Jean Valjean, in Les Misérables, (set in the 1830’s) asks the question, “Who am I?” He is struggling to establish his identity as a man and not just as a prisoner numbered 24601. But when modern teens are asked “Who are you?”, they answer, “Anyone I want to be!” Unlike the character Jean Valjean, who is trying to assert a single consistent identity, the modern teen juggles multiple identities with no felt need to combine them. This reinforces a teen’s instability in faith, morals, emotions, intellect and relationships. And the result is long-term confusion (often unrecognized by them) causing an inability to make commitments – which offers one of the best ways to overcome their instability.
More than ever, youth need to be given a vision of who they can be and encouraged to become that person by those who love them. The bible says in Psalm 139:14 ESV “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” These are the words that they must hear to remind them that their heavenly father created them for a purpose and has a plan for their lives.
How can you help build your grandchild’s identity? It may be by reading scriptures to them or encouraging them to memorize a specific passage. You can have an influence on them by telling them about the lives of early Christian saints or inspirational Christians of today who are positive role models. Perhaps you could share some of your current or past family members’ faith journeys to help them feel more grounded and a part of the family.
Whatever methods you choose to help encourage your grandchild’s identity, know that the world is sending them confusing messages. By your words and actions, you can give them greater clarity in forming a strong identity during a confusing time in their life.
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”Psalm 78:4 ESV
This article was first published in Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club.
Copyright © 2021 Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club.
Article edited by Bryan Adamovicz with Information taken from the Youth Culture Newsletter July 2018 written by Michael Shaughnessy.
Michael Shaughnessy is the founder of Grandly. His most recent book, The Strategic Grandparent, is available at The Word Among Us and Amazon.
Top photo credit: Elderly person encouraging teenager, from Bigstock.com, copyright © monkeybusinessimages, stock photo ID# 917765
About Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club
Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club is a program of the Sword of the Spirit. This program was founded in 2016 by Mike Shaughnessy as a resource to equip grandparents to share their faith with their grandchildren. Grandly teaches grandparents to “Think, Pray, and Act Strategically” in the lives of their grandkids. It recognizes that grandparents occupy a special role in the lives of their grandchildren, and if properly trained, can make an outsized impact on their spiritual lives.
As a youth minister, Mike knew the difference grandparents could make in the lives of their grandchildren. He wondered if it could happen more often. It wasn’t that they lacked the faith. What they lacked was a strategy. If grandparents learned how to think, pray, and act strategically, the way youth workers did, something marvelous would happen. It has. Strategic grandparents have become missionaries to their own grandchildren.
We equip grandparents to be “youth workers” to their own grandchildren. When we ask grandparents, “What is your biggest concern?” Most answer “our grandchildren,” not their retirement or the next vacation. Many see that their grandchildren are not getting the spiritual and moral formation they need, and feel equally unable to address that need. We currently equip grandparents to be youth workers through two venues: our website (grandly.org) and our “Do It Grandly” Seminars.
Our website reaches a network of grandparents who are interested in learning how to think, pray, and act strategically. We publish bi-weekly online articles that provide encouragement, motivation, and practical tools on how to pass on their faith to grandchildren. Through our “Do It Grandly” seminars, we help grandparents to grow in their relational skills while providing insight into contemporary youth culture, giving them valuable tools for building impactful, Christ-centered relationships with their grandchildren. These seminars provide a way for Sword of the Spirit grandparents to re-enter internal (their own grandchildren) and external (their own peers) mission.
For access to inspirational articles, sign up for a free membership at www.grandly.org.
Interested in hosting a seminar in your local community or learning more? Please email Pili Galvan Abouchaar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Shaughnessy is a lifelong member of the Servants of the Word, an international ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He is a prolific writer. He has written extensively about youth work and currently leads Grandly, a ministry helping grandparents pass on their faith to their grandchildren. He lives in Lansing, Michigan USA.