In our “In the Arena” men’s teaching series Bob Fryling, former National Director of Campus Ministries and Publisher of InterVarsity Press, shared his experiences and life lessons learned during his years as a grandfather. Here are his insightful thoughts. I know you’ll benefit from them.

In thinking through any direct biblical teaching on the role of a grandfather, there is little to go on, other than genealogies that list grandfathers. Most Scriptures that refer to a grandfather describe how not to be a good one, or give examples of bad kings who had good grandsons, or good kings who had bad grandsons.

What I have found to be helpful, in 22 years of grandfathering, is this: Embrace a Role of Blessing. Blessing is a wonderful role for a grandfather.


Blessing has various spiritual implications:

Blessing leads to fruitfulness.

  • The first blessing in the Bible to man and woman is to “be fruitful and multiply.”
  • The book of Ezekiel gives a wonderful picture of fruitfulness – where saltwater flowing toward the Dead Sea becomes fresh and fruit trees blossom. Wherever the river flowed, there was life.

Blessing leads to restfulness.

  • God blessed the Sabbath as a day of rest, not work or being productive
  • God wants to bless us with rest. Jesus said, “Come unto me who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Take my yoke and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Scripture teaches that we bless others by being more rested. Rested souls are a blessing to family.

Blessing leads to the future.

  • John O’Donohue writes, “Blessing animates the deepest threshold between being and becoming.”
  • Blessing takes the present and speaks into the future for good.
  • Anglican churches, and others, intentionally include blessings in the liturgy. The blessing of the children, with outstretched arms, is a blessing of their future. Who they are becoming.

How can a grandfather be a blessing?

Grandfathers bless by seeing

  • Kids want to be seen. Young children on playground  yell: “Grandpa, grandpa, look at me!”
  • Kids in a school concert turn their eyes to see parents and grandparents.
  • Teenagers, who may resist relationship with, or advice from, parents, seem to have a special links with grandparents. Grandparents often see grandchildren for who they are, and not who we want them to be.

Grandfathers bless by speaking

  • There are several biblical examples. Noah and Abraham spoke words of blessing to their children. And perhaps most prominently, God the Father spoke words of blessing over Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River: “This is my beloved son on whom my favor rests. “ There is a profound power in words of blessing.
  • Be a cheerleaders for our kids as parents; be on their side. One of the best ways to love your children is to love their mother. Similarly, one of the best ways to love and bless your grandchildren is to love and bless their parents.
  • Blessing is more than simple affirmation. When friends have a newborn baby we might well express, “Congratulations.” But if we are asked by fellow Christians to give a blessing over their child, simple congratulations isn’t enough. “Congratulations” isn’t a blessing.
  • Blessing is not just related to achievement, but to a significant relationship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to blessings as “the visible proximity of God.” Blessing reflects who God is.

Grandfathers bless by Sacrificing

Famous blessing is that of Abraham – “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you”

  • Chapters later – called to sacrifice Isaac
  • Blessing and sacrifice go hand in hand – blessing implies letting go

Most common and perhaps easiest – material things

  • Children/grand always need money – candy, toys, clothes, cars, homes, inheritances
  • Proverbs – “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children”

Sacrifice of time and being present

  • Staying and being with family can be like a rock in a river – a fixed presence in the flow of their lives
  • Emmanuel – “God with us”
  • Why we moved to Colorado – to be with a sick granddaughter and her family

Blessing – means a lot to me

I grew up in Philadelphia.

  • Large urban school of 5000 students in a 6-story building that looked like a castle
  • The top floor was a large square room shaped like a turret with glass on all four sides
  • Choir room – choir rehearsals every Fri. PM from 2:30 – 5:30

At the end of each rehearsal – the choir turned to the west to sing this OT priestly blessing of Aaron

  • “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
  • Comforting power of that hymn at the end of each week

Listen to this blessing sung by another high school choir (2 minutes)

  • Beautiful biblical blessing for you – receive it as a grandfather or not
  • High school kids – think of your own kids or grandkids – being a blessing to them.

Thank you for watching and may the Lord bless you and keep you.