Intergenerational Influence

The importance of parental involvement in the spiritual development of children has been a recurring theme in my books and on the “Focus on the Family” radio broadcast over the years. Equally important, although less frequently discussed, is the role that grandparents can play in passing along a heritage of faith to the younger generation.

This was especially true in my own life. Although my parents invested a great deal in my Christian growth, their passion for sharing the Gospel through my father’s position as a pastor and evangelist left room for considerable input from other members of our extended family—most notably, my grandmother and great-grandmother. In fact, I believe those two godly ladies made the greater contribution to my spiritual development. They had the time to instruct me in the Christian faith, to pray with me and to instill in me a love for the Scriptures. They talked about answered prayers, and they testified to their deep love for Jesus and their excitement about seeing Him in heaven one day. My theology as a child took shape under the tutelage of those dear ladies, and it is a heritage that I treasure to this day.

Now that I’m a grandfather, I’m thankful to live in close proximity to our precious grandson, Lincoln. Shirley and I certainly don’t want to circumvent Ryan’s and Laura’s parental roles as his primary spiritual teachers, but we are looking forward to making an investment in his growth in grace. We consider it a distinct privilege to play a part in strengthening his faith as he grows up in a world that is very different from the one in which we were raised.

If you have young children at home who are blessed with Christian grandparents—or great-grandparents, aunts or uncles—I hope you’ll grant them of every opportunity to build strong intergenerational relationships with their spiritual forbears. And if you’re a member of the older generation, please don’t miss the chance to leave a spiritual legacy for your grandkids and other young members of your extended family. If that’s the only achievement you make in life, you have succeeded.

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman