Today is Grandparents Day. For Christians who are grandparents here are some practical ways to lead our grandchildren in the ways of the Lord.
While at a recent concert a former coworker asked, “What are you doing for fun since you retired?”
Without hesitation I replied, “Teaching our grandchildren.”
In the summer of 2006, I retired from teaching at Ozark Christian College, having taught 40 years in Bible college. I had two primary goals I wanted to achieve in retirement: spending more time with family (especially teaching my grandchildren) and writing books and articles.
My maternal grandfather, John Gilson, had a significant impact on my life. I wanted to follow his example. My wife and I are blessed to have our four grandchildren live within three miles of our home. While we have had some health challenges, we want to make sure we spend time with our grandchildren and contribute to their lives.
After thinking about how to achieve this goal, I decided to start a Grandpa’s Bible Club with our two older grandchildren. Dane and Luke were nine at that time. I wanted to teach them things they would not generally learn in Sunday school and help them learn about Christian ministries. I also simply wanted to spend more time with them. Barbara was still working full-time for the first seven months after I retired. Now that she’s retired from her reference librarian position at OCC, she participates in the sessions with our grandchildren.
What We Do
During the school year we meet after school. While our schedule has varied, we usually have a lesson, visit a Christian organization or leader, and then go out to eat a meal.
Several lessons looked at Bible backgrounds. I wanted them to begin to gain a general outline of Bible chronology and the geography of Bible lands. They learned basic facts about Palestine and could locate the main areas, cities, mountains, and bodies of water in Palestine.
I told them about fishing in the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ day. We learned about boats, nets, and the three main fish in the Sea of Galilee and related these facts to some of the stories in the Gospels. Shepherding in Israel was another topic. We studied the shepherd’s equipment, his responsibilities, and the sheep of Israel. The sheep’s fat tails intrigued the boys. We had several lessons on animals in the Bible. They were quite curious why God allowed some animals to be eaten for food but did not allow others to be used for food. With each animal we studied, I asked if they could remember a Bible story that included that animal.
I taught them basic information about how we got the Bible, explaining about writing materials, Bible languages and lettering, and early manuscripts. They enjoyed the stories about Tischendorf finding the Sinaitic manuscript at Mt. Sinai in the mid 19th century and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Bedouin shepherds in 1947.
We are blessed with many Christian organizations in the Joplin, Missouri, area. I felt field trips to these places with guided tours would broaden their horizons about the work of Christ. Our first visit was to the Don DeWelt Prayer Chapel and Peace On Earth Ministries (POEM). At Good News Productions, International, Mike Schrage gave an exciting tour. The boys enjoyed Joe Garman’s tour of American Rehabilitation Ministry. He showed them one of their portable baptisteries. This had special interest because Dane’s deceased dad (Luke’s uncle) Mark Gardner, had invented a special hinge that rotated 360 degrees making the baptistery more functional.
When we visited Ozark Christian College, Matt Proctor, president, and Mark Scott, academic dean, spent time telling the boys about the college and its purpose and program.
Some visits introduced the boys to missions. Andrew and Betty Patton served as missionaries for more than 40 years in Japan. We went to their home and they graciously taught about the people and customs of Japan and their work there. Harvey and Nancy Bacus joined us for lunch at a café serving Near Eastern food and then invited us to their home. They are moving to a Near Eastern country to establish a Christian public library. Nancy told about the area and Harvey explained the religion of Islam. For one session we took Stephen Muhota, a native of Kenya and a student at Ozark, to breakfast with us. He told the story of his life explaining how he became a preacher and came to Bible college in America. The evidences of God’s providence in his life made an impression on the boys.
Plans for the future include visits with Bible college students from other countries, missionaries, local preachers, a Christian leader in a nursing home, and other Christian organizations, including College Press and Christ In Youth. Future lessons will include a study of Proverbs. I purchased copies of the book of Proverbs so each boy will have his own book. Selected proverbs will be printed on cards for memory work. I also plan to have some lessons on archaeology and science and the Bible.
We have generally gone to eat for the noon or evening meal, depending on how the schedule worked out. At times the boys choose the restaurant. Other times I choose. Eating together is a great time for visiting. Another important element of our club has been writing thank you notes to those whom we have visited.
Breakfast and Bible with Grandpa and Grandma
When Grandpa’s Bible Club started, I felt the age difference was too great to have all four of our grandchildren meet together. Our two younger grandchildren, Mark and Hope, were six at that time. Not wanting to neglect them, we decided to take them out to breakfast periodically on Saturdays.
One evening when we were at Luke and Mark’s home for a meal, Mark came up to me and said, “Grandpa, if I was invited to Grandpa’s Bible Club, I would come.” We got the message! The younger ones wanted a Bible lesson too. Barbara and I decided to call it “Breakfast and Bible with Grandpa and Grandma.” After breakfast we study Bible characters. Beginning with Adam and Eve, we have continued with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and others. They enjoy learning about Bible persons whether I tell the story myself or read it to them from The Rhyme Bible Storybook (Zonderkidz, 2001).
Barbara usually has a picture from the lesson to color or a craft to make. They made an altar out of clay (Abraham), colored a picture of the coat of many colors (Joseph), and made a basket with a baby in it floating on water (Moses). With the lesson on Joshua we marched around the couch six times for the days and seven times for the last day and they played on paper horns they made and shouted. We sang “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”
For one special breakfast, Grandma e-mailed a menu to Mark and Hope and told them to select what they wanted for breakfast that Saturday at Grammy’s Kitchen. Within the next year we will begin adding some trips to Christian works and visits with Christian leaders with Hope and Mark.
In each group, each child has a notebook. Usually a sheet or two of information relating to the lesson is given to each.
The Sunday school and youth program can provide valuable teaching to children. Parents and grandparents must be Bible teachers to children and grandchildren as well, at least reading the Bible stories. Our grandchildren look forward to our meetings and have been eager participants. It is our hope that we are increasing their knowledge of the Bible and their love for the things of God.
Some find retirement boring. Many feel useless. Grandpa’s Bible Club and Breakfast and Bible with Grandpa and Grandma have enriched our lives. If you have grandchildren living nearby, consider ways you can spend productive spiritual time with them. A good Bible dictionary would be a helpful resource for information on topics such as we have covered in these sessions.
You may come up with other ways you can teach your grandchildren. If your grandchildren live far away, you may think of ways to be a spiritual influence through e-mail, telephone, or other ways. You may find ways to include teaching when they visit. If you have no grandchildren, you might adopt some neighbor children or children from church and start your own club. Another idea is to have your own neighborhood Vacation Bible School one day a week for a month in the summer.
Children need a break from television, video games, and music. Giving them your love and time is better than any toy or entertainment you can buy for them. Make your influence on your grandchildren count for God.