What did Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev say about grandparents and faith?
There has been little research done on the correlation between grandparents’ faith and the faith of their grandchildren. However, the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren was the subject of a British study of 1,566 children, ranging in age from eleven to sixteen years old. It showed that most grandchildren wanted more opportunities for doing things together with their grandparents. Specifically, they wanted their parents to foster grandparent-contact because of the encouragement they received from their grandparents and the trust they had in them. Of the teens surveyed, 76% said grandparents advised them when they had a problem and 85% respected what their grandparents had to say (Buchanan and Griggs, 2009).
In a study conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute, they researched what made faith “stick” among youth. The number one factor was not a great youth group program; it was the opportunity for youth to engage in intergenerational relationships. Their research showed that youth greatly benefitted when surrounded by an intergenerational team of five adults. The parents were the most influential members of the team but grandparents often were key players. Segregation by age has increased greatly over the past 120 years as youth culture has grown. But youth integrate into adult faith culture better when they are part of an intergenerational spiritual environment. They are more likely to value relationships with those older than they are and more likely to reject the more foolish elements of youth culture.
Interestingly, one of the oldest studies on the correlation between grandparents and faith among youth was done by Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of the former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. Her doctoral dissertation focused on efforts undertaken by the Soviet Union to “socialize” rural youth in atheist, communist ideology. One of the things she noted was that the presence of Christian grandparents greatly increased the likelihood that a child would fail at atheism.
What is also interesting is that both she and Mikhail were baptized as infants in the Orthodox Church. They were baptized in a time when such an act was considered subversive of Marxist doctrine and of the Soviet Union. Who insisted on Mikhail Gorbachov’s baptism? His grandmother.
One of the most useful strategies parents can employ in passing on their faith to their children is getting grandma and grandpa involved in the faith life of their grandchildren. If parents are looking to put together five adults to be “the team” for their children, grandparents are an easy and smart pick.
To Discuss: Who would be the team for each of your grandchildren?
To Act on: How can you work with the parents of your grandchildren to pull that team together to think and act like a team?
Mike Shaughnessy is the founder of Grandly and lives in Lansing, Michigan