This article is Part 3 of a five-part series for Grandparents on how to apply youth ministry skills in their work with their own grandchildren. You can view the previous articles in this series here: 1. Lead from Alongside, 2. Listen to Me.
“Did you hear the joke about the grandpa walking back from church with his granddaughter?”
My father was a storyteller and a jokester. He had an amazing facility to have the right story or joke for any occasion. At the 40thwedding anniversary of my parents, the grandchildren were offered a chance to say something nice about Grandma Jackie and Grandpa G.T.
They identified all the things you would expect: hugs, smiles, ice cream, listening, presents, and candy. Then the youngest, age seven at the time, stood up. She was “a little stinker” – which in our family meant precocious – and said:
“What I like about Grandpa G.T. is his stories and his jokes. He always makes me laugh. What I like about Grandma Jackie is that she is a saint, because she listens to the same jokes over, and over, and over again.”
In youth work, storytelling is important. Young people’s attention spans just aren’t that long but they will listen to stories. Children’s books are a four-billion-dollar business for a reason! Most grandparents already know the value of reading a book to a grandchild. The book tells a story.
Learning to tell your story to your grandchildren does take some work. I heard lots of stories from my parents that had no impact on me. They weren’t intended to. That’s the first lesson: have an intention for your story.
I also heard a lot of stories that had no impact because they didn’t interest me: the mayor of my uncle’s city, the price of corn, or someone’s cirrhosis. That’s the second lesson: your story needs to be interesting to your grandchild.
The third lesson is: tell it well! If it is too long, too windy, or not well-told, it won’t hold your grandchild’s interest. If his or her eyes are glued to you, it just might mean you could be a very successful youth worker!
For Discussion: What was one of the most interesting stories you ever heard one of your grandparents tell you? What made it interesting?
For Action: What story do you have that you could tell well based on the three “lessons” above?
Mike Shaughnessy is the founder of Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club and lives in Lansing, Michigan. His book, The Strategic Grandparent, published by The Word Among Us press, will be released in May 2020.
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