By Ian Barnett
When people start thinking about those who are older than them, they either have a picture of an old person sitting in a rocking chair, a senior, who is past their prime or Gandalf the Grey, all-wise and all-powerful, with broad shoulders and someone you want on your side. For me, neither picture is accurate, even though I am tempted to go with the latter.
How do we describe what a “grandparent” is, let alone what they do? It is my observation that when a person moves beyond say the age of 60, they start to attract words, like “seniors”, “retired” or even “grey nomads”. Words that carry with them a sense that you are now beyond your best and you really should be preparing, as was once described by Shakespeare, to “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
Of course, there is no denying that when you age, things do change and you are not as young as you once were or even think you are. But I resist the sense that we no longer have a voice and even the capacity to influence those who follow us or leave a legacy that can impact and help others, especially our grandchildren, to navigate the complex and changing nature of the world we now find ourselves living in.
Yes, that is right – grandparents, like the rest of society, are leaving a legacy. The question I began to wrestle with in 2017 was simply this, “What sort of legacy is it that I am leaving behind?”, especially as it applies to my faith in Jesus.
This question has now taken me and thousands of grandparents on a journey of discovery about how they can become intentional in passing on their Christian faith to those who follow them, especially their grandchildren. This has led a growing number of grandparents to believe the time is now to chart a new course, to encourage and equip grandparents and ministry leaders, to grab hold of their potential influence and instil in them a fresh vision to share their love and faith in Christ with their grandchildren, so that they are able truly able to leave a living faith legacy.
The key legacy that I seek to leave for my own grandchildren and for others to follow is a strong faith in Christ.
Launched in 2017, the National Grandparent Movement, has the sole aim of supporting local churches to equip and encourage grandparents who are passionate about reaching and discipling the next generation. It is amazing to realise that even in 2022, God is using old people to do a new thing. And yes, it is a new thing that has birthed the National Grandparent Movement (NGM), with its key building block being the National Grandparent Conference (NGC) – the only conference for grandparents in Australia.
After some 30 years as a minister of the gospel in the Anglican Church, and after becoming a grandparent, it did not take me long to realise that there was limited, if any, information available that could equip me to be an intentional grandparent. I thought that if I felt this, then there must be others who felt the same thing.
So, I became convinced that there was a need to provide opportunities for grandparents who held the same conviction to be engaged. By the year 2021, this movement and conference have helped well over a thousand grandparents to better understand the influence they have in leaving a lasting faith legacy for their grandchildren.
Go to any church on any given weekend and you will see people of all ages gathered and talking together. It is one of the key things that people like you and I love about church. We love being part of something that involves both the young and old. Even more than that, we are always trying to find new and fresh ways to celebrate the gifts and qualities that make us who we are.
Without a doubt, each generation is a gift to another generation, and all are in need of encouragement and the grace and wisdom of God.
You are leaving a legacy. The only question is, “What is it?”
I love how Psalm 78, makes us sit up and take notice:
“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob, and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they, in turn, would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands.”
As a grandfather, I want to ensure that my decisions about my future are not simply directed towards me, but reflect my intention to leave a lasting faith legacy for all my grandchildren – a legacy that will assist them to navigate their future with greater confidence. This is my hope for all grandparents.
Therefore, I and many others are keen to play a role in ensuring that, as Christians, we would still be in the business of building strong families for future generations.
As the task of doing this is quite large, it is my hope that in starting such a movement, with an annual conference, wisdom would be provided in the key areas of life that affect us all. At all times this must include aspects of our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical growth of not only ourselves but also our grandchildren. Without a doubt, the key legacy that I seek to leave for my own grandchildren and for others to follow is a strong faith in Christ.
Finally, one of the many things that I continue to realise is that “I am not done changing!” Grandparents may be young(ish) or they may be old, but we are not finished changing and there is much we can pass on to those who come after us.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that grandparents not only provide a connection to the past but also a light for future generations. If anything, we are in a season of life where young people and our grandchildren are craving both. This is something I believe only grandparents can provide. Remember, you are leaving a legacy. The only question is, “What is it?”
The fifth annual National Grandparent Conference will be held on September 17, 9am-4.30pm, both online and in person at Figtree Anglican Church.
Speakers at the conference include Rev. Ian Barnett, Danny and Leila Abdallah, Rev. Tim Costello OA, Rev. Dr Colin Bale, Rev. Dr Keith and Sarah Condie, and Kel Richards.
For more information or to book, go to the National Grandparent Movement website.
Ian Barnett is CEO and founder of the National Grandparent Movement.
Source: Eternity News.