Glen and Ellen Schuknecht describe how grandparents can pass on a legacy of faith to their grandchildren in a discussion based on the Schuknechts' book A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family.
Ellen Schuknecht: We model faith and really represent Christ to our kids and our grand kids and so, I think that ability to be available and let them talk and let them sort through their problems in a safe place.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Ellen Schuknecht. And you’ll be hearing more from her and her husband Glen today on Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, we all want to see our kids, and eventually our grandkids, love God and live that vibrant faith. But it’s hard to know sometimes how to pass that on to them in a way that’s going to stick. And I’m sure we’re all trying a lot of different things, you know, the Bible study after dinner. That’s more traditional for the Daly household. Or now we’re doing a great little bible study with Trent and Troy. They’re loving it, too. And I so enjoy that time together to read. And I give Jean credit. She’s the one saying, “Hey, we got to continue to do more and more to pour into their lives...”
John: Be intentional.
Jim: ...Be intentional. And so today, we want to talk about legacy and how you can leave a spiritual legacy with your kids and for generations to come. And regardless of the upbringing or spiritual training you received when you were a child, this is something you can learn to do. And of course, I had a broken childhood, but I can teach my children how to follow Christ and be faithful. And that’s what we’re attempting to do. Hey, here’s a little update. It doesn’t always mean they’re going to take it, though, right? They will test you from time to time. And you got to be willing to continue to walk that journey as well. Here at Focus, we have so many tools and resources to help you build your child’s spiritual growth. And that’s why we’re here. Visit the website. It’s there for you, resources and tools available for you.
John: Yeah. And I like that word legacy that you used, Jim. That’s really a thread for the conversation that we’re going to have today with our guests. Glen and Ellen Schuknecht have written a great book. It’s called A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family. And that’s one of the great resources we do have at the website focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, and Glen and Ellen have some expertise in this. They have 11 grandchildren.
Jim: That’s a Ph.D. right there - 11. Well, welcome to Focus.
Glen Schuknecht: Thank you.
Ellen: Welcome, it’s good to be here.
Jim: Ellen, you’ve been here before with your daughter Erin MacPherson, author. And the two of you were on the program. Glen, it’s good to get you here because they told a lot of stories about you.
Jim: We want to straighten it all out right now. But it’s great to have you both back. And what a wonderful theme and topic. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to write this book, to encourage parents and grandparents to think about the heritage that you will leave behind.
Glen, you come from a really good - from what I read - a really good stable home, grew up in a Christian home. Ellen, that’s not your story. But I want to talk to you first, Glen. What were the advantages? What did you learn growing up? Why was that a positive? Speak to my two boys who are 17 and 15.
Jim: Boys, listen. Here’s Glen.
Glen: You know, it’s funny. As Ellen and I talked about the advantage I had growing up in a Christian home, my grandfather was a Baptist minister over 50 years serving God in different capacities, president of a college and these kind of things, we tried to figure out exactly what the difference was in the faith that I was able to glean from my parents, my grandparents that Ellen didn’t - didn’t get to have. You know, part of it was it was just something that was going to happen in my house. Every Sunday, we were going to church. And when I got to college, I was going to church. It was Sunday. It was going to happen. And so I was able to - to build a character that just put this in as part of the daily life.
Jim: So sometimes patterns - developing patterns are really good. I mean, oftentimes, they’re really good. And those are the good habits you want to repeat, right?
Ellen: Well, he had the spiritual disciplines in place. And I sensed that.
John: What do you mean by the spiritual disciplines?
Ellen: I grew up in a home that we didn’t have any spiritual disciplines, although I had a grandfather who prayed for me, and he wrote to me from Finland. And that always somehow buoyed me. And I had this yearning to kind of follow him. But in Glen, there was this background of devotions and prayer and going to church and traditions around the holidays. And that was just really something that I was drawn to and I felt I had missed.
Jim: Yeah. Did you - how did you compensate for that? I mean, not growing up in a Christian home yet, where did the Lord lay that foundation for you? How did you arrive there, to where you had an anchor for yourself?
Ellen: You know, it’s really interesting. I’ve thought about that a lot. And I really think that God just grabbed a hold of me. I still remember - and I wrote this in the book - walking in a field and wondering about God and thinking about my grandfather and grandmother in Finland praying for me. And there was just this hold in my heart from little on that I wanted to somehow do family differently. And I wanted to have a spiritual heritage. So it was just kind of something God planted. I think the ideas for this book started even when I was a child.
Jim: You know, building some of those traditions, some people listening now don’t know what that means, what that looks like. Jean, again, my wife, has been terrific at that, doing Advent calendar for the kids and for the foster kids that we’ve had. Very rarely are they familiar with an Advent calendar and opening up a little box every day and seeing some little token there that represents a spiritual truth. And that’s been wonderful to see. What are some of the traditions, Glen, that your family did that you did in your childhood rearing?
Glen: We certainly did Advent and Sunday nights during the Christmas holidays were hour, hour and a half of singing hymns and reading and that - one of the traditions we’ve loved is the birthday cake. We always had the gingerbread star shaped birthday cake on Christmas Eve.
Jim: Man, I miss that one. And I’m not a guy to miss cake.
Jim: Somehow I didn’t connect that. That would have been a good tradition for the Dalys.
John: Note to self, next Christmas...
Jim: Jean, we’re doing a birthday cake for the Lord.
Glen: And it was - it was a great little tradition, and we sang merry, you know, happy birthday.
Ellen: But I like the simple traditions, too. Like, Glen, even though he would never sing in public, would sing with the kids at bedtime. And as long as they let him sing, he’d also rub their back, so they would ask for more and more hymns. And he would say a blessing over them as they’d go to sleep and just those daily reminders of the presence of God in their lives. And we’re able to - we’re really a very unique situation that we see our grandchildren almost daily. And so we’re able to do some of those soft things, too.
Jim: Yeah. That’s so important, building in those - those moments. And that’s a beautiful thing for fathers to do, particularly. I did that when the kids were younger. I’m not as consistent with it now that they’re later teens.
John: Yeah, when they get to be 10, 12, they don’t really want dad to rub the back.
Jim: Yeah. I’ll rub your - well, I’ll rub your back as long as you let me sing does not work anymore. So I never tried it. But that would be a good thing. How do you connect with older children, or grandchildren, in your case? I mean, you have 11 grandchildren. So how do you connect with spiritual heritage issues or opportunities with those grandkids?
Glen: I think I still spend a lot of time putting them to sleep at night and...
Jim: Because they’re nearby you, yeah.
Glen: ...Our oldest is 12, so it’s - we haven’t got the teenage years yet where - where things get a little more - we get to talk to them daily about spiritual things. And so that’s pretty amazing. I coached my oldest grandson’s soccer team, and so we got to talk. As we drove home every night after practice, got to talk about the gifts God’s given him and where he is...
Ellen: And one of the things I’d like to add to that is as the kids get older, and I’m thinking back to when our kids were older, too, is being available to hear their struggles. And if you look in our book, it’s going to talk about relationship being the venue by which we model faith and really represent Christ to our kids and our grandkids. And so I think that ability to be available and let them talk and let them sort through their problems in a safe place.
Jim: Well, and this can be a great opportunity for grandparents. And you know, your relationship with your kids and your grandkids is great because in part, you’re close by. You live nearby. What advice do you have for the grandparent who may be thousands of miles away? For that 9-year-old grandchild or maybe the 18-year-old grandchild, how do you connect with a grandchild who’s further away?
Ellen: I have a good friend who has grandchildren in those age groups. And she - what she does is weekly makes a point of either texting or messaging or emailing each grandchild...
Ellen: ...Yes FaceTime, whatever. And she found one week - they didn’t always respond, particularly as they got older. And so one week she decided not to. And that’s when she got the response, “Grandma, why aren’t you writing?”
Jim: Oh, that’s interesting. So they like the overture, but won’t always respond because they’re busy.
Ellen: They’re busy. But just that connection. And thank goodness we have so many ways we can connect today.
Jim: Well, and that gets back to your original point, and that is grandparents often have more time to be available for the kids. The parents are in the get up and go mode. They may both be working, et cetera. How do you manage that tension with your adult kids and the role of grand parenting? And do you have to have good boundaries in that case to make sure that you’re disciplining the grandkids in a way that your adult kids want that done? And how - how do you negotiate all that?
Ellen: Can I start here and then let you finish. Or do you want to take over?
Jim: I’d say let’s jump in.
Ellen: I’ll jump in. We have learned, and sometimes we’ve made mistakes that we don’t step in when our kids are disciplining and do things, that our role is supportive, our role is to help them and to be available for questions and they’re more likely to come to us and say, “Hey, mom how do you think I handled that,” or, “What would you do,” and then we’ll offer advice or Glen will. But we will not step in and interfere with the discipline. And that is so important, particularly when you live close by.
Jim: OK. But a lot of grandparents - and Glen, you can respond to that earlier question then comment on this one - a lot of grandparents find it hard to bite their tongue. So what mechanism do you use if you’re in disagreement? How do you step back - because it’s not your primary role. That’s your kid’s job now.
Glen: And sometimes we’ll have the grandkids who have just gotten disciplined come down and they’ll complain to Oma and Opa...
Jim: They’re looking for a sympathetic heart, sure.
Glen: ...Or they want us to take their side. And so a lot of questions. What do you think? How do you handle? What - what would you have done differently? We try and totally focus on them and not on whether we agreed with their parents or not in the issue. And parents will - it’s amazing - right now are kids trust us and our opinion and so they’ll come back and say OK, so do you have an opinion on what happened there? What do you think...
Jim: Oh, that’s good. And it’s a good thing to maintain that trust. That’s a great goal for all grandparents, particularly, to have with their adult kids.
John: Some good common sense and biblical insights today with Glen and Ellen Schuknecht. And we’re talking about a legacy, a heritage. A Spiritual Heritage is the name of their book. Look for A Spiritual Heritage at the Focus on the Family bookstore online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call us if we can help you with that - 800, the letter A and the word family.
Jim: You use an acronym to help parents or grandparents understand this passing on of a spiritual legacy - rite, R-I-T-E. Let’s get into that and talk about what those letters represent. The R is relate. So what do you mean by relate?
Glen: Well, I think if you don’t have a relationship with anybody, you can’t speak into their heart.
Jim: You know, Glen, let me ask you because just pretend - you’re a math teacher. So I’m the worst student in your math class. You got to teach me how to do that division. And I mean, what does it mean to relate to your grandkids or to relate to your kids in a way that’s productive?
Glen: You know, as - just as a math teacher, let me give you an example. I would - if I had a kid, I just wasn’t connecting with the kid, wasn’t doing it, the first thing I did was I’d show up early at school that day, go sit in their chair and pray...
Glen: ...And I was amazed - as I shouldn’t have been amazed that God would show up. And that day I would get another way to connect. And I think we do the same thing with our grandkids. We need to pray for them a lot.
Ellen: And I think we can also let our kids know we’re praying for them. And I think it’s so easy when you see kids doing something wrong, and we are in a role where we’re very involved. And so our kids are very nice to let us have that role of discipline when they’re not around, but the first thing you need to do is to still let that child know that you’re on their team, that we understand them when we’re there, that what they’ve done may make us sad, but one of the questions - Glen is really good at asking questions - is, is that who you really want to be? Is what you did reflective of the person God is drawing you into? Just connecting.
Jim: Oh, no, those are good - good things. In fact, you use in the book - and this is something I hope we can post with your permission, just these ideas, because as a parent, it really grabbed my heart to think about praying specific Scriptures over your grandchildren, or in my case, my kids. And it works in both cases. But for example, you said for the fearful child pray Second Timothy 1:7, which says, “The Lord would grant her or him a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Or for the prideful child - I like this one - pray Ephesians 4:17 through 24, that the Lord would melt away any hardness of his heart. And another example was for every child, pray Numbers 6:24 through 26, that ‘The Lord may bless and keep them, make his face to shine upon him or her and be gracious to him and lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace.” There’s 10, 12 other examples of that. But what a beautiful thing to do.
Glen: The Numbers is part of the blessing I prayed on my grandkids and my kids every night when I put them down, and then I add a little deal - may he teach you courage and show you how much he loves you. And I just add that onto there...
Jim: Yeah. I like that. I like that so much, and doing that consistently - it may not be every night or every couple of nights - but consistently doing that. I like that. OK. So the R of RITE is to relate with your grandkids or your kids. Next inspire, where does that go?
Ellen: So to me, that’s such an important piece because having that relationship in place, part of that is inspiring in them this idea of who they’re going to be. And like with Joey, my grandson, when he is arguing or acting in a way that’s not kind to his brothers and sisters, pointing out, you know, God made you a compassionate person, Joey, God is growing you into a leader is what you’re doing right now lining up to that. I really think that when we show that we believe in a grandchild or a child, that’s necessary for them to even believe in themselves, that we have to hold out that hope. And I find that even for my grandkids or my kids, when they’re discouraged - because kids do dumb things and they get discouraged on how their kids are acting - is to always be that person who can say, “Listen, you’re going to get through this. Joey’s going to be fine. Kate’s going to be OK. Hadassah’s going to be fine after this,” offering hope to the parents - or adult kids - and to the kids, keeping that hope alive.
Jim: Ellen, let me - let me speak to the grandmother or the mom who is gripped with fear and control. That seems to be a common theme within a woman. It’s almost like the curse of Eve. There’s something there about fear and control. When things are out of control, when moms or grand moms don’t know the direction a child is going, fear takes hold and then they can actually do some great damage in that relationship. What caution would you give us?
Ellen: Well, I’m reminded of one mom that I mentored in the last few years, whose daughter, in her freshman and sophomore year, was really, very, very rebellious. And you know, in every standpoint you would think, you know, we’re kind of giving up on her, and her parents sort of had. But I just encouraged her at that point. I listened. I offered hope. I told her not to give up, to pray and to still love her child, regardless of what she did, what she said, what she was acting. And of course you set in boundaries and of course you discipline, but to love her. And I just got this great email just a few weeks ago where she told me that she was so grateful because her daughter did turn around. She’s coming to church because she wants to. And she said it was on two things - that she prayed fervently and she chose to love her through the ups and downs.
Jim: You know, the other thing - and I’d love to have you comment on, the idea of when you’re in the parenting role, first of all, this is your first go-around, you know, and grandparents have the benefit of wisdom in years. And they’ve done it. You’re the product of their parenting - right? - as a child, adult child. And so one of the things that I think a grandparent benefits from is that ability to step back and not be overwhelmed by the moment. They can see a little more clearly what years can provide. And speak to that because I think that’s why so often grandparents aren’t giving up on the grandkids. They see it. They’re - and the grandkids feel it. Like, “Grandma and grandpa, they still believe in me, but mom and dad don’t.”
Glen: It’s funny, the - the book that we wrote is far from an autobiography. This is how we did it and this is the perfect way as grandparents exactly. You learn so much about oh, that didn’t go well at all. If you process and think about how you would change that, I think that’s a critical thing. And fortunately, we’ve messed up plenty, and so because of that...
Jim: Well, it’s true.
Glen: ...We - we’re able to write a book that we think took some of those things that we did right and a lot of them that we did wrong and...
Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you about that. The parent or the grandparent that has the strained relationship, how can they begin to mend that relationship, build that bridge? What can they do to change the moment?
Glen: One of the things that I did, I decided when my kids were in college - my two oldest were in college - that I wasn’t going to go into a lot of debt for college. So I...
Jim: How’d that go down with the kids?
Glen: ...I opened - they were great about it, except for my youngest one that was still home. And I opened up a landscape business. And I would work till dark every night. I’d teach school during the day and work till dark. Um, I broke promises with her. I did everything. The amazing thing about her was how forgiving she was of her dad. One of the reasons we moved to Austin from Oregon was so that I could reopen my relationship with my youngest daughter and apologize and take her to dinner.
Jim: How did that awareness happen that you knew that her heart was being crushed?
Glen: She’s a very proud person. And I think she had an amazing mother, so she just clung to Ellen and let me go.
Jim: And you could feel it...
Glen: Oh, sure.
Jim: ...And see it and sense it.
Glen: And especially after she went away to college and I could sense that wow, I missed - I missed that time with my youngest daughter so badly. I’m always amazed at how forgiving daughters are of their dads. I hear this over and over again.
Jim: I’m hoping sons are, too, so.
Ellen: And to answer that question, I don’t think it’s ever too late. And you start by reaching out. And I remember her freshman year, she was a swimmer at UT. And she was very close to me. And she started calling her dad because she wanted that. And so we took advantage of trying to grow that.
Jim: Yeah, which is beautiful. All right. So we have RITE. We have relate, inspire, teach.
Ellen: I don’t think you can teach until you have the relationship and the vision of where you’re headed in place. And I think that’s where earlier you were talking about how we get so busy in the details. But if moms and dads today can take an idea of where they’re going, that God-given vision God has placed on their hearts for their kids, and keep that in their forefront in a relationship, then the teaching and equipping falls into a system. And Glen is great on the teaching and equipping, so...
Jim: It’s your profession.
Glen: It is. I - it was interesting - I had a dad come up to me the other day and he said, “Is this supposed to be this frustrating and this much anxiety in raising a freshman son?”
Jim: (Laughter) Sorry.
Glen: ...And - and I said - I said no, you need to start having some fun with it.
Glen: And the first thing you need to do is you need to make it a game where you are asking questions. I said how much do you lecture your son.
John: That’s such an easy thing to do.
Glen: He said, “But I don’t have time.” Yes, well, you’re wasted your time because you can imagine what he did, the Charlie Brown, duh, duh-duh, duh-duh, you know. So there just wasn’t anything there. Um, you’ve got to take the time and get those questions and think about how you’re going to ask a question that is going to - and so...
John: Get inside the kid’s head without being defensive.
John: That’s a really important thing.
Jim: Well said, John.
John: Well, I practiced it just like...
Jim: The last is equip. And we’re not going to have time. So if people want to get the definition of equip, they got to go get the book here. And that - that’ll be good, but let me ask you this. What are some practical ways that grandparents can create a legacy of faith for their grandchildren? That’s the crux of the book. What are those practical ways?
Ellen: I would say it has to start, again, with relationship. And it has to be a person who believes, so you go back to this RITE, and then being involved with their lives. And to me, it’s less about what you do, but when I think about my grandkids coming over in our house a lot, I think how can I model Christ to them? How can I be that safe person? What can I do today? What do they need? So I’m looking and thinking about where they are, watching for their looks, asking them questions, seeing what’s going on.
Glen: I think with Ellen, her - knowing her grandpa clear over in Finland was praying for her constantly, and he would write her letters saying, “I prayed for you today.” We’ve got to pray for our grandkids. And we’ve got to know what to pray, how to pray. And that’s where the relationship part of prayer comes in...
Jim: It’s so beautiful.
Glen: ...We’ve got to know exactly what they’re doing. How can I pray for that - how can I pray for you to study hard for that test that’s coming up? You know, those are the things that we can get into.
Jim: I think it’s a great mission. It’s the first mission - right? - is your immediate family.
Glen: And you got to give them lots of sugar.
Ellen: No, no, no, no.
Jim: We’re going to get lots of criticism on this...
John: This will be an off air conversation...
Ellen: I’m going to disagree with him right off the top.
Jim: There you have...
John: ...Facebook poll - grandparents, sugar or not?
Jim: Every family’s battle right here between Ellen and Glen. Hey, this has been great. Thanks so much for joining us today and for sharing your hearts with parents and grandparents about the importance of that spiritual legacy and building it. And what a wonderful book, A Spiritual Heritage, connecting kids and grandkids to God and Family. Great ideas. Just packed with good information and a road map, really, with the RITE acronym to pursue your grandkids and to help your adult children be the best they can be. So it’s a wonderful resource. And I hope you, the listener, can tap into that. This is why we’re here at Focus on the Family.
And I want to say thanks to those who help fund Focus on the Family, to allow those counselors to be there for families who are hurting. And if you’ve benefited from the conversation, maybe we can ask you to become part of the partnership team here and reach out to people together. I think last year - we just have the new research in - about 270,000 people came to Christ through Focus on the Family in the last 12 months...
Ellen: That is great.
John: Yeah, isn’t it awesome?
Jim: ...So we’re excited about that. And you know, over 150,000 marriages saved and families helped. And it’s just - it’s happening. And I want you to be a part of it with us. Join us because we can do more together. There are many hurting people that need to know the love of Christ. So help us. Be a part of the answer.
John: Yeah. You can do that with your generous donation to Focus on the Family today, when you make a gift of any amount, we’ll say thank you by sending a complimentary copy of the Schuknecht’s book, A Spiritual Heritage. Consider getting a copy for your church or another family who needs this kind of encouragement. Donate, get the book, and help at A focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. At the website, we also have a free download of the rite approach strategy, that’s R-I-T-E that we discussed in the program.
We hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church community and that you can join us again on Monday. We’ll hear from Karen Ehman, she’ll offer practical advice about controlling your tongue.
Karen Ehman: We just roll over people like a steamroller and say inappropriate things even sometimes rather than really carefully weighing our words before we let them come out of our mouth.
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Glen and Ellen SchuknechtView Bio
With more than 35 years of working with families in both public and private education, Ellen Schuknecht currently serves as Director of Family Ministries at Veritas Academy, where she mentors parents, teachers and students on a daily basis. She also does private one-on-one parent coaching, group consulting and public speaking through Family Wings, a family support organization of which she and her husband, Glen, are the directors. Ellen has co-authored several books with her daughter Erin MacPherson including Put the Disciple Into Discipline and Free to Parent. Glen and Ellen reside in Austin, Texas, near their three married children and grandchildren.