In the Old Testament, there is a repeated pattern wherein God's people remain faithful for forty years, then things fall apart. After those 40 years, they forget what they know and turn their backs on God. God then does something drastic to get their attention, which works... for another 40 years. Why 40 years? That was the length of one generation. The new generation didn't personally witness the hand of God, nor are they properly taught by their parents.

God knew this would be a problem. This is why he gave specific instructions to parents in Deuteronomy on passing the faith to the next generation. Faith instruction and faith conversations are to be a routine part of every day life. Families are encouraged to make faith a part of everything they do throughout the day. These instructions are not just for parents... they include grandparents too. In Deuteronomy 4:9, God's people are told to teach the faith to their children and their children's children (i.e., grandchildren). Grandparents are held just as responsible for passing on the faith! Our job as parents is not complete when our children are grown and out of the house. Instead, our responsibilities continue, especially when grandchildren enter the story.

Today, the situation isn't much better than the one the Old Testament followers faced. Recent studies have shown that 2/3 of our children who are raised in the church will leave the faith by the time they are in their 20s. Grandparents are needed now more than ever.

In their book, HomeGrown Faith, David and Kathy Lynn share their Top Ten Faith Practices for families. They provide a great discussion starter to help grandparents determine ways to outreach to their grandchildren (or other youth in their lives).

1. Personal Devotions - Letting children see you regularly engaged in personal devotions.

* Keep your Bible easily within reach. Let your grandchildren see you using it, witness you praying, witness you learning more about your Lord.
* When the kiddos spend the night, invite them to join in your regular devotional time.
* Share what you are learning in the Bible and how it applies to your life.

2. Family Devotions - Families regularly engaging in Bible study, prayer, and faith conversations.

* Purchase devotional materials for families and teach them how to use them.
* Make a habit of regular phone calls where you share a devotional time with your grandchildren.
* Email them devotional thoughts on a regular basis.

3. Caring Conversations - Thoughtful conversations that go beyond daily maintenance (e.g., did you do your homework).

* Send letters, emails, cards to stay connected and engaged.
* Make regular phone calls. Make a habit of expected questions such as: What was your high for the day? What was your low for the day? What are you looking forward to? Where did you see Jesus today?
* Most caring conversation opportunities are initiated by children. Be prepared and willing to engage in a meaningful conversation. Share you own experiences, showing them how you can relate. Be prepared to share how your faith impacts your own life.

4. Family Rituals - Repeated family activities that have meaning.

* Take regular rituals and tweak them a little to make them a faith conversation. Read the Christmas story before exchanging gifts. Hide special verses inside the Easter eggs.
* Create new rituals with special meaning. For example, create traditions for baptism birthdays, confirmation, first communion, etc.

5. Family Worship - Regular worship

* If your children are not going to worship with their parents, invite them to go with you! It might mean a little extra work to drive out of your way to pick them up or to convince your child to let them go, but the rewards are worth it.
* Create a worship bag for each child to make the time a more pleasant experience for everyone. Include age appropriate quiet activities.

6. Family Prayer - Regular prayer beyond meal time

* Pray with your grandchildren whenever you are together... before meals, before bed, before a special story, before you part. If you don't see them regularly, call them and pray before you hang up.
* Teach them different types of prayers.
* Ask them for prayer requests and reassure them that you cover them in prayer.
* Choose a special verse for each grandchild, write it on a note card, and place it in your Bible. Use this card to remind yourself to pray for that child. Share the verse with the child.

7. Family Acts of Service - Sharing love through acts of service both within and outside the family

* Create kits for children waiting in hospital waiting rooms; gather school supplies and backpacks for kids who cannot afford them; make cards for shut-ins; choose a charity and do a fundraiser together.
* This is an easy opportunity for congregations. Host a service activity and encourage members to bring their grandchildren to help.

8. Blessings

* Bless your grandchildren and tell them often what a blessing they are to you.
* You can administer a simple blessing each time you see them. Draw the sign of the cross on their foreheads while saying, "Jesus loves you and so do I."

9. Relationships with Caring Adults - Youth need a meaningful relationship with a minimum of three adults.

* Spend time together. Get invested in their lives. Go to their events, and find out about their interests.

10. Shared Mealtimes - Research shows that children who eat dinner with their family five nights per week will perform better in school and will be less likely to engage in alcohol, drugs, or other risky behavior.

* Host your own family meals if their parents do not make this a priority. Even one meal together is better than none.
* Help your children with family meal ideas to help them overcome whatever obstacles keep them from the dinner table. This might include meal planning, freezer cooking, or more.