faith—or the habits and disciplines of faith—a priority, but they sincerely value your sharing your faith and church involvement as you grandparent their kids. In such a situation, your spiritual influence may have even greater significance. So by all means, introduce your grandchildren to church, read the Scriptures with them, and talk to them about your faith regularly.

Then there are those situations where your adult children want you to have absolutely no influence on their children’s faith. Whatever is fueling that—possibly issues from childhood, bitterness from past events, or a dislike of your faith expressions and way of life—it’s best to avoid a total break in the relationship with your adult children and their children over that. Sure, spiritual things are very important, but a severed connection with them will take away any chance you have to influence them.

So the best approach is to simply do what you can within the boundaries their parents establish.

If you have opportunities to influence your grandchildren’s faith, make the most of those times. Just make sure you aren’t doing so secretly; never go behind the parents’ backs when you know that talking about your faith is against their wishes.

If you have any questions about their wishes, talk to them:

“What would you think if I read a Bible story or devotional with Hudson when he’s with me on Fridays?”
“We’re keeping the kids this weekend, and we always go to church. May we take them?”
“Emma asked me about what happens when people die. I gave her a short answer about what I believe, but before I say any more, I want to make sure I’m doing what you want.”

Remember, even if the parents refuse your direct efforts to influence the grandkids, your example can be powerful, so you can still impact them by how you live. Your grandchildren are watching you and learning from your habits and lifestyle. They’ll see, for instance, that you read the Scriptures every day. They’ll figure out that you host a church small group at your house on Wednesday evenings. They’ll hear you pray before meals.

Live out your faith in normal, conspicuous ways, and you will make a difference.

Have you faced this challenge with your grandkids? What wisdom do you have to share? Leave a comment and learn from other grandparents on our Facebook page.

This was adapted from Dr. Ken Canfield’s book, The HEART of Grandparenting. Find out more and get your copy here.