An analysis of the practices and perceived roles of American grandparents among evangelical Christians
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SubjectGrandparent and child--Religious aspects--Christianity
Grandparenting--United States--Religious aspects--Christianity
AN ANALYSIS OF THE PRACTICES AND PERCEIVED ROLES OF AMERICAN GRANDPARENTS AMONG EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS Joshua Robert Mulvihill, Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2016 Chair: Dr. Timothy Paul Jones The purpose of this study was to provide a portrait of grandparenting from the Bible and analyze the place and purpose of grandparents in American society based on a synthesis of research literature. The second purpose of the study utilized semi-structured interviews to determine the perceived roles and accompanying practices of grandparents in evangelical contexts. The biblical study of grandparenthood revealed six themes that inform the role and responsibility of grandparenthood to pass on a godly heritage of faith. The semi-structured interviews suggest that evangelical grandparents gravitate to one of four different roles with their grandchild: encouraging voice, supportive partner, loving friend, or disciple-maker. The interviews also revealed eight disciple-making practices that intentional grandparents utilize with grandchildren. The research uncovered three problems that exist in the family ministry world. First, evangelical churches have a limited emphasis on equipping grandparents to pass faith on to future generations. Second, high numbers of evangelical grandparents are not intentionally or significantly investing in the spiritual life of their grandchildren and do not have a clear understanding of their role as a grandparent. Third, limited resources are available to encourage and equip grandparents who profess evangelical faith to accomplish their God-given role in the church and home. As a result, the potential contribution of this research is significant as evangelical Christians have been greatly influenced by American society, are often marginalized by family and church, confused about their role as grandparents, and resigned to minimal spiritual impact in their grandchild’s life. The results of this research provide an overview of grandparenting according to the Bible, summarize society’s understanding of the role of grandparents, and suggest eight spiritual practices that will help grandparents embrace multigenerational discipleship and pass faith on to future generations. Pastors and grandparents need a renewed biblical vision regarding the biblical role and disciple-making practices of grandparents and this research project will help toward that end. KEYWORDS: biblical role, Bible, Christian education, church and home, discipleship, disciple maker, encouraging voice, equipping grandparents, evangelical grandparents, Evangelical Free Church of America, family ministry, future generations, godly heritage, grandchildren, grandparents, intentional grandparents, loving friend, multigenerational discipleship, resources, responsibility of grandparents, role of grandparents, supportive partner.