United Reformed Church

The Gift

A booklet that makes an ideal present for grandparents, godparents, and all who hold individual children in their hearts.

You can buy it from the URC Bookshop or read it online below.


How The Gift can help you build a close relationship with the children in your life.

People talk about the gift of ageing. With middle age spread, energy levels dropping, knees aching and memory lapses, you may wonder what precisely you have been given. But each generation has a role to play, a calling in the service of God. You are no exception.

The gift of ageing is the gift of experience, security, and knowledge of who you are and what is important in life. Often it is the gift of time, as retirement provides increasing flexibility.

For some, it may even be a time of fewer financial pressures. And for many, ageing is the gift of a longer walk with God and a deeper sense of faith and discipleship. Of course, not all of these will apply, and life will not be without its sadness and anxieties. But let us embrace this gift and ‘gift it forward’ to the children and young people in our lives.

This resource is designed for any adult with under 18s in their hearts and minds other than their children. Maybe you are a Grandparent, with grandchildren close at hand or, as so often happens, far way.

Maybe you are an aunt or uncle, a great aunt or uncle, or even an honorary aunt or uncle by merit of a close friendship with the family. Maybe you had the honour of being chosen as Godparent to a child. Or maybe a child or young person just decided you should be a special friend or mentor.

Whoever you are, this booklet is for you, as a thank you for the blessing you are to that child or young person.

In the busyness of life today, this gift has become increasingly important. Most children in the UK no longer live in extended families, with the whole village looking out for them, and modern technology can result in an increased sense of loneliness among young people, despite the appearance of being more connected with others than ever before.

Mental health issues among young people are becoming increasingly apparent. Against this background, the gift of relationship is God-sent. For a child, knowing that they are unconditionally loved, valued and cherished helps them to develop a sense of worth and security.

Your relationship with them, however small it may seem, can have a profound effect on their wellbeing, their development, their social confidence and even their intellectual growth. It can give them the foundations to pass on that love to future generations.

And through you, they may experience the greatest gift of all, as they witness your relationship with God and begin to make that faith their own. Paul the apostle even mentions the influence that Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, had upon her grandson, and Paul’s own mentoring relationship with Timothy is also tangible in his letter. How lucky that young man was to have two such role models in his life.

Research shows that many young people come to faith through the influence of the adults they love and respect. Parents often appreciate it when their child is able to build a solid relationship with a trusted adult who takes an active interest in their child’s wellbeing.

When family relationships become tense, as is almost inevitable as children grow, this person can prove a valuable pressure valve – someone the child feels confident to confide in without fear of condemnation.

Modern life means parents can find themselves unable to give the child the time and attention they would wish. You may be able to give some individual attention, and relieve the pressure.

Parents too may find it difficult to share their faith with their own child, or may not feel confident enough in what they believe to discuss it. But you are perfectly positioned to share your faith, either directly or by example.

It is a gift to you too. A close relationship with a child takes time and effort, a willingness to listen and even a readiness to be open to learn and to change. But it can feel like an injection of youth (even if you are exhausted by the time they have finished their whirlwind of chatter and activity).

You can see life from a new perspective, and they may even show you how to use your new technology! In sharing your faith with others, you develop a clearer vision of what you believe. Jesus calls us to be childlike in our faith – take the hand of a child and come closer to God together.

The gift of relationship

Time will move quickly for a newborn and their family. The first few years are a whirlwind of development and milestones.

If possible, it is good to be present from the earliest opportunities; build a relationship with the child through regular contact and quality time; enjoy getting to know them as they grow; celebrate and value who they are, who God has made them to be.

Alice Miller reminds us that ‘the child has a primary need from the very beginning of her life to be regarded and respected as the person she really is at any given time.’ (The Drama of Being a Child, Alice Miller)

However, building a strong and trusting relationship with the parents or main carers of the infants is just as important in the early stages.

What can you do to encourage and support the parents and carers of a young child? What practical support might the family need from you? What can you do to nurture the relationship between the parents and their newborn?

Remember that all family relationships are affected and change as time goes on. For Grandparents, when your own children become parents, perspectives change.

They become more aware of how they were parented and make decisions about how they will now parent their child, which will almost certainly be different as society and parenting trends change.

As you now encounter your adult child as a parent, it might be challenging to see how differently they might do things!

The temptation to interfere can be strong but your role is to support and affirm the new parents in finding their way in raising their child.

Likewise, your relationship with your child’s offspring is different from the parent-child relationship.

You are now free from the need to discipline (though clearly maintaining boundaries, in consultation with their parents) and can enjoy being a mentor, a collaborator, a friend and an encourager.

Celebrate these changes, be thankful and value the relationships. It’s a great opportunity to learn from our past successes and mistakes and to learn from our children as we watch and support them as parents.

Whatever your relationship to this young child, this is the time to start to form a strong bond if possible, not only by spending time with the family but by spending focussed time on the child alone.

If mobility allows, try getting down to their level as far as possible, and make eye contact; follow their lead and try not to be distracted from what you’re doing together, so that they know they are the most important person in the universe for you at that moment.

So, Grandparents and Godparents have a key role to play in:

  • Supporting: Support the parent/carers in their role as much as possible, reinforcing the importance of strong, healthy bonding within families.
  • Listening: Young children need to ask questions and explore their world, so take time to journey with the child at their own pace.
  • Sharing: Tell them stories and spend time playing with them.
  • Praying: Pray for and with the child regularly.

As children reach school age, we can see them moving into a new and exciting stage of development and their personalities, interests and engagements begin to take a more defined form.

They are becoming aware of themselves and others as distinct individuals, starting to differentiate between and name emotions, beginning to judge relationships and recognise whom they trust.

While we may recognise traits of their parents or other relatives in them, this is the time to get to know them for who they are in their own right – getting a sense of their likes and dislikes, their strengths and their challenges.

This is also a time to encourage their independence. Think of it like an apprenticeship where they learn alongside you but you step back and encourage them to lead the way – allowing them sometimes to fail and gently encouraging resilience when that happens, being their greatest cheerleader but there to support them when a little extra help is needed.

As a Grandparent or Godparent, this is the time to marvel at their creativity and get  drawn into the fun.

Now that they are a little older and less immediately dependent upon their parents, there may be more opportunities for you to spend quality one-to-one time together on trips and visits and maybe even sleepovers.

Not that this is always easy – for many, the relationship is carried out over long distances, which make these sorts of contacts impossible except during rare trips abroad. In these situations, it is even more important to focus on contact through the internet, telephone calls, letters etc.

Grandparents and Godparents are called to:

You may now find yourselves in the role of confidant – both for parents and for the child. You may want to intervene but your role here is that of a supportive ear, a comforter, and only occasionally a mediator.

Share activities
Activities do not need to be expensive or extravagant. Maybe some woodwork or craft, or some baking together – the advantage of the latter is that you get to eat what you have made!

Remember, the outcome doesn’t have to be perfect and making a mess and then clearing it up together can be fun.

Share companionable walks or undertake a challenge together: how many different types of fungus can you photograph? Or what different shapes of chimney can you see? Teach each other a new skill. Play a board game.

Children enjoy activities that give them an insight into who you are. Could they go through your jewellery box or tool box, or an old photo album?

Do things where you act as a team – host a tea party for their parents, raise some money for charity with a joint challenge.

Above all, have fun and laugh a lot together. Allow some quiet times. Things that are on their mind sometimes come out more easily when you are doing things  together.

Children need to know that they are loved, significant and safe. Treasure things they make. If they draw you a picture, make sure you put it up (and if they are  far away, send them a photograph of where you put it).

If they mess up, hug them and forgive them, and start afresh.

Young people really need, and often don’t have, good adult friends beyond their immediate family or household. So this is a time to step up, rather than step back, if you are privileged to be in this position!

They are starting to separate from their parents and main carers, in preparation for adult life. This means learning to provide for themselves, with the help of other relationships, the support and care they previously relied on their parents for.

This is particularly true of emotional support. Peer  groups are obviously of growing importance, but they often don’t have the depth of emotional resources or resilience to fully support each other.

So Grandparents and Godparents have a key role to play in:

  • Listening: Having the time to let them find words to express themselves without fear of judgement, and demonstrating their thoughts and feelings matter.
  • Affirming: Affirming their choices, self expression, gifts and talents, hopes and dreams, and giving value to the person they are becoming.
  • Translating: Helping them understand their parents’ and carers’ perspectives, particularly in times of conflict (and sometimes helping them unpack their own  perspective).
  • Sharing: Sharing your experiences, tales of their parents and carers as young people, life skills (cooking, bike/car maintenance, DIY, problem solving, money  management etc).
  • Learning: Learning from their life experience about the world they are growing up in, new life skills they can teach you (social media, IT, new forms of entertainment  etc) and demonstrating they have much to give.
  • Being a role model of adult life: Proof you can survive the teenage years and thrive!

The gift of faith

Children are made in the image of God, and, as such, have an innate spirituality (see Genesis 1:26). Our role is to nurture this spirituality from the very beginning.

It’s less about faith development and more about spirituality at this stage. Faith comes later as the scaffolding that gives shape to their spirituality.

Our role is to join children on the spiritual journey, not lead them in it. Young children appreciate the wow factor of the world around them, so give them as many different chances as possible to experience awe and wonder, to explore the world around them and to ask questions.

Jesus never told us how to work with children, instead he told us to simply let the children come and then learn from them, look to them and explore the way they are, to become like them. This is their greatest gift to us – a reminder of what it is to be a child and a chance to be there again.

As we get to know them, we can help them in understanding who they are.

The children’s author Janusz Korczak said: ‘Children are not the people of tomorrow but are people of today. They have a right to be taken seriously and to be treated with tenderness and respect; they should be allowed to grow into whoever they were meant to be. The unknown person inside each of them is our hope for the future.’ (A Voice for the Child, Ed Sandra Josephs).

Sharing the gift of faith with infants involves:

  • Modelling: Let the young children see your own faith lived out in daily life. Introduce and establish holy habits – do this as intentionally as teaching about any other aspect of life.
  • Sharing your stories: Be ready to tell your faith stories to the child.
  • Learning through play together: Spend time together exploring the world; go out into creation.
  • Praying: Hold the child and their family in prayer.
  • Nurturing their spirituality in the home: Create sacred spaces, prayer corners, use books and story, play with the Bible stories and encourage children’s  responses.
  • Celebrating the festivals and transitions in the child’s life.

We can help children in their journey of discovery and faith formation, remembering that we are not the initiators in that journey – God is. We are simply the instruments of his work.

God and children have ways of being together because that is how God created them. Our role is to water and protect the seeds of faith which help children discover what is already within each of them and to add nutrients which will help encourage the tender shoots to grow.

Rachel Turner, in her book Parenting for Faith, talks about the importance of children experiencing God and becoming God-connected as well as God-smart. They need religious facts and Bible stories but also a sense of God in all aspects of their lives, knowing that God is there for them personally.

At this age, children may still learn through sensory experience but may be beginning to think in more abstract ways with a growing sense of symbolism and the beauty of words, as well as gaining skills.

Many people tell of their faith being founded at this age through the impact of significant relationships with others.

Even children who are far away from Grandparents, Godparents or family friends will sense how important faith is for that person and, more tellingly, whether it is lived out in their lives, as long as some bond has been established between them.

We do not need to be saints, living an unblemished life – we need to be honest and open, taking care to build up that gift of relationship which enables us to share the gift of faith.

So, with this in mind, how can we nurture that faith and enable children to experience, explore and express their relationship with God?

Pray: Pray for the child and with the child, maybe exploring new ways of approaching God in prayer which the child may find more accessible or meaningful. Build mealtime grace and bedtime prayers into your routine.

Share in the wonder: Go on walks together in the countryside and talk about the beauty, variety and intricacies of creation; marvel at the size of the cathedral and ponder what prompted people to build it like that; look together at photographs of the child and contemplate the wonder of how the baby has grown from a tiny dot to become the child that they are with all the potential that they hold.

Answer their questions: Questions may be hesitant or come thick and fast, and sometimes their responses will surprise you. Answer them honestly, even if the answer is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’.

Recognise and accept that their opinions may differ. Help them to know that faith sometimes brings up tricky questions, just as life does.

Share stories: Read or tell Bible stories. Watch movies together and throw in a conversation starter, maybe using the words ‘I wonder….’ to stimulate their thinking and let  them take the lead. Tell them bits of your own story.

Model your faith in everyday life: Let them see that faith is important to you and permeates all you do.

Youth is a crucial time for either forming or losing faith. Over 80% of practising adult Christians came to faith before the age of 25.

On the other hand, over half of those who stop considering themselves people of faith do so between the ages of 11 and 25. (Mapping Practicing Christians research 2017, Church of England).

It is naturally a time of searching, testing and ‘owning’ ideas, beliefs and identity, as young people explore ‘who am I?’

An appreciative Grandparent or Godparent to accompany them on some of this journey can make a huge difference in helping faith seem plausible, possible and of value when it is so countercultural.

Any young person making faith commitments is putting themselves in a very small minority of their peers. A network of intergenerational relationships with a shared faith provides a supportive environment for faith to take root and grow.

Sharing the gift of faith with young people involves:

Encouraging discovery and experimentation: Opportunities for the young person to find out and try out things for themselves, rather than receive the answers from others.

Allowing space for doubts and fears: As a natural part of the journey of faith – this means being willing to share some of your own doubts and fears,  and be real about struggles of faith.

Offering challenges and opportunities to step out in faith – perhaps taking part in camps, events, missions, social action, volunteering, sharing testimony, or leading as well as ‘real-life’ opportunities to be identified as a Christian.

Sharing spiritual practices: Grace before meals, prayer, worship, going to church, giving, Bible study, habits or disciplines and finding ways of drawing close to God.

Celebrating together important markers on the journey, such as baptism, confirmation, church membership, taking on a role or responsibility.

Receiving the gift of their faith and learning of God from them – asking them to pray for you too!

If they are rejecting Christian faith at this phase of their lives, you can still have a vital role to play:

Listen respectfully to their views and experience. Try to help them discern if it is church, or God, or both, they are seeking to distance themselves from.

Understand their perspective enough to be able to explain it to others who may feel hurt or rejected by their choices.

Bless them in their leave taking and encourage them to keep searching for truth and values to live a life of integrity.

Be faithful in your relationship with them: Show by your actions that you, and by implication God, have not given up on them, that no bridges have been burnt and they will always be welcome.

Continue to pray for them: They may need this space to find faith for themselves, rather than continue in the one they have inherited from others.

Sometimes ,sharing your faith with the children and young people you are a Grandparent or Godparent to is not possible.

There might be many reasons for this. It may be that the context in which you meet with them makes this inappropriate (if you are in a work role or in a place which is anti-faith or where this is not allowed, such as
some schools).

It may be very complicated, for instance in a multifaith family setting. It may be that you have been asked not to, either explicitly or implicitly.

It may be that you just lack the confidence or don’t know how to.

This can lead to a range of feelings: sadness, failure, guilt, shame, worry, and above all, fear of jeopardising the relationship.

Instead of focussing on what you cannot do, put your energy into what you can do:

Cherish the relationship: Your presence in the life of this child or young person is a precious gift from God.

Respect parents’ wishes: They need to know you are supporting them in their best efforts to parent, particularly around faith and moral issues (which can mean talking through disagreements).

Pray: Pray for the family, with others in similar situations, for yourself in this role.

Live out your faith: Be yourself; how you live is a witness to the life of Christ within you.

It might help to think of your faith, and how it impacts your life, as a 1,000 piece jigsaw. There are some edge pieces (lines you would not cross because of your faith).

There are a few corner pieces (the heart or bedrock of your faith that underpins everything else). There are hundreds of everyday decisions, emotions and actions that make up your life of faith.

As you share life with this child or young person, you are giving them pieces of the puzzle. The tiny stories of why you do or don’t buy certain things, why you do or don’t use certain words, why you spend your time, money and energy on particular things rather than others.

The little moments of awareness of God in your life – comforting, surprising, challenging and blessing you. The ways you see other people, hear the news, taste, touch and smell the world through the Spirit.

The times you need to lean on God, cry out to God, shout at God, laugh with God. Pray that you will be able to scatter these pieces in their life.

Pray that they will be able to put the pieces together and see the whole picture for themselves, at the right time.

Prayers and a poem

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of (name). Help me to reveal something of you in all my contact with them. Help us to grow together in knowledge and love of you through our relationship.

Thank you Jesus for this time together, for all we will share, for all we will give and receive. Help us to hold each other in our hearts when we are apart, and trust each other into your good care. Amen.

Thank you, God, for the food you have given us and the chance to share in this meal together. Thank you for the fun, conversation and love which feed our minds and our hearts, as well as the food which feeds our bodies. Amen.

Dear Lord, my loved ones are far away and it sometimes feels difficult to have a special part in their lives. Watch over them, I pray, and guide them as they grow. May they feel deep inside the love I hold for them and know themselves to be precious in my heart and your sight. Amen.

I Am A Child
I am a child...small, dependent, vulnerable, but full of
wonder and curiosity about myself and God’s world.
I am a child of God...help me to know him.
I am eager to learn so show me the wonders of God each day.
I want to feel secure so provide for me those things
I need so I will develop trust.
I am full of imagination...give me opportunities
to explore, create, and pretend.
I want to be a friend to all, so show me how
to care and celebrate our differences.
I believe in the magic of life...nurture it in me as it may be the
beginning of a thought that will benefit all people
I believe in YOU...my nurturer, my caregiver...
my “Caretaker of Wonder”!
Here I am Lord!

© Marge Hampton 1991

Resources and gift ideas

You can download and The Gift calendar and fill it in with the child/young person and to update it as they learn that you truly are interested and begin to share more.

How to use the calendar

Talk together with them and their parents, or send the calendar to them. What dates are important to them? Record these on your calendar. There is space to stick a small photo too.

Once the calendar is filled in, fasten it up somewhere – maybe on the fridge – as a prompt for those important dates. Now use it to inform your prayers – if it’s on the fridge door you will think of them every time you open the fridge!

Pray for the special events in their life, asking God to be with them and strengthen them. Use school-related dates to remind you to pray too, for the teachers and other children there.

Don’t stop at that: these are good opportunities to make special contact. Nowadays children seldom receive things through the post, so why not send a little card, note or gift? Do not expect a reply (though you may be surprised!) – just send it with love: even if the child lives next door!

Or, why not send an email, text or Whatsapp message? It is quick and easy, yet it reminds them that they are cherished and you are thinking of them. If you don’t know how, get them to show you. Even the most hardened technophobe can learn a new skill and what a sign of love to make contact in the way they know best.

Just don’t leave embarrassing messages on their social media!

Download and print these lovely prayer dice and bookmarks to share with your grandchild/godchild

Prayer dice and bookmarks (PDF|1mb)


The Big Bible Storybook (Maggie Barfield) - for ages three to eight – contains single-page illustrated stories. Also available in Welsh.

Lion Storyteller Bible (Bob Hartman) - for ages three to ten – double-page spread stories with  illustrations, designed for reading aloud and contains some group participation ideas.

Shine On: A Story Bible (various authors) - for ages six to 12 – double-page spread stories, illustrations and questions to connect, wonder and explore further.

Children of God Storybook Bible (Desmond Tutu) - for ages three to eight – double-page spread stories and  illustrations and simple prayers – all linked to theme of God’s love.

The Barnabas Family Bible (Martyn Payne and Jane Butcher) - for families to use together – Contempary English Version text with illustrations, commentary, prayer, activity and questions.

The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd Jones) - for ages five to 12 – written as longer stories, illustrated by Jago, all linked to Jesus in overarching narrative.

The Book of Books (Trevor Dennis) - for age ten and above – a novelistic retelling of the Bible with verve, humour, originality and theological insight.

Good News Bible Youth Edition (Bible Society) - for age 12 and above – a Good News Bible with space for notes  and doodling, prompts for further thinking and lots of resources linking to issues of the day which young people may face.

The Message (Eugene H Peterson) - for teens and young adults – a paraphrase of the Bible in more modern language.

The charities Care for the Family and BRF Parenting for Faith produce resources to support families and those who are involved with children and young people. Some are listed below.

Faithful Grandparents (Anita Cleverly) - a very readable book which encourages grandparents to  take the initiative to share their faith with courage and wisdom, humour and prayer.

Godparenting (Tracey Herzer and Nancy McLaughlin) and  The Godparent Book (Elaine Ramshaw) - these two books are both American – one Episcopalian and the other Anglican – but both are full of lovely practical ideas for godparents.

The Mothers’ Union shop sells a lovely selection of cards to give at baptisms and to mark subsequent anniversaries.

Films to watch and discuss with children

  • The Miracle Maker (animated life of Jesus)
  • Prince of Egypt (Story of Moses in entertaining cartoon form)
  • Up! (talk about identity, vision and relationship)
  • Paddington (talk about refugees and family).

Films to watch and discuss with young people

  • The Lord of the Rings (talk about temptation and pilgrimage)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (talk about sacrifice, temptation and love)
  • Bruce Almighty (talk about free will and prayer)
  • Evan Almighty (talk about faith and relationship with God)
  • Amazing Grace (talk about the slave trade and social justice).

United Reformed Church