Ask an Older Woman #1: How to Disciple Long-Distance Grandchildren

Q:“How can I, as a grandma, stay connected with my grandchildren, who live six to seven hours away, and show them how much they need God and His Word and how important He is?”

A: It’s hard! I hear your grandma’s heart—and I know it too. Longings increase with every mile that separates us from those we love. Life is short. Children grow so quickly. The “what ifs” and “if onlys” cloud our thoughts. What if our grandchildren grow up with no love of God’s Word? What if they don’t learn to depend on His goodness? If only we lived closer! They could hear my words and see my life. They would know God and love Him as I do. 

Similar longings and doubts troubled me after our first grandchildren were born. My husband and I lived in South Africa, and my grandchildren were in the States. With 10,000 miles between us, how could we ever enjoy a loving relationship? What if I missed the privilege of leaving them my legacy—my greatest treasure, Jesus Christ? 

I do not claim to be the best or final word on your situation. I do not have all the answers. But I’ve asked the same questions, and I’ll share with you what God has taught me.

Remember God 

When we fret about how far away the grandchildren are, we can find strength in knowing there is nothing that is outside of God’s wise control. We often can’t control where we live. We certainly can’t control where our children’s families live. But our good God controls even the exact time and place for each person to live (Acts 17:24–28). God is trustworthy! As He controls all things to accomplish His good and wise purposes, He assigns the places you and your children should live.

When we can’t visit frequently, we can find peace and joy in knowing God is always present everywhere and accomplishing everything for His glory (Ps. 139:7–10). Even when our grandchildren miss the blessing of our daily influence, God is at work! He uses snapshots of our life to impress their hearts. A child may only see a grandparent reading the Bible two or three times before deciding, “My grandma ALWAYS reads her Bible.” Proximity isn’t everything! God is!

When we fear powerful cultural influences may draw our grandchildren away from God, we can rest in knowing that God’s power is limitless. God’s power holds the stars in the sky. He sustains human lives (Col. 1:15–17). We have no power to change a child’s heart. Only God’s powerful love can transform hearts to love Him in return (Rom. 5:5–8). His power can make our grandchildren into new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). 

Hold Fast to God’s Word 

Dear friend, you are right to value God’s Word. Give your grandchildren a variety of good books, and tell them, “This is such a fun book! But the Bible is unlike any other book. God speaks to us in the Bible.” Another time, tell them, “As we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to hear God’s voice (1 Cor. 2:10–16).” Pray for the right time to tell your grandchildren that God gave us the Bible to tell us who He is and how we can personally know Him—the King of the Universe! Share with them that His Word also uniquely reveals our sinfulness and need of a Savior because we cannot keep it perfectly (Rom. 3:20). 

How do we share the living Word of God with our next generation? Many grandparents have creative ways of turning their families to God’s Word: 

  • Grandparent camp during a school holiday
  • Visits while parents enjoy a getaway weekend
  • Letters and cards
  • Text messages and phone calls 

My husband and I listen and learn from other grandparents. As our grandchildren grow, we flex activities but keep God’s Word central. 

During the years we lived an ocean away from our grandchildren, I began to write Bible studies for them to bridge the distance. My first two books, Why Easter? and Why Christmas?, came from those studies. My most recent book is A Jesus Christmas. You might find these to be helpful tools for your family. I’ve even heard how God is using these books to break through to the hearts of parents!

Join God in Prayer

Perhaps prayer is the greatest privilege of a grandparent. Do you think of prayer as passive or powerful? God tells us that prayer is one way He accomplishes His will (James 4:2; 5:16–17). When we pray, He replaces our anxiety with His peace. He assures our minds and guards our hearts with His sovereign love, power, and truth (Phil. 4:6–7). God works powerfully to save our grandchildren through our prayers because of Jesus (Eph. 3:14–21). To help you get started, try Melissa Kruger’s book, 5 Things to Pray for Your Kids

Be sure to pray for yourself too! As the years go by, we need to maintain strength, creativity, and flexibility! And we have an even greater need—not simply to maintain, but to fuel an ever-growing love for God in our hearts. 

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deut. 4:9 NIV) 

Do you want to be an instrument of God’s redemption in the lives of your grandchildren? Whether you live near or far away, the strategy begins with your own love of God. Remember God, hold fast to His Word, and pray—this is the fuel for a white-hot love. A teacher, passionate about a subject, holds the student’s undivided attention. Likewise, as you tell of his mighty deeds worked out in your heart and life, God uses your passion. Like a magnet, God is able to pull the heart of your grandchild to His heart. 

About the Author

Barbara Reaoch

Barbara Reaoch

Barbara Reaoch is the author of A Better Than Anything Christmas (2020) and Making Room for Her: Wisdom for a Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law (2022). She served as director of the Children’s Division of Bible Study Fellowship … read more …

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