Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel: Get Serious about Grandparenting
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Larry FowlerLarry Fowler is the founder of the Legacy Coalition. His vision for a national Grandparenting Ministry brought together a gifted team of Family, Children’s, and Youth Ministry leaders to launch this movement of God. His 40 years plus of ministry include experience as youth pastor, part of the Awana staff as missionary, training staff, international director, and Executive Director of Training. More recently his role consisted of connecting with and coaching Children’s Ministry leaders from m...more
Tim KimmelDr. Tim Kimmel is the founder and Executive Director of Family Matters, whose goal is to see families transformed by God’s grace into instruments of reformation and restoration. Tim and Family Matters conduct the Grace Based Parenting Conference across the country on the unique pressures that confront members of today's families. He and his wife, Darcy, also team up with other organizations such as FamilyLife, Focus on the Family and MOPS to build strong families. With his dry wit and engag...more
Your potential impact on your grandkids can be monumental. Authors Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel challenge you to grandparent with God’s heart for them.
Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel: Get Serious about Grandparenting
Tim: Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. The grandkids are permanent—here’s how long they’re going to live—they’re going to live forever. Because they’re actually eternal people, I think we need to grandparent them with that in mind; in fact, I think we do so much better in life if we always keep an eternal backdrop.
Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.
Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.
If you would list, in order, the people that have the greatest impact on children, number one would obviously be—
Dave: What’s number two?
Ann: I already know this, because we talked about it.
Dave: You can’t just always know things!
Ann: It’s grandparents, which surprised me the first time I heard it.
Dave: I’m shocked at it too.
Ann: Because I thought it would be culture—I thought it would be friends, movie stars, athletes—and it’s grandparents.
Dave: Yes, it is most definitely grandparents; and yet, I know for us, the least amount of training is offered to grandparents about how to have a godly Christian impact on our grandkids. I’m embarrassed to say this—pastor of a church for 30 years that became a very large church—no grandparent ministry in 30 years.
Ann: But I think that’s pretty typical.
Dave: That’s embarrassing to say out loud, but I’ve found a lot of churches are that way. That’s going to change today. [Laughter] We have Dr. Tim Kimmel and Larry Fowler in the studio, and we’re going to talk about intentionally training grandparents to have the impact that we’re called to have on our grandkids. So welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Larry: Thank you. [Laughter]
Dave: You guys are laughing already; what’s that about?
Larry: Well, it’s already changing, Dave.
Ann: Is it?
Larry: Yes; when we started our ministry, Legacy Coalition—
Dave: —because of you guys; that’s why.
Ann: Yes; tell us of your ministry.
Larry: No, because God’s doing a work. He’s doing a work in the heart of a lot of people, and we’re just one of those. But there was not a single church in America that was doing a grandparenting ministry, Dave, so you don’t need to feel bad.
Ann: Not one.
Larry: When we started our ministry, not one that we could find—maybe there was—we didn’t know where they were.
Ann: Well, Larry, tell us about your ministry.
Larry: Legacy Coalition: we see that there are many, many Christian grandparents who are just missing opportunities to impact their grandchildren, because they don’t have a vision; so we exist to equip them and give them a vision for their potential.
You started by talking about grandparents are second [influencing children]. We want them to really see their potential for spiritual impact—not only to see their potential—but also to see their biblical responsibility for a spiritual impact, and then to do everything we can to equip them. We do that through physical resources/things they can hold in their hands. But we also do it through webinars and a conference called The Legacy Grandparenting Summit. Go to LegacyCoalition.com and you’ll see all the information there.
Dave: As you think about, not just that conference, but what you do as a ministry, you’re trying to help grandparents, like us, go from—“I want to pray for my grandkids,”—to intentionally: you call it “intentional Christian grandparenting”—intentionally impacting them for the kingdom.
Tim: We don’t realize, not only the impact we have on our grandkids when we’re intentional, but the impact we have on them when we’re not intentional. When we wrote this book, Extreme Grandparenting, what we were surprised at is when we started getting emails from moms and dads/young couples, who said: “I got this book and I read it, and I sent it to my parents,” and “I don’t get it. They live in the same town with us; they just live a few miles away, but they just don’t have hardly any involvement in our kids’ lives. The only time they want to come by is when it’s convenient to them. We don’t understand why they don’t want to be involved.”
Well, some of that—and we address this in the book—is a really messed up idea of retirement. Some people think: “I paid my dues, and I’ve done all that,” and “It’s not my turn anymore. It’s my turn to just relax and enjoy life.” Retirement is not some kind of a personal pig-out time in our life [Laughter]; it just means you don’t go to the place, where you were making a living; but you still have a life to live and a difference to make.
So just trying to equip them [grandparents] to say: “There’s a deliberateness to it,” and “When you face the difficulties that many grandparents face in this relationship with their kids and their grandkids, there’s help for that. There are ways that you can get through this thing, through the power of God’s grace.” Because if my grandkids think that—as far as I’m concerned [as a grandparent], they’re barely a footnote [in my mind]—that helps frame a very false impression about the God who made them.
Ann: Well, Tim, you and Darcy started Grace-Based Families. You guys are busy—you’re writing books; you’re traveling around the country; you’re speaking; and yet—I think some grandparents are like, “I am super busy,”—but you guys are making it a priority. How do you do that?
Tim: Well, it’s like anything that you take on in life—you realize: “This is the big reason why I’m here,”—is that you make the other “B” priorities bow to the “A” priorities. I’ve talked with you guys before, on air, about this one principle that has so come to my rescue when I have to make hard choices: “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”
The grandkids are permanent—here’s how long they’re going to live—they’re going to live forever. They have an expiration date on their human life, but not on their life. Because they’re actually eternal people, I think we need to grandparent them with that in mind. In fact, I think we do so much better in life if we always keep an eternal backdrop/screensaver behind what we’re doing. I think it gives us much more of a chance, I think, to bring God’s heart to the middle.
Ann: I think the thing I love about you, Tim, is—every time I talk to you about your grandkids, you end up, somewhere, along the line, crying—because you’re so passionate about this, and you love them so much.
Tim: Yes, yes.
Ann: I didn’t grow up in the church. I had great parents—but I came from a family that never kissed, never hugged, never said affirming words—I knew they loved me, but all of that was absent.
But when I walked in the door to see my grandmother—I was named after her—I get teary thinking of it, because this happened throughout my entire childhood—I’d walk in the door. She’d grab me by the shoulders—I’m the youngest of four, so you kind of feel forgotten anyway—she’d grab me by the shoulders, and she’d look me in the eye; she’d kiss me on the lips. She said, “Oh, honey; it’s so good to see you.” She would hug me, hold me, and then she would ask me this question: “Hon, how are you doing?” I felt like I was the most important person in the world.
It’s not that I didn’t have good parents—they were just busy—they were trying to do their thing. But just that/just that—and then you put in Jesus with that—it’s a deal changer; it’s a life changer.
Larry: There’s a verse in the Bible I want to change. That probably sounds terrifying. [Laughter]
Dave: It does; sounds like heresy.
Ann: —…according to Larry.
Dave: Go ahead, Larry.
Larry: It’s in here all of a sudden. This is 3 John 4, according to Larry; okay? [Laughter]
Dave: I know this verse; I want to hear how you’re going to spin it.
Larry: This is a verse that says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Here’s how I want to change it: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my grandchildren walk in truth,” because that’s another generation out.
In fact, there’s nothing in this world that I want more than my grandkids to be in heaven with me—nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing—and I’m sure that those, who are listening, who are grandparents, would agree with that. So why wouldn’t that drive us and give us such a sense of purpose in this stage of life? That sense of purpose can carry us to our deathbed, really; it can be the last significant purpose.
Dave: I might speak for some who think, when a grandparent hears that, “Well, that’s something our kids are going to do for our grandkids, not us.” Do you know what I’m saying?—it’s like, “They’re involved in their lives; we’re just a little part.”
But even the conversation with you guys has reminded me of the vision. When you guys talk about vision, I’m over here, getting inspired. Every grandparent needs to be inspired; because we can/all of us can fall into: “I’ve paid my price; I worked hard. These are the years I sort of coast. I’ll be loving to my grandkids, but I’m not on mission anymore.”
Well, guess what?—you are on mission—it is your grandchildren, who are going to walk in the truth, not just your kids.
Dave: Your kids may not even be walking in the truth; but you said earlier, “This is mulligan time. I get a chance to correct what I may have done wrong,”—like anytime I hit a ball in the lake, usually, the next ball is better; because I don’t do what I did. You get a chance now to say, “I need a vision.”
You guys are creating a vision for grandparents that is so needed.
Larry: All of our families are messy.
Ann: For sure.
Larry: Let’s just get that right out there—we all have messiness in our families—there are no perfect families. There are also many families that are not intact families. By “intact” I mean ones that have a mom and a dad, and a grandpa and grandma on one side; and a grandpa and grandma on the other side. But it’s still helpful for all of us to understand what the biblical ideal is.
My background is Christian education. I’ve known, for many years, that an ideal situation in a church—if you’re going to disciple kids in a church context—you need a ratio of, at least, one to six; in other words, one leader for six kids. If you have more than that [kids], then it’s a real struggle.
Do you know what God’s ratio is?—it’s not one to six; it’s six to one—“Teach your children and your children’s children.” Think about a family, where that actually happened. Do you know what that would mean?
- It would mean that mom and dad, and grandpa and grandma on this side; and grandpa and grandma on the other side are all devoted to doing everything they can to influence that child for Christ, all a childhood long.
To me, that’s just this powerful, powerful vision of what God has for our family. So often, when we think of God’s vision for family, we just think of parents and the kids; but grandparents are very, very much a part of it too.
Dave: Yes; it could even be blended.
Larry: Yes, exactly; it could be multiple.
Tim: Or you could be a single grandma or grandpa out there: [you] still have a huge amount of influence in their life.
A story we tell in the book—sometimes the parents just/they get beside themself with a kid—they just don’t know what in the world to do. This one couple/they had a daughter, who had just gotten gender-confused and frustrated, and started acting out. She started representing herself as a different gender and changed her looks, and she got tougher. The parents just didn’t know what—and they were scared—they really didn’t know what to do.
It was the grandfather, who loved that girl; and he decided he’s going to just be in her life. Well, he had these couple of guys/they always had breakfast together at a diner in this town; these guys are other Christian guys. He said, “Look, my granddaughter is having this problem; and I have to spend some time with her. I wouldn’t mind you guys joining us, because we always have a lot of fun: we talk and all this stuff. But if you have a problem with her, and you’re going to voice it—you’re going to put her down, and you’re going react—then I’m going just to have breakfast there, and I’m done with you guys.”
They said, “Well, bring her on in.” When she came in—and she’s tough, and she’s just foul-mouthed, and she’s just trying to push every button on them—to try and get them to take the bait/to justify to her that “nobody gets me.” But that grandfather just stayed right on point with her, and she got through that very confusing time in her life.
Ann: I love that he brought his buddies into it; you know? It’s so sweet.
Tim: Yes, he did. And keep in mind this guy is like my age. He came from a generation that would usually handle that differently; and frankly, poorly.
Tim: But God gives us a chance to—
Dave: And it reveals, obviously, again the power in the role of a grandparent.
Ann: The power of the gospel too.
Tim: Yes, I mean, it’s—
Larry: —and the power of grace. One of the things we talk about, a lot, in our ministry is the importance of balancing grace and truth. We base that on what is said about Jesus—that He was full of grace and truth—and we need to be Jesus to our families.
You know what I think our generation has gotten wrong? We don’t balance that very well. We hold truth really high, so that’s why we get so frustrated with many of the political issues.
Tim: —and critical and condescending.
Ann: Dave calls them “Sermon-ators.” [Laughter]
Larry: Yes; and we want them to know the truth, but we don’t place the same value on grace. That’s why Tim’s ministry is so important, and it’s important for grandparents to hear. In fact, I think we need to coin a new word; can we coin a new word?
Dave: Let’s do it; what is it?
Larry: “Grace-parents” instead of grandparents.
Tim: Oh, that’s nice.
Larry: Maybe, when you’re a parent, you really train your kids to know the Word, and you want them to do that; but the role of a grandparent needs to be one in which we lead with grace first. Your story is a perfect, perfect illustration of that.
Dave: That’s what I was thinking when you mentioned grace-parents. I thought, “If we lead with grace, you can bring truth. If you only lead with truth, they usually aren’t around for the grace part.”
Tim: Well, I think if you’re led by truth, then you can lead with grace.
Ann: That’s good.
Tim: A lot of people think they always go together—no—I can be a very truthful person, and I’m very ungracious.
Tim: I do not think you can be a gracious person and not be truthful.
Larry: I had a grandma come to me at a seminar; and she said, “My son has declared himself to be an atheist.” She says, “I’ve been praying about it and talking about it with the ladies in my Bible study group. They’re saying, ‘Just keep giving him the gospel. Keep giving him the gospel, because there’s power in the gospel.’”
We all know, they’re right; right?—there is power in the gospel—but she’s pushing truth on him. I said, “How’s it working?” She said, “Not so well.
Tim: No, not well at all. [Laughter]
Larry: “He’s just closing me off, shutting me off more and more.”
I said, “So you’ve been trying to lead with truth. How long have you been doing that?” She says, “It’s been going on about ten years.”
Larry: So I said, “Why don’t you think about leading with grace for the next ten years and see what God might do?”
Larry: That blew her away, because that is a completely different approach than what our generation normally takes. Grandparents need to be ones, who lead with grace.
Dave: I know that—and I never thought about this ‘til this very moment—as a little boy, I don’t even know how I navigated two alcoholic parents.
Ann: Your best friend/your brother died when you were seven.
Dave: Yes, my little brother dies; Mom and Dad go through a divorce—well, my brother died right after the divorce—so we moved from my hometown of New Jersey, where I was born, to Ohio. Why?—I didn’t know then—only one reason: that’s where my grandparents were/the only grandparents I know. I never knew my dad’s parents, but my mom’s parents were in Ohio.
We moved there because she’s now a single mom in the early ‘60s, which was pretty rare then. All I can remember, when Ann was sharing about her grandma, I thought, “I had Hallie Krause in my life.” [Emotion in voice] I was in chaos, and I felt unloved. Every time I walked in her kitchen, she bearhugged me. I know she knew: “I’m his lighthouse. I am the foundation of his life, because he doesn’t have it.” I never understood it until this moment; it’s like, “Thank God for Hallie Krause being in my life.”
Now, we get to be that for our grandkids—who fortunately, have great parents; and the legacy has been, not perfect, but changed—but we can be that. We can be, not only a lighthouse, we can be Jesus to those kids for the legacy that’s going to impact the world.
Larry: So a really important message for all the grandparents, who have some sort of barrier to their grandparenting, is to listen to what you just said, and understand that intentional, unconditional love is the most important thing that they can possibly do.
I had another grandma come up to me at a seminar, and said, “My son is an atheist. I can talk to my granddaughter about God, or I can see her—but I can never do both—because the minute that I mention God to my granddaughter, I’ll never be allowed to see her again.” This grandma was feeling like, “What can I do? What’s possible?”
She can pray for them, and she can love that granddaughter. She needs to honor what the father said, and not say anything about God; but that doesn’t keep her from doing the other things. Those can be incredibly, incredibly powerful; but maybe, we won’t see it in our lifetime.
Tim: When I think about the first and second century church, that’s when the church grew the fastest. What’s interesting—of course, when you don’t have any church, anything is a pretty fast move—but they grew fast. It never grew as proportionately faster than it did the first two centuries. Now think about it, though: they didn’t even have a Bible then; they didn’t have a seminary; there were no churches coming out of the ground.
What they had was a transformed life—that God had done something amazing for them—that changed everything when they realized that Jesus hung on that cross to take all their junk and their shame, and their mess and everything, and He paid it all, and He loves them, and He rose from the dead to validate it.
So the next thing you know: there was a different view on slaves/slavery; a different view on women; a different view on medicine; on the poor; on the sick—you name it. Suddenly/and people are just saying, “This is running counter to everything we know.” During the big plagues, everybody would flee town. The Christians would move in the middle. Why?—they were just driven by this passion/kindness towards people.
When people whine and complain about how bad things are today, wouldn’t it be nice if grandkids know: “Oh, it doesn’t matter; I’m fine, because you know, I have a grandma, who always gives me that bearhug,” or “I have this granddad, who just won’t give up on me.”
Dave: Yes, and that gospel spread—
Dave: —through oikos. Remember oikos?—households.
Tim: Right; right.
Dave: It’s through the family, the same way it’s going to spread today.
Tim: It wasn’t that they were giving them the gospel every time they saw them, or quoting Scripture, or anything like that. They were just caring and loving them. No one was shocked at how messed up everybody was, because everybody was messed up to start with. Anyway, we have a chance to do something amazing.
Ann: We have a chance.
Larry: Our passion is to mobilize 30 million Christian grandparents. Let me just give a couple of—
Dave: That’s not a big enough vision, Larry; come on.
Larry: Tim already said the average person in America becomes a grandparent at age 47. Right now, the average grandparent has four grandchildren; but when their kids are done having kids, they’ll have an average of six. Six grandkids is average. If you take
30 million Christian grandparents—and we know there’s some overlap—and then flip the numbers around, there are probably 100 million of the youngest Americans that have a Christian grandparent: 100 million.
Now, if those Christian grandparents are sitting on their hands, and they’re retiring and thinking: “All my job is just to play with them,” or “…help support them,” or “…maybe just enjoy life in the retirement narcissism,” we won’t get very far. But that is a huge army that could turn this country around. There could be a revival that could come to this country if just those 100 million kids just had their Christian grandparents step into their role and be as intentional as they could possibly be.
Ann: Larry, will you just pray? Pray for us, as grandparents.
Larry: Yes, yes.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Larry Fowler and Tim Kimmel on FamilyLife Today. You’ll have no doubt that Larry is the real deal when you hear his prayer in just a second.
But first, be sure to find out more about the Legacy Grandparenting Summit that’s coming up October 21 and 22 in Jacksonville, Florida. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to learn more. And if Jacksonville is too far for you, you can find one of the more than 100 locations that will be livestreaming the event. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for all the details. While you are there, you can also get Larry Fowler’s eBook called Overcoming Grandparent Barriers.
Now, today’s conversation about godly grandparenting is all about legacy. What kind of legacy are you leaving? At FamilyLife, we’re passionate about helping families leave a godly legacy through the power of the gospel. So when you partner, financially, with FamilyLife, you’re helping, not just families today, but families generations from now.
If that’s exciting to you, I want to ask you to partner, financially, with us. As our “Thanks,” when you give today, we’ll send you a copy of Michael and Melissa Kruger’s book, 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse. You can get your copy when you give at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright; now, here’s Larry Fowler with a touching prayer for grandparents.
Oh, heavenly Father, thank You that You’re not done with me. Thank You that, as I get toward the later decades of life, that I can still be filled with purpose—and Father, a purpose that involves those that I love the most—my children, and my grandchildren, and those generations that will follow them.
Thank You that You’re not done with all the grandparents that are listening, and the Christian grandparents in America and the countries beyond. Father, we pray that You will give us a new sense of purpose, that You will help us to be intentional. Help us to see our potential for impact. And Father, may You use us to accomplish great things in our families and in this country.
And we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Shelby: You know, it’s easy to sprint toward God at 100 miles an hour when we’re in pain or when things are going wrong. But other times, we might just straight-up not feel like praying or even reading; let’s be honest. So what can it look like to have full dependence on God all the time? Well, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk about that tomorrow with Jeff Norris.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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