Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel: Leaving a Legacy that Matters
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Could your grandparenting alter generations to come? Authors Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel explore the whys and hows of leaving a legacy.
Larry Fowler & Tim Kimmel: Leaving a Legacy that Matters
Dave: Okay, what would you say is the greatest thing about being a grandparent?
Ann: Everything; it’s amazing! There’s also something about it—like you [as] a parent, you feel like you’re continually thinking through: “What am I trying to do here?” “I want to protect them…” I felt a little more fear-based, and I was a little more exhausted; there was so much going on. I feel a little bit more of a freedom just to love extravagantly with our grandkids.
Dave: Yes, and I’ve got to say: you are the greatest grandmother.
Dave: You are incredible!
Ann: You’re a really good Poppy too.
Dave: I am a loser compared to you.
Ann: No, you’re not! You’re amazing!
Dave: No, I’m just saying—watching you come alive is a joy—with our six grandkids, it’s awesome.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: We’re going to talk about grandparenting today. We’ve got Dr. Tim Kimmel and Larry Fowler in the FamilyLife Today studio to talk about being grandparents. Welcome, guys!
Tim: Glad to be here!
Larry: Good to be here.
Dave: Now, how do you two guys connect to one another in terms of what you’re doing?
Larry: Tim wrote a book about grandparenting in—what?—about 2007, Tim?—something like that. I lead a ministry called The Legacy Coalition. Tim has been a close friend of our ministry—and a cheerleader, and encourager, and a speaker at our conferences—so he’s been right there with us on this journey of trying to equip Christian grandparents to be more intentional in passing on their faith to their grandkids.
Tim: It’s funny—I was doing/speaking at a conference for, I think, children’s workers, down in Chattanooga. This guy came up to me and said, “Hey, could you have lunch?” “Sure.” And he said that he just really has a burden—he and his wife—God’s been tugging on their heart. He said, “Yours is the only tool that is out there; and I wanted to see if you’d be willing to get together with me, and some other people, and just talk about, maybe, there’s something more substantive that could be done for the church.”
The observation my wife and I had is that, basically, the church wasn’t weighing in on this. That’s not a put-down or, you know, “What’s wrong with everybody?” It’s just the way it was. But I think the demand on grandparenting has gone way up—the need for sages, and matriarchs, and patriarchs/the wisdom-hunters of life, who are now, you know, coming into the fourth quarter of their life—and they actually have something to offer.
Larry: I remember that lunch, too; in fact, I wanted to find somebody that I could talk to about this issue of grandparenting. Frankly, there wasn’t anybody else that I could find in ministry—in the Church (big “C”)—that had a focus on it. But Tim was the guy! And he was very encouraging to me that day.
Ann: Where did that start?—that rumbling/that restlessness about grandparenting?
Larry: Well, it was first very personal; the ministry passion came a lot later. It started for me, of course, with the birth of my first grandson. My first grandson was born on my birthday; that’s kind of cool.
Ann: And you have two kids and seven grandkids.
Larry: I have two kids and seven grandkids. Well, my daughter, who has four, her marriage failed after a few years. That first grandson and two siblings, at that time, came to live with us. I began to step it up in my role as a grandfather, because I knew those little boys needed a godly male role model. That was the beginning of me beginning to be more intentional, as a grandfather; but I couldn’t have put that language to it at that time.
And then, in 2012, I did a study—I was working with the AWANA ministry—and I did a study of the Scripture passages that talk about “generation to generation.” Nothing happened with the study except God used it in my own heart. One particular verse doesn’t say “generation to generation,” but it just absolutely turned my world upside down—was Deuteronomy 4:9—the last phrase of it that says: “Teach your children and your children’s children.” I knew that I had a responsibility as a parent; but I saw, with new eyes, that I had a biblical responsibility, as a grandparent. That, for me, was a real turning point, as God revealed that to me through Scripture.
Tim: You know, Darcy likes to say that one reason why we like being grandparents is—we observed this, and then we found out why—that grandparents seem to get along so much better with their grandkids than those kids get along with their actual parents. Then, after we became grandparents, we realized why: “Because grandparents and grandchildren both share a common source of annoyance.” [Laughter]
Ann, you talked about how much you adore them. And that the stress is off/the stress is off you. Now, let’s qualify: there are a couple million grandparents out there who are actually, [unlike] you, raising their grandchildren. But for most of them—the tens of millions that aren’t—we don’t carry the day-to-day stress.
Tim: Plus, I like to look at a grandparent—for the golfers out there, they’ll probably know what I’m talking about—it’s like playing a mulligan.
Ann: It’s so true.
Tim: You know, because let’s say you hit one out of bounds; and the guys say, “Hey, tee up again; we won’t count that one.” Well, that’s what we did with a lot of our kids! [Laughter] We didn’t know what we were doing! We knocked one in the woods and the other one in the lake.
But you become a grandparent, and [think], “I can actually hit this one down the middle pretty well.” [Laughter] And it’s just a great chance to have a second chance.
Ann: Tim, you guys have four kids; you’ve been married 50 years. How many grandkids?
Tim: Ten grandkids.
Ann: Ten grandkids.
Tim: Yes; the youngest is three months, and the oldest is twenty years old.
Tim: And so to see them, now, taking on life—and to watch our kids raise them and try to be that lighthouse for those grandkids—has just been a fun journey. By the way, it’s not without its heartache.
Dave: Right, right.
Tim: It’s not without its setbacks.
Dave: Well, it’s interesting: Larry, when you said, earlier, Deuteronomy 4:9—“for your children and their children”—I don’t know if you guys remember this song. This was not planned;—
Ann: It’s one of our favorites.
Dave: —it may not end up staying [on the broadcast].
Larry: Oh, here we go!
Ann: Here we go!
Dave: The first time I heard this song, which became a big—
Dave: —worship song during the pandemic—
Ann: Do you know what one we’re thinking of, Larry?
Larry: Yes; I know what one you’re talking about; yes.
Dave: You know: The Lord Bless You and Keep You.
Larry: Yes, yes.
Dave: I remember hearing that song, and thinking, “Oh, that’s Numbers 6, I think”—or I’m not sure exactly what the book is—"but it’s a blessing.” But then, when Kari Jobe, who sang it, went to the bridge, I teared up at this line:
Ann: Me too.
Dave: [Singing] “May His favor be upon you for a thousand generations, and your family and your children, and their children, and their children. May His favor…”
When I heard—“your family and your children,”—I’m like, “Oh, that’s nice”; then—“their children and their children,”—I teared up, because it’s legacy.
Larry: Yes; it is.
Dave: You know, I got a chance to change the legacy of two alcoholic parents, and adultery, and just divorce. You know, legacy, for me, was: “I get a chance, with God’s power, to change the Wilson future.” So when I heard that line, you know, you envision grandkids.
Larry: It’s not just that song; I agree with you. I couldn’t talk for a while after the first time I heard that song.
Ann: Really?—me too.
Larry: But it’s also what Scripture says. You know, in Psalm 78—and there are several other places, too—where there are four generations that are mentioned. In Psalm 78, it’s about passing on the stories of God at work; and I believe that’s the vision that grandparents are going to have. You know, we are not just to care about our grandchildren. We’re to care about our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
You know, that’s something that I think about a lot, as a grandfather: “What am I going to do so that my grandkids will be the same kind of grandparents, when they get to this age?” Because I want to impact all the way out—four generations—is the way that we have to look at it.
Tim: In Psalm 71, there are these two verses that we consider kind of the best theme verses we’ve ever read on grandparenting. Before I read it, context is good. What’s interesting is: Psalm 71 is not [identified] as to who wrote it; but you’ll find that there are segments of several of David’s psalms in Psalm 71. The assumption is that this is an edited version of several of the psalms put together to make one extended psalm.
David is most likely the author of this, and he’s writing this in his twilight years—a man, who looked back—and made several mistakes, along the way, with his family. Here’s what he said: “Since my youth, O God, You have taught me; and to this day, I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I’m old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, until I declare Your power to the next generation; Your might to all who are to come.”
When I think of that, and I realize that to do that, I cannot take on the title of grandparent and not take on the role. You get to be a grandparent just by simply—all you have to do is have your kids have kids—and you get the title. [Laughter] But that doesn’t necessarily make you a grandparent; you’ve got to be deliberate about that. The deliberateness isn’t necessarily a ton of work—there’s a ton of joy attached to it—but it’s also really driven by purpose.
Ann: Let’s talk about that.
Ann: What does that mean? And how can we be deliberate and do this thing purposefully?
Larry: Well, we use a phrase all the time—“intentional Christian grandparents”—and it’s the same thing—it doesn’t mean perfect—anybody can be intentional or purposeful in their grandparenting. It really comes down to very, very practical things:
- Like if your grandkids live at a distance: “What are you going to do to connect with them?—stay connected.”
- If they come over to see you every day: “Are you going to just play with them? Or are you going to be thinking, ‘What can I do today/what can I say today to bless them?’—'to teach them?’—'to remind them about who God is?’”
And that’s what changed so much for my wife and I. Now, we watch young grandkids every weekday for a few hours. When they’re coming over, we’re thinking: “What might we do today?” “What might we say today?” And that’s a transformation that grandparents will undergo as they begin to realize that they have a responsibility, before God—to be more than just the fun grandparent, who spoils them, and goes to their activities, and helps take care of them—there’s more to grandparenting, from a biblical perspective, than that.
Tim: You know, when Darcy and I wrote the book, Extreme Grandparenting, one of the things we did in there was we unpacked four very clearly articulated biblical roles that grandparents have; and Larry was alluding to them.
- The first one is giving a blessing, being blessing-givers. I think one of the ways you do that is to keep in mind that every one of your grandchildren have three driving inner needs, that are going to be met, either in a legitimate or an illegitimate way. They need to know they’re secure; they need to know they’re significant; they need to know they’re strong or sufficient for the moment. We can meet those, through the power of God’s grace—and give them a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope—voicing those.
- I think another key role is setting a standard. When we first got GPS, it was in a rental car. Darcy cranked it up; read the instructions and figured out how to work the GPS thing to figure out where we were. Well, I did some research on it; and it takes, at least, two satellites; but the more accurate ones are three or four to pinpoint right where you are. A satellite is up where they can see where you’re going from where they are. We can be a satellite for them [our grandchildren].
- And then a third thing is bearing a torch. You know, a good example would be like the Olympic torch: you know, like it starts on Mount Olympus; but it’s transferred all across the continents, from one hand to another; they’re just handing it down. And that’s like the generations that are handing down this torch.
I’ve never carried an Olympic torch; but one thing, if I ever had the honor of carrying it, one thing I’d been thinking about all the time is: “Whatever you do—
Ann: —“don’t drop the torch.”
Tim: —”do not drop this thing. Don’t let this thing go out!” And we carry the torch of the gospel for our [grand]kids.
Tim: And then, the fourth role that, once again, Larry has [spoken] to is:
- Leaving a legacy—it’s not if you’re going to leave a legacy—it’s: “What kind?” We have a chance, as Christian grandparents, to leave a legacy that never dies. It says in Exodus—you know, in the Ten Commandments—that: “The sins of the father return to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me,”—but then He revisits that, in Deuteronomy, Chapter 7; and He talks about—“The sins of the father return to the third and the fourth generation, but My righteousness returns to [a thousand] generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments.”
I think—to those who are resonating with the spiritual dialogue we have going on here—you may think that you can’t: that you’re a first-generation Christian—I’ll bet, when you get to heaven, you’ll find out you’re not. There was some grandparent; great-grandparent; or somebody, maybe even a hundred/two hundred years ago, God’s honoring His commitment to keep that light going through you.
Ann: And I would add, too, Tim, I talk to so many grandparents, who feel like they have failed as parents. They feel like they’ve messed up, and so they feel like they’re not qualified to be a good grandparent. I usually say, “Isn’t it so good that God gives us second chances?”
Dave: —the mulligan.
Ann: Yes! It is a mulligan.
Ann: And we can still be great grandparents, because we’ve learned a lot through our mistakes. And isn’t it so sweet of Jesus to say: “It’s not over,” “I can redeem,” “I can change, and I can use you to help transform those grandkids.”
Dave: And I wonder—you know, Larry, you’ve mentioned the term—and I’ve seen it all through your material: “intentional Christian grandparenting.” So many of us, even Christian grandparents, aren’t intentional; we’re just babysitting. We love our time with our grandkids; we’re excited to have them; we’ll be there for them—but the intentionality of passing on our faith to the next generation, generation after generation—how does a Christian grandparent get to that intentionality?
Larry: Well, I think it’s beginning to really understand what Scripture has to say about the role. I mean, that’s a good place to start.
Let me go down a different path for just a second, and then I’ll come back to that. We did some research, at the beginning, about how many grandparents have ever heard a sermon, or attended a class, or read a book on grandparenting. [Laughter] Even though Tim’s had a book out there—a very good book—for quite a long time, we found that only one percent of Christian grandparents had ever done any one of those three.
What that means is, the only voices that are speaking into the ears of grandparents are the cultural voices. And the culture voice says: “You’re a good grandparent if you do”—the things that you just mentioned, Dave—grandparents think they’re being a good grandparent.
They need to understand that God has a higher bar.
Larry: And the higher bar is to be intentional. Again, it doesn’t mean being perfect. There are no perfect families; are there?—
Larry: —none whatsoever.
Larry: God, still, has this really important plan for your life. The last years/the last decades of your life can be filled with the greatest purpose that you’ve ever had in your life—but it’s going to be focused on family; and on future generations in your family, passing on faith to them—it starts with just getting that vision; then comes the equipping afterwards.
Tim: But you know something I think we ought to throw in here, too—to keep reality center-stage on this thing—is that one of the greatest joys you can have is becoming a grandparent; but also, you put yourself in the position, where your heart can be crushed like never before.
Tim: There’s drama and dynamics that, oftentimes, find themselves center-stage.
What I appreciate about what Legacy Coalition has done is: they’re addressing these kinds of things. In the book we wrote on Extreme Grandparenting, we spent half of the book talking about things like:
- “What if your kids go through a divorce?”
- “What if your grandkids have to come live with you?”
- “What if your children don’t want you talking about Jesus to their kids?”
- “What about long-distance grandparenting?”
- “What about spoiling?”—there’s a right way to do this; there’s a toxic way to do this—"How do you balance that out?”
- “How do you handle the whole money thing?”
The downside of love is that you make a commitment to love somebody, and you can get your heart broken; you can get crushed—but Legacy Coalition has done a great job; and they bring in people to address these things to equip us/to say: “Okay, what if your kids are going through a divorce? Guess who’s paying the biggest price in that one?—it’s those grandkids.”
What makes such a big difference is: if grandparents are involved in their grandchildren’s lives—and they’re not down, but they’re staying hopeful—they say, “Look, your immediate world looks like it’s coming apart; but your greater world is still very much intact. We’re part of that; we’ll get beyond this thing.”
But there are so many things like that that you can’t do by accident.
Dave: Well, Tim, you mentioned Legacy Coalition. I don’t think we’ve even told our listeners: “What is that?” So help us understand what that is.
Larry: Well, we started this ministry six years ago. We wanted to have a national focus on the role of Christian grandparents to encourage them, as we already said, to be intentional.
We started this ministry, and God has just been growing it/exploding it. We started in 2016; and the very first year, we wanted to create some resources for grandparents. We created four, and with four—get this!—with four resources, we were the largest source of Christian grandparenting resources—
Larry: —on the internet.
Tim: Isn’t that sad?
Larry: So we’ve been working on creating resources. We do a national conference on Christian grandparenting that Tim’s going to be at in October; and we have podcasts, and webinars, and a growing staff. We’re just real thankful for the way God is blessing our ministry.
Tim: I sure am glad! Because when you think, if you’re the biggest voice, and you only have four resources, that just shows how—
Ann: —the need.
Tim: Yes—how huge this need has been—that they’re filling that gap.
I do think parents today are carrying some very sophisticated issues and struggles.
Ann: And Tim, share about your ministry, too—that you and Darcy started—because these two ministries, and with FamilyLife, too: we all have that same goal of we want families: we want to equip them; we want to point them to Jesus.
Ann: But we are in it together.
Tim: Yes; the primary focus of our ministry—it’s called Grace-Based Families—we want to see families equipped with God’s grace in such a way that it makes them instruments of restoration and reformation in their lives and the people around them. That’s what we’ve been spending our time on: showing how to become families, parents, grandparents, husbands, and wives—who are guided by God’s Truth—all the while, tempered by His grace.
Well, when you take that with FamilyLife and the—
Ann: —Weekend to Remember®?
Tim: The Weekends to Remember; and then, Legacy Coalition, we’re all trying to do the same thing—is help people turn to Jesus’s heart in the way they deal with each other.
One thing that happens is—when our kids get married—they bring somebody else into the situation, who can be a great asset or an unbelievable liability. Well, if you don’t have grace, walking into that situation, it can turn on you fast. You know, one of the ways that, if we don’t handle our role as grandparents right, that’s one of the ways they can punish us: they can block you.
Dave: And we’ll have links to all these ministries and the Legacy Conference as well.
Ann: Well, I thought it would be good, too, to end—as Larry and I were talking before we started our interview, he was just sharing, nonchalantly, something he does with his number seven/his “perfect”[number of grandchildren]—[Laughter]—he prays. Larry, share what you do with each of your kids: how you pray for each of those grandkids.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Larry Fowler and Tim Kimmel on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear how Larry prays for his grandkids, and what we can learn from his example in just a minute.
But first, be sure to find out more about the Legacy Grandparenting Summit that’s coming up October 21-22 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. And while you’re there, you can also get Larry Fowler’s e-book 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. 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 and how he prays for each of his grandkids.
Larry: It’s one way that we practice intentionality: because we have seven grandkids, each one of them has a day of the week. We pray specifically for one grandchild on each day of the week. So we don’t have Monday; we have Natalia day. We don’t have Tuesday; we have Tyler day; and so forth.
Dave: Oh, wow.
Tim: Oh, cool!
Larry: And so we, not only remember to pray for them that day, they know what their day is. We ask them for prayer requests, and then we try to communicate to them what we’re praying so that it’s—not just an activity of praying for them—but it’s engaging them as much as possible in the process.
We have some good friends who, because they also have seven grandkids, have gotten seven coffee mugs with the pictures of their grandkids on the coffee mugs.
Ann: That’s so cute.
Larry: So then they have a visual reminder to pray for them as well.
Ann: That’s a great idea.
Dave: That is awesome!
Larry: That’s the kind of thing that we do to be intentional.
Dave: Yes; we’ve got six, so I know what we’re doing.
Larry: Well, then, you pray for the parents on the seventh day.
Dave: Yes, exactly.
Ann: I like that.
Shelby: Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will be joined, again, by Larry Fowler and Tim Kimmel to talk about how to have the biggest impact in your grandchildren’s lives, leaving a good legacy; that’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time
for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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