If you’re like me, your children’s ministry has kids who are being raised by their grandparents. Also, like me, you may have this happening in your own extended family. This type of family situation is occurring more and more often these days. There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that both the kids and the grandparents need our encouragement and help.
Kids who live with grandparents may have very different home lives from some of their peers. They may not get to be as involved in extracurricular activities, because their grandparent can’t drive at night or is less able to get out and take them to places. They may also live under more financial restrictions, for instance if the grandparents live on Social Security.
These kids may have minimal contact from their actual parents, or none at all, which can make them feel left out and always looking for that love they feel they are missing.
Grandparents can very often feel overwhelmed, exhausted and at a loss how to help the children they are raising.
What can we do to help both the children and their grandparents cope, and even more, thrive in their family situation? First, as ever, we must continually point them to the Jesus who loves them regardless of their age or home life. To do that, we need to be able to speak into both the kids’ and their grandparents’ lives with the truth of the Gospel. Family ministry is an especially beautiful thing for this kind of family, bridging age groups with opportunities to worship, study and fellowship together.
Here are a few thoughts about ministry with kids and their grandparents:
- ALWAYS keep your promises. All too often, these kids have had promises made and then broken by their parents. This is a great opportunity to share how God always keeps his promises.
- Form support groups for custodial grandparents, or guide them to one in your community. Give them a night off by hiring a babysitter.
Help children find friends within your group who live in a similar situation, so they see that they are not as different as they may feel sometimes.
- Include grandparents in every Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Parent event.
- Show kids examples of people from Scripture who were not raised by their own parents. (Esther, for instance.)
- Always remind kids when talking about God as our Father, that he is the ultimate “good, good Father”, that he is always there for his children. No matter what their relationship with their own father is like, God can be trusted.
- Help kids see that the love they are looking for can only be found in Jesus.
- Ask grandparents to volunteer. You may be amazed at what they bring to the table! Life experience, talents honed over many years, great organizational skills, and robust prayer life are some potential assets to your ministry, not to mention it’s a great way to build relationship.
- Be sure to “celebrate the win” when good things happen in the lives of these families.
Possible Helpful Resources:
- Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family
- The Sacred Work of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
- Courageous Love: Instructions for Creating Healing Circles for Children of Trauma for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
What has been your approach with kids and their custodial grandparents in your children’s ministry or family ministry? I’d love to hear ideas from others – comment away!