Family Study a Blessing
CHRISTIAN fathers and mothers want their children to grow up to be God-fearing men and women of integrity. Such children are a real blessing to parents. “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Prov. 23:24, 25.
Overseers in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses have been asked: Why do so many children of Jehovah’s witnesses grow up to be sincere, devoted worshipers of Jehovah? They reply: “Basically, the answer is to be found within the family circle. When the father takes the spiritual oversight of the family, arranging for a practical family schedule, children really benefit.”
A key element in a balanced schedule is a family study guided by the father. But if only the mother is a dedicated Christian, then what? An overseer said: “We know it isn’t easy for them to bring up their children in Godly ways by themselves. Yet many are doing a fine job and their youngsters are holding fast to the truth. These mothers have a regular Bible study with their children.”
Thus the key element for the successful Christian family is studying the Bible and Bible publications together regularly. And it is not only the children that need to be considered. The father and the mother also need the spiritual upbuilding that comes from a united family study of God’s Word. Jesus pointedly said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matt. 4:4.
START WHEN YOUNG
Godly principles are not born in children. Instead, “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15) From an early age they need proper training to counteract wrong tendencies.—Ps. 51:5.
That is why the Bible counsels: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) The apostle Paul wrote Timothy: “From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15) And who is to take the lead in this training? “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Eph. 6:4; see also Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
The first four or five years of a child’s life are crucial ones. During this time his mental patterns and abilities are being established. Dr. Joseph M. Hunt of the University of Illinois said: “It is during the first four or five years of life that a child’s development is most rapid and most subject to modification. During this period a child acquires the abilities on which his later abilities will be based. Perhaps 20 percent of those basic abilities are developed before his first birthday, perhaps half before he reaches four.”
Very important in the child’s development is the acquiring of reading skill, since so much else depends on that. At a family study young ones will be helped to acquire reading skills before they go to school. The value of this is noted by U.S. News & World Report: “It was shown that the parents of high achievers in first grade usually have read to their youngsters in preschool years—often from infancy.”
Since parental guidance early in a child’s life has so much to do with his mental abilities, then what about early training in moral and spiritual matters? This is even more vital than other training, for eternal life is at stake. By beginning early, a child’s life pattern can be correctly set.
Of course, parents may study God’s Word with their children individually, especially when their ages vary greatly. The mother can do this with particular effectiveness when children are of preschool age, as she has time during the day. But in addition to this, the father will want to study with the entire family together. There is no more fruitful arrangement for families than this united study of God’s Word.
SETTING ASIDE TIME
When can such family studies be held? One opportunity for a brief family study is at breakfast. For a few minutes a Scripture text such as provided in printed form by the Watch Tower Society can be discussed. The father may have the Scripture text read and then invite comments, perhaps asking a question. After others comment, he can summarize. Experiences may also be read from the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses where such is available in the local language.
This upbuilding morning discussion has long been the rule at Bethel and missionary homes of Jehovah’s witnesses all over the world. Families do well to imitate the pattern. And if breakfast is not a convenient time, perhaps the discussion can be held when all are together at the evening meal.
A most profitable arrangement for family study is taking perhaps ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day, before going to bed. The family can get together in a comfortable place and read directly from the Bible, each taking turns according to their reading ability. If just two pages of the Bible are read each day, in less than five months the entire Christian Greek Scriptures will be covered! Is there a more upbuilding way to end the day?
EVENING FAMILY STUDY
Another occasion for regular family study, one of the most vital, should be a longer period of time. At Bethel and missionary homes, this time is Monday evening, although you may choose some other evening or time more suitable to your schedule.
How long should such a study be? Each family head will have to determine this, depending on the circumstances. Where some of the children are quite young yet, the time may be more limited. As they grow older and are better able to concentrate, the time can be expanded so that at least an hour is taken for this vital activity.
All the children should be included. Even those who are too young to read can learn. They will also profit by learning to sit quietly. In that way they will come to understand that there are times when they must do what the entire family is doing and cannot have their own way.
If the children are quite young, the family head may choose to concentrate on the articles especially designed for children, appearing in the Watchtower magazine. The book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained can also be used to good advantage.
When children are a little older, many families imitate the pattern at Bethel and missionary homes by studying the Watchtower lesson that will be considered at the Kingdom Hall the following week. Some parents vary this coverage when a particular need arises. They may take the evening study time to concentrate on a portion of one of the books, or articles in The Watchtower or Awake! that deal with the particular problem at hand.
There are several ways to discuss the material at the family study. Some suggestions are as follows.
First, the father can read the title of the material under consideration. If it is the Watchtower lesson for that week, it is well to read the Scripture text that highlights the theme. Then he can briefly state the general plan of the material, which is often indicated by the subheadings of the article.
He may then ask the question on the first paragraph. If the family usually read the lesson beforehand, he can call for answers. But if they do not read the lesson beforehand, he can have the paragraph read immediately after the question is asked. The members of the family can take turns in reading, helping all to keep alert, and young ones will benefit from the reading of the adults. After the paragraph is read, the question can be restated for anyone to answer. Some choose to allow the one who read the paragraph to have the first opportunity, enabling each one to express himself.
When the main points are isolated, they can be underlined as a memory aid for use at the congregation study later. Also, additional thoughts can be called for and pertinent scriptures that are cited but not quoted can be read.
Bring younger children into the discussion as soon as they are able to respond. Simple questions requiring answers of only a few words can be phrased for them. When they are able, they can be allowed to read a portion, perhaps only a few sentences at first. This would be limited until the child’s ability is adequate to handle longer portions.
The main object of the study is not just to find an answer for the congregation study later. The object is to inculcate Jehovah’s thoughts in the heart. (Eph. 3:17-19) This means working to get information down past the head into the heart. Give the family reasons why they should want to do God’s will, why it is the very best course. Help all to see the folly of following the course that this world is taking. Show how the material applies to the family.
In all this, a key element is to draw the comments out by using questions. A good teacher will not only give answers, but concentrate on drawing them out of his pupils. And even the questions can vary—some short ones, true or false, multiple choice, and others. Variety adds spice.
Keep the view of eternal life in Paradise bright before the eyes of all, especially young ones. In one case, a six-year-old girl being taught the Bible started to school, but spoke only Spanish, and her teacher only English. One day the assignment was to tell the class what each one would like to do in the future. This little girl tried hard when her turn came, but could not make the teacher understand. Finally, she drew a picture of a furry lion and placed the teacher’s hand upon the drawing. Still not understanding, the teacher called the mother, who through a friend explained the child’s desire to play with a lion in Paradise. The teacher’s interest was aroused. She began studying the Bible and attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, all because a little girl had learned about playing with a lion in Paradise!—Isa. 11:6.
This also shows the value of highlighting illustrations when they appear in the study material. Take time to explain them, as they make a deep impression. In addition, you can make use of other aids such as charts or maps. When places are mentioned, their location can be noted on the map. Visual aids help to make the study more interesting.
Keep the setting comfortable, not too rigid. After the study, mother may get refreshments for the family, helping to make the evening enjoyable. Some families even choose to include other families in their study. They take turns in going to each other’s homes, adding to the interest and variety of comments. But others feel that they want their study limited to the immediate family.
A REAL BLESSING
The family study is truly a blessing from Jehovah. It provides spiritual feeding for both young and old, and that is so vital in these critical times. It also improves reading skills and mental abilities, particularly of the young. It builds close family bonds. It builds respect for father and mother. But most important of all, it builds deep respect for Jehovah, bringing his favor and eternal life in his new order.—John 17:3.
Will your children appreciate the family study? At first they may not, since “foolishness is tied up with the heart” of children. But in time they will. Note the comments of a married woman who wrote:
“I am so thankful for being raised in a home where we were instructed in Jehovah’s way. And maybe if parents know how much we do appreciate this way of life it would encourage more to take a strong stand with their children in teaching and enforcing Bible principles.
“Along with countless other Christian youths who ‘from infancy have known the holy writings,’ I daily thank Jehovah for my God-fearing Christian parents. I would like you to know how much this kind of training and discipline is appreciated.
“We three girls are in our twenties now and married, but I can easily remember our weekly Bible studies. Our Bible reading was another valuable part of this learning. We used to sit on the end of the bed every evening and take turns reading it.
“There were youths at school who ridiculed, and said things like ‘you never have any fun.’ But we had answers for these things. For one thing these decisions were ours. Dad always sat down with us and looked up scriptures until we had an answer for ourselves. He would say, ‘Let’s see what Jehovah says about this or that.’ An early love for Jehovah made us want to do the things that would please first our heavenly Father and in turn our earthly parents.
“Then in answer to not having fun we usually left the other youths with their mouths open. For one thing we had traveled to so many different assemblies, seeing firsthand many historical places, museums, zoos, gardens, national parks and other sites. We had been through the Bethel home and the factories in New York. We knew missionaries in different parts of the earth. We had brothers and sisters everywhere. In addition, our parents spent time with us in family picnics, outings and camping trips. We learned much about plant and animal life, many times watching various wild creatures play and work in their wild state.
“In all these things our parents made sure we didn’t miss the point: ‘Jehovah has given us all this and a promise for life everlasting, asking back only our love, obedience, and worship.’”
Yes, family study is the basis for true blessings. It provides children, and adults as well, with the firmest kind of foundation for life, both in this system and in God’s new order.
Are you having a family study? If not, why not organize one this very week?