What “Grandfamilies” Need From Your Church

Wondering how to better serve “grandfamilies” in your church? Read on to consider practical ways to partner with grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

Traditionally, when we picture “young families” in our churches, we envision 20-or-30-something-year-old parents whose children range in age from baby to sixth grade. But now things are a little different. Today more and more grandparents find themselves helping raise their grandchildren. And some of those grandparents are solely responsible for their grandkids’ care. Increasing numbers of these “grandfamilies” exist in the U.S. today, and you may see this family dynamic surge in your church as well.

Why Are There More Grandfamilies Today?

An AARP online article provides helpful statistics and explanation. (We promise…it’s a good read!) AARP reports that 7.1 million American grandparents live with their grandchildren. And approximately 2.3 million of those grandparents are their grandkids’ primary caregivers. Plus, one-third of those grandchildren are under the age of six. Indeed, “young families” in your church may look a little different these days!

Several factors contribute to this trend, including parental substance abuse, incarceration, mental health, and death. The article notes that two crises in particular have led to more “grandfamilies” in recent years—the opioid crisis and parental death due to COVID.

What Grandfamilies Need From Your Church

As children’s ministry leaders, we aren’t only partnering with parents to grow faith in families. We’re partnering with grandparents, too!

Depending on their unique situations, grandfamilies have different needs and face varying challenges. But let’s consider these three common things that grandfamilies may need from your church family:

Grandfamilies need friendship.

Social dynamics shift when 60-or-70-somethings find themselves at elementary school functions, soccer practice, and dance recitals more than outings with friends their own age. They may not feel as comfortable connecting with young parents as they do their peers. Additionally, grandparents may feel disconnected from longtime friends whose retirement years don’t involve child-raising.

Kids may struggle with friendship, too. They may come in less regular contact with other kids their age, especially when spending time with their grandparents and other seniors.

Consider these three ways your church can facilitate friendships for grandparents and their grandkids.

  • Use nametags. When hosting community-building family events, be sure to use nametags, so it’s easy for grandparents to remember the names of parents and families they meet.
  • Consider physical needs. When planning logistics for family events, consider grandparents who may not be able to sit with kids on the floor, or who may struggle to hear instructions without a sound system. Grandparents will be more likely to come and connect with people if their needs are met.
  • Form family networks in your church. These groups could exchange contact information and commit to regularly communicating, praying, and even gathering with each other for dinner or playdates.

Grandfamilies need financial support.

We often think of grandparents spoiling their grandkids with “extra” goodies. But when children move into grandparents’ homes, everyday costs may unexpectedly rise.

When planning for retirement, most grandparents don’t consider the costs that come with raising children these days. Keeping the pantry stocked, filling gas tanks, purchasing school clothes, funding extracurricular activities, and even budgeting for Christmas gifts may not have been part of their retirement plan.

Consider how your church can intentionally and respectfully help grandfamilies who struggle financially. Here are a few ideas:

  • Give gift cards. Allocate funds in your missions or community outreach budget to occasionally bless grandfamilies with gift cards to gas stations, grocery stores, and department stores.
  • Offer scholarships. Create scholarship opportunities for paid church events such as VBS, mission trips, or Bible camps.
  • Bless with surprises. Create “Just Because Baskets” to drop off at grandfamilies’ homes every now and then. Include items such as candy, coloring books, playdough, sporting equipment, or children’s books. Consider including a family devotional book, too! (Notes from Jesus for Families is a great and inexpensive option.) And while you’re at it, add some surprises for grandparents, too! Grandparents may not splurge on small things for themselves, so add things like a cozy blanket, freshly roasted coffee, and flavorful tea.

Grandfamilies need a break.

Keeping up with children is tiring! Even younger parents find themselves exhausted after caring for their kids all day. Imagine how grandparents may feel!

Family life runs at a fast pace these days, and it may be speedier than grandparents feel able to go. How can your church offer a much-needed break?

You could…

  • Offer respite. Regularly offer respite events where church members volunteer to care for kids, giving grandparents some free time. Have grandfamilies sign up ahead of time so your volunteers can prepare enough food and activities to last a few hours.
  • Recruit mentor families. Connect kids in grandfamilies to another family, couple, or single person in your church who’ll commit to inviting the grandkids over for dinner or play dates once a week. (Note: With safety in mind, be sure to have adult mentor family members complete your church’s standard volunteer screening process in order to be part of the program.)
  • Celebrate boundaries. Be gracious when grandparents choose not to volunteer in your church’s children’s ministry. It may be a relief for them to drop off the grandkids and have a little “me time.” Rather than resent them for it, commend grandparents for creating space to be refreshed physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Perhaps the most important thing grandfamilies need from your church is attention and encouragement. When we take the time to reach out, ask how things are going, and attentively listen to their responses, we show grandparents that their church family sees and supports them in their important role.

Looking for more family ministry insights and ideas? Check out 3 Tips to Welcome Single Parents in Your Children’s Ministry and 5 Family-Friendly Outreach Ideas for Your Children’s Ministry.

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