We were still putting things away from this year’s Grandcamp when we started talking about what we could do for next year’s Grandcamp. It had been a great week. Though we were tired, we were happy and grateful. This had been our fourth year of hosting our grandkids for five days of enjoying “Lots of Love! Lots of Fun!” to quote my wife, Gladine.
Having initially heard of the concept of Grandcamp from our friend Cavin Harper in 2017, Gladine and I began to wonder what it would take to do our own Grandcamp. Taking our grandkids to an established traditional Grandcamp that involved multiple families and was hosted by a trained camp staff sounded like a wonderful idea, but we were limited by time, geography, and finances. Would we be able to do Grandcamp here at our home – a “DIY Grandcamp,” as it were?
We began praying and planning. The first year went so well that our grandkids wanted us to do it again. And so we did, again and again and again – four years so far, each year building on our previous experiences.
So, what have we learned about having a “Do It Yourself Grandcamp” that may be an encouragement for you to do something similar? Here are some highlights that I trust you will find helpful:
Pray: We need God’s help. We want God’s help. So, let’s ask.
- Ask for discernment and direction: Are there particular needs in the lives of our grandchildren that we might be able to address in a loving, focused way at Grandcamp?
- Ask for unity: Families are usually made up of a variety of personalities and preferences spanning three generations. How might we work together to make it a great Grandcamp?
- Ask for the Lord’s work in the lives of the grandkids, and grandparents. Ask the Lord to use Grandcamp for His glory and the good of our grandchildren.
- Ask for strength. No matter the size of our flock of grandkids, their energy level, and ours, we will need God’s empowerment to keep up – and to do so with joy.
Plan: Though our plans are always submitted to God’s sovereignty, taking the time to plan will make Grandcamp more enjoyable for everyone.
- Plan the “theme” for Grandcamp. We have found having a memorable spiritual theme was especially helpful. One year we used Marty Machowski’s Listen up: Ten Minute Family Devotionals on the Parables. I planned short devotionals for each mealtime and bedtime, drawing Scripture illustrations, activities, and applications from this book. So the theme that year was “Listen Up!” It went so well that the following year we used Marty’s book Wise Up: Ten Minute Devotionals in Proverbs. “Wise Up” made a great theme that year. For the following two years I drew from my own book Walking Like Jesus Did. Pick a theme for the entire Grandcamp with daily “sub-themes.” You might want to plan a memory verse for the week or even daily memory verses to work on together.
- Plan the dates for Grandcamp. Talk to your adult children about their family’s calendar. When might be the best days for Grandcamp? If you have grandchildren from multiple families, this will take some coordination, so it may be best to work on establishing dates for Grandcamp months in advance, if possible. We’ve enjoyed blocking out five days for Grandcamp (Monday morning through Friday evening), but that might be a bit much for your situation. Decide what would work best for you and your family. Get it on the calendar and start talking it up with your kids and grandkids, watching the excitement grow with each intervening interaction.
- Plan the activities for Grandcamp. You will want to incorporate activities that are fun to think about and plan. If your budget is limited, don’t let that keep you and your grandkids from experiencing the “Lots of Love! Lots of Fun!” that Gladine talks excitedly about. What backyard games could you plan? How about indoor activities in case of inclement weather? If you have some older grandkids, ask them to help come up with ideas. They might even like to be in charge of a game, activity, or craft project. Don’t have your own pool? Ask a friend or neighbor to let you borrow their pool. Are there any kid-friendly activities in your community that your grandchildren would enjoy? Check them out ahead of time and include some in your planning. Is there a Christian friend you would like to invite as a guest to tell their testimony? Think of ice cream shops you might want to visit – or have a “create your own sundae” activity in your home. If you’re concerned about having too much planned, build in “quiet time” in the afternoon for napping or reading. How about scheduling some “free time” for the kids to play together? We like to call it “cousin time,” encouraging the growth of those family relationships. We’ve enjoyed planning some winding-down time in the evenings, when we watch a Torchlighters (https://torchlighters.org) video with the grandkids before evening Bible time, prayer, and bedtimes.
- Plan the daily schedule. Having a planned-ahead-of-time daily schedule has been helpful not only to us grandparents, but for the grandkids, too. We’ve actually posted the daily schedule on the kitchen wall so the kids who are old enough to read can see what we’ll be doing that day, Lord willing. We list meals, activities and a devotional theme for the day. By the way, we keep these in a file so we can refer back as we think through the coming year’s Grandcamp.
- Plan the meals. Depending on the number of your grandchildren, meal prep could feel daunting at this season of life. Talk to your kids about any dietary limitations so you can plan accordingly. We try to plan simple meals that the kids will like, with their parents’ approval. We’ve enjoyed including the (older) grandkids in our planning, asking them ahead of time if they would like to choose a meal to help plan and prepare. Fun! Keep it simple. Involve the grandchildren as much as they are able in the prep, set up, clean up, etc. This is good training for serving one another. By planning the meals ahead of time, the shopping can be done before camp starts, eliminating the need for repeated runs to the grocery store, taking one of you away from Grandcamp activities.
- Plan end-of-camp “blessings”. Cavin Harper introduced us to the value of having planned times of blessing each of our grandchildren. For each of the four Grandcamps we’ve had so far, we’ve ended the week by inviting the parents to join us for a closing dinner and hearing highlights from each of the grandchildren. Then as the “patriarch,” I asked each of the young ones to come in turn beside me. I placed my hand on them and read prepared, personalized “blessings,” noting God’s grace in their lives, asked God’s blessing for their futures, and declared their grandmother’s and my commitment to walk with them on their journey as long as we have life. The grandkids of all ages have demonstrated how much they look forward to “Papa’s blessing.” ( I give hard copies of each blessing to the child and a second copy to his or her parents).
Engage: By planning our devotions, meals and activities ahead of time, we have greater freedom to engage with our grandchildren as a group or one-on-one. We don’t want the activities or meal prep to be so consuming that we miss those opportunities for eye contact, meaningful conversations, and just plain laughter-filled fun times. By God’s grace, let’s be “in the moment” with our precious grandchildren during their time with us at Grandcamp.
Rejoice! Let’s look back on our time with our grandchildren at Grandcamp, thanking God for His work in each of our lives, even while we begin to pray and dream about next year’s Grandcamp.