“Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mind, just as Reuben and Simeon are.” (Genesis 48:5b)
Jacob adopted his two grandsons as his own with this simple statement. Today, adoption is a much more complicated process, however, such unofficial relationships are deeply beneficial within our communities. In rural ministry, “church grandparents” should be easy to come by!
My own family has been blessed time and again by these kinds of relationships. We have not lived near any of our parents since our children have been born. They are building meaningful relationships with their grandparents through visits here and there, but they have also been blessed by opportunities to build relationships with “church grandparents”.
When we were just starting out after I graduated from seminary, we bought our first house, Willow came along, Dan was a manager at McDonald’s, and I found a part-time job in a local agency. We didn’t have the money to spend on childcare, so we worked opposite shifts for a while. I worked days and he worked evenings. Dan stayed home in the morning with Willow and brought her to my office just as I was getting off work and he was headed to work. That was difficult on our relationship, but we were making it work. Then God gave us Dorothy!
Dorothy was a widowed member of our church and had grown fond of little Willow and us. Around the time Willow started walking, Dorothy met with us one day and said, “You know, our church does a lot of great things, but I just can’t do too much of it. I’d like to babysit Willow for you, and I don’t want anything in return. I just want to make that my ministry.”
Friends, our communities need more Dorothys! If you have time and love to offer, why not bless a single parent or a low-income family, trying to make ends meet, by offering to care for their children? It is important to build a relationship with the family first. That way you’ll both know what you’re getting into. Safe Sanctuary certification is a plus, though it is not required if this is something you’re doing on your own. If you try to come up with a team of “church grandparents” who want to offer daycare in your church, you’ll have other things to consider.
If you don’t think you can handle a full-time need, then look for a couple who needs a regular date night. You might just save a marriage! In another church, God provided Betty and Sandy. Betty is a retired teacher who built a bond with Willow. They adored each other and looked forward to their own play dates together! By the time Ruthie came along, Willow had friends to play with which had been allowing us a date night from time to time. But now, what to do with Ruthie? Sandy didn’t have children or grandchildren of her own. Knowing we didn’t have grandparents nearby, she offered to babysit Ruthie whenever we needed a date night!
All of these Church Grandmas, and several others (as well as a few Church Grandpas), have been blessed by their relationship with our girls and us as much as we have been blessed by them and their love for us! I have said many times, “I don’t know how parents survive without a church family.” If you don’t already have a young family to support in your church, perhaps you’ve met one through your food pantry, or you’ve been especially drawn to certain kids at an after school program, or Vacation Bible School. Meet their parent(s) and begin to build a relationship with that family. You might find that this simple act of love will be a catalyst to making new disciples.
Happy Grandparent’s Day to all the grandparents and Church Grandparents out there!