Building a Spiritually Strong Family
“Go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—EPHESIANS 6:4.
1. What was God’s purpose for the family, but what happened instead?
“BE FRUITFUL and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) With those words to Adam and Eve, Jehovah God instituted the family arrangement. (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Looking ahead, that first couple could envision an earth filled with their progeny—an extended family of perfect individuals living joyfully on a paradise earth and unitedly worshiping their Grand Creator. But Adam and Eve fell into sin, and the earth did not become filled with righteous, God-fearing people. (Romans 5:12) Instead, family life quickly deteriorated, and hatred, violence, and a lack of “natural affection” have prevailed, especially in these “last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Genesis 4:8, 23; 6:5, 11, 12.
2. Adam’s offspring had what abilities, but what would be needed to build a spiritually strong family?
2 Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. Though now a sinner, Adam was permitted by Jehovah to have children. (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-4) Like their father, Adam’s offspring had moral capacity and could learn to distinguish between right and wrong. They could be instructed about how to worship their Creator and the importance of loving him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30; John 4:24; James 1:27) Furthermore, they could be trained “to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with . . . God.” (Micah 6:8) As sinners, however, they would need to pay considerable attention in order to build a spiritually strong family.
Buy Out the Time
3. How can parents ‘buy out time’ to rear Christian children?
3 In these complicated, critical times, great effort must be expended so that children become “lovers of Jehovah” who truly “hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10) Wise parents will ‘buy out time’ to meet this challenge. (Ephesians 5:15-17) If you are a parent, how can you do this? First, establish priorities, giving attention to “the more important things,” including the teaching and training of your children. (Philippians 1:10, 11) Second, simplify your life-style. You may have to put aside activities that are not really necessary. Or you may need to divest yourself of unnecessary possessions that take time to maintain. As a Christian parent, you will never regret that you made the effort needed to raise God-fearing children.—Proverbs 29:15, 17.
4. How can a family be kept united?
4 Spending time with your children, especially when centered on spiritual matters, is well worth the effort and is one of the best ways to keep a family united. But do not leave this to chance. Schedule certain times you will spend together. This does not mean just being in the same house, each one doing his own thing. Children flourish best with daily personal attention. Love and concern need to be displayed unstintingly. Even before they decide to have children, married couples must seriously consider this important responsibility. (Luke 14:28) Then they will not regard the rearing of children as a chore. Instead, they will view it as a blessed privilege.—Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3.
Teach by Word and Example
5. (a) With what does teaching children to love Jehovah start? (b) What counsel is given parents at Deuteronomy 6:5-7?
5 Teaching your children to love Jehovah begins with your own love for him. A strong love for God will move you to follow all his instructions faithfully. This includes bringing children up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) God counsels parents to set the example for their children, to communicate with them, and to teach them. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 states: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” By frequent admonition and repetition, you can inculcate God’s commandments in your children. Thus, your offspring will sense the love you have for Jehovah and, in turn, will be influenced to develop a closeness to him as well.—Proverbs 20:7.
6. How can parents take advantage of the fact that children learn by example?
6 Children are eager to learn. They are keen listeners and observers and are quick to imitate your example. When they see that you are not materialistic, this helps them to learn how to follow Jesus’ counsel. You teach them not to be anxious about material things but to ‘seek first God’s kingdom.’ (Matthew 6:25-33) By engaging in wholesome, upbuilding conversation about Bible truth, God’s congregation, and the appointed elders, you teach your children to respect Jehovah and to appreciate his spiritual provisions. Since children are quick to note inconsistencies, oral instruction must be backed up by conduct and attitude that demonstrate your own deep appreciation for spiritual things. What a blessing it is when parents see that their good example has produced in their children wholehearted love for Jehovah!—Proverbs 23:24, 25.
7, 8. What example shows the value of training children from an early age, and to whom is the credit for success due?
7 The value of training children from an early age can be seen in an example from Venezuela. (2 Timothy 3:15) It involves a young married couple, Félix and Mayerlín. They are pioneer ministers. When their son Felito was born, they were eager to do their utmost in raising him as a true worshiper of Jehovah. Mayerlín began reading aloud to Felito from My Book of Bible Stories, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At an early age, Felito seemed to recognize Moses and other people depicted in this book.
8 While still quite young, Felito began witnessing on his own. He fulfilled his desire to be a Kingdom publisher, and later he was baptized. In time, Felito became a regular pioneer. His parents comment: “As we watch our son’s progress, we realize that we owe it to Jehovah and his instruction.”
Help Children to Grow Spiritually
9. Why should we be thankful for the spiritual instruction we receive through the faithful and discreet slave class?
9 There are dozens of magazines, hundreds of books, and thousands of Internet Web sites offering advice on how to rear children. Very often “the information conflicts,” says a Newsweek special issue on children. “Even more disconcerting is when information you think you can trust turns out to be just plain wrong.” How thankful we are that Jehovah has provided abundantly for the instruction and spiritual development of families! Do you take full advantage of all the provisions made through the faithful and discreet slave class?—Matthew 24:45-47.
10. How is an effective family Bible study of benefit to both parents and children?
10 One very important need is a regular, consistent family Bible study that is held in a relaxed atmosphere. To make it instructive, enjoyable, and encouraging, good preparation is required. By drawing their children out, parents can learn what is in their hearts and minds. One way to determine the effectiveness of a family study is by noting if all members of the household look forward to it.
11. (a) What goals can parents help their children to establish? (b) What resulted when a certain Japanese girl pursued her goal?
11 Scriptural goals likewise contribute to a spiritually strong family, and parents should help their children establish these. Appropriate goals include reading the Bible daily, becoming a regular publisher of the good news, and progressing to dedication and baptism. Other goals may include full-time service as a pioneer, at Bethel, or as a missionary. While in elementary school, a Japanese girl named Ayumi made it her goal to witness to everyone in her class. To arouse the interest of her teacher and classmates, she obtained permission to place several Bible publications in the library. As a result, 13 Bible studies were arranged for during her six years in elementary school. One of those Bible students and others in the student’s family became baptized Christians.
12. How can children derive the greatest benefit from Christian meetings?
12 Also necessary for strong spiritual health is regular meeting attendance. The apostle Paul admonished fellow believers ‘not to forsake the gathering of themselves together, as some had the custom.’ Let that not become our custom, for young and old alike benefit greatly from regular presence at Christian meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25; Deuteronomy 31:12) Children should be taught to listen attentively. Preparation for meetings is vital too, for the greatest benefit comes from having an active part by commenting. While a young child may start by saying a couple of words or reading a small portion of a paragraph, it will be most beneficial if children are trained to search out answers and to phrase them in their own words. Do you parents set the example by making regular, meaningful comments yourselves? It is also good for each member of the family to have a Bible, a songbook, and a copy of the publication being used for the Scriptural discussion.
13, 14. (a) Why should parents work with their children in the ministry? (b) What will help make field service beneficial and joyful for children?
13 Wise parents will direct the youthful energy of their children toward serving Jehovah, helping them to make preaching an important part of their lives. (Hebrews 13:15) Only by working with their children in the ministry can parents make sure that their young ones will get the training needed to become ministers “with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 2:15) So, then, what about you? If you are a parent, do you help your children to prepare for field service? Doing this will help to make the ministry joyful, meaningful, and productive for them.
14 Why is it beneficial for parents and their children to work together in the ministry? In this way, children can note and copy the good example of their parents. At the same time, parents can observe the attitude, deportment, and ability of their children. Make sure to take your children with you in various features of the ministry. If possible, let each child have his own witnessing case, and teach him or her to keep it neat and presentable. By consistent training and encouragement, true appreciation for the ministry will be built up, and children will see the preaching work as a means of showing love for God and neighbor.—Matthew 22:37-39; 28:19, 20.
15. Since maintaining a family’s spirituality is so important, what are some ways to do this?
15 Maintaining the spirituality of the family is essential. (Psalm 119:93) One means of doing this is to discuss spiritual things with your family at every opportunity. Do you discuss the day’s Bible text with them? Is it your custom to share field service experiences or points from the latest Watchtower and Awake! magazines “when you walk on the road”? Do you remember to thank Jehovah in prayer for each day of life and for his bountiful provisions “when you lie down and when you get up”? (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) When your children see love for God reflected in everything you do, this will help them to make the truth their own.
16. Of what value is it to encourage children to do their own research?
16 At times, children will need guidance to deal successfully with problems or situations that arise. Rather than always telling them what to do, why not show them how to find God’s viewpoint on matters by encouraging them to do research on their own? Teaching children to make good use of all the tools and publications provided through the ‘faithful slave’ will help them to develop a close relationship with Jehovah. (1 Samuel 2:21b) And when they share the benefits of their Bible research with other members of the household, the spirituality of the family is further enhanced.
Rely Fully on Jehovah
17. Why should single parents not despair when it comes to rearing their children as Christians?
17 What about single-parent families? These face additional challenges when it comes to rearing children. But single parents, do not lose heart! Success is possible, as shown by the many single parents who have trusted in God, have obediently applied his counsel, and have raised fine, spiritually strong children. (Proverbs 22:6) Of course, Christians who are single parents need to rely fully on Jehovah. They must have faith that he will provide help.—Psalm 121:1-3.
18. To what mental and physical needs of their children should parents give attention, but on what should emphasis be placed?
18 Wise parents realize that ‘there is a time to laugh and a time to skip about.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4) Essential to building a child’s mind and body are leisure time and balanced, wholesome recreation. Upbuilding music and especially singing songs of praise to God will help a child to develop a healthy attitude that can play an important role in strengthening his relationship with Jehovah. (Colossians 3:16) Youth is also the time to prepare to be a God-fearing adult, so that enjoyment of life can continue forever on a paradise earth.—Galatians 6:8.
19. Why can parents be confident of Jehovah’s blessing on their child-rearing efforts?
19 Jehovah wants all Christian families to succeed as strong spiritual units. If we truly love God and do our best to obey his Word, he will bless our efforts and will supply us with the strength needed to follow his inspired direction. (Isaiah 48:17; Philippians 4:13) Remember that the opportunity you now have to teach and train your children is limited and will not be repeated. Do your very best to apply the counsel of God’s Word, and Jehovah will bless your efforts to build a spiritually strong family.
What Did We Learn?
• Why is buying out time so important when training children?
• Why is a good parental example necessary?
• What are some important ways to help children grow spiritually?
• How can a family’s spirituality be maintained?
[Pictures on page 24, 25]
Spiritually strong families regularly study God’s Word, attend Christian meetings, and engage in the ministry together