Family Study That Brings Joy
“By knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 24:4) These precious things of value are not just material treasures but include true love, godly fear, and strong faith. Such qualities indeed create a rich family life. (Proverbs 15:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:7) To acquire them, though, we need to bring the knowledge of God into our households.
THE family head has the responsibility of inculcating this knowledge in the members of the family. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Ephesians 5:25, 26; 6:4) One of the finest ways of doing this is through a regular family study. How delightful this can be for the participants when the study is conducted in a way that is both instructive and enjoyable! Let us, then, consider some essentials of conducting an effective family study.*
A family study is most effective when it is regular. Left up to chance or to a spur-of-the-moment decision, it is likely to be infrequent at best. So you must ‘buy out the time’ for the study. (Ephesians 5:15-17) Coming up with a regular time that is convenient for all can be a challenge. “We had difficulty keeping our family study regular,” confesses one family head. “We tried different times until we finally found a time slot a little later in the evening that worked for us. Now our family study is regular.”
Once you have a suitable time slot, be careful not to allow distractions to crowd out the study. “If visitors came while we were having a study,” recalls Maria,* now 33, “Daddy would invite them to wait until the study was over. And as for phone calls, he would simply tell the person that he would return the call later.”
This, however, does not mean that there can be no room for flexibility. Emergencies or unforeseen occurrences may arise, and it may be necessary to cancel or postpone the study occasionally. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) But be careful not to allow any of these to derail your routine.—Philippians 3:16.
How long should a study last? Robert, who has successfully brought up a daughter and a son, says: “Our studies usually lasted an hour. When the children were young, we tried to hold their interest during the hour by considering a variety of things, such as a few paragraphs in the study article in The Watchtower, selected passages from the Bible, and portions of other publications.” Maria remembers: “When my two sisters and I were very young, our study was about 20 minutes two or three times a week. As we grew older, our weekly family study lasted an hour or so.”
What Should We Study?
Contemplating this question when everyone is gathered around for a study would result in frustration and the loss of valuable study time. If that were the case, children would have nothing specific to look forward to and would soon lose interest. So select in advance one of the Society’s publications to go through.
“The faithful and discreet slave” has provided an abundance of publications to choose from. (Matthew 24:45-47) Perhaps you can use a book that the family has not studied yet. And what a delight it is to consider selected portions from Insight on the Scriptures if these volumes are available in your language! For example, you could review the article on the Lord’s Evening Meal during the weeks prior to the Memorial. Many families enjoy preparing the Watchtower Study for the week. But the secondary articles in The Watchtower also provide excellent material for study. The family head, who knows the spiritual needs of the family, is in the best position to decide which publications should be studied.
“We always studied a publication selected ahead of time,” remembers Maria. “But when a question came up or a situation arose at school, then we would switch to the applicable information.” Special concerns, such as the problems youths face at school, dating, extracurricular activities, and the like, do come up. When this happens, branch out into the articles or publications that deal with the problem at hand. If you see information in the latest issue of The Watchtower or Awake! that you would like to cover with the family right away, do not hesitate to arrange that. Of course, you would want to inform the family members of the change ahead of time. But be sure to return to the scheduled material once the need is cared for.
Keep the Atmosphere Tranquil
Learning occurs best under peaceful conditions. (James 3:18) So cultivate a relaxed, yet respectful, atmosphere. One family head in the United States says: “Whether we study in the living room or on the sun porch, we try to stay fairly close to each other rather than spread out in a large room. For us, this creates a warm feeling.” And Maria recalls with great fondness: “My sisters and I were allowed to choose where in the house we would have the study that week. This made us feel comfortable.” Keep in mind that proper lighting, a suitable seating arrangement, and cheerful and uncluttered surroundings all contribute to tranquillity. Having refreshments for the family after the study also helps make the evening enjoyable.
Some families even choose to include other families in their study on occasion, adding to the interest as well as the variety of comments. When new ones in the truth are invited to share in this arrangement, they can benefit from observing an experienced family head conduct a family study.
Make the Bible Come Alive
Make study periods lively for the children, and they will eagerly look forward to them. You can do this by encouraging little children to draw pictures of Bible scenes. When appropriate, have children act out Bible events and dramas. With young children it is not necessary to stick to a formal question-and-answer method. Reading or telling stories about Bible characters is an enjoyable way to inculcate godly principles. Robert, mentioned earlier, recalls: “Sometimes we would read Bible passages, taking turns, reading the various ‘voice’ parts by assignment.” Children can be invited to choose the character they want to portray in the reading.
Using maps and charts will help older children visualize the areas and features of the land where events being discussed took place. Clearly, with a little imagination, a family study can be made lively and varied. And the children will form a longing for God’s Word.—1 Peter 2:2, 3.
Help Everyone to Participate
For children to enjoy the study, they must also feel involved. Getting children of different ages to participate, however, can be a challenge. But a Bible principle states: “He that presides, let him do it in real earnest.” (Romans 12:8) Being enthusiastic helps, for enthusiasm is contagious.
Ronald involves his five-year-old daughter, Dina, by having her read subheadings in the study material and asking her to comment on the pictures. As the Memorial of Christ’s death approached last year, he focused on the pertinent illustrations in the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.* He notes: “This helped her to understand the significance of the event.”
With his ten-year-old daughter, Misha, Ronald goes a step further. “Misha has progressed to the point where she can understand not just what the illustrations are but the meaning they portray,” says Ronald. “So when considering the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!,* we concentrated on the meaning of the illustrations, and this has helped her.”
As children grow into their teens, invite them to make practical application of the material under consideration. When questions come up during the study, assign research parts. Robert did that when his 12-year-old, Paul, asked about a newly formed school club involving the game Dungeons and Dragons. Paul and others in the family looked up information using the Watchtower Publications Index, and they reviewed it at their family study. “As a result,” says Robert, “Paul quickly understood that the game was wrong for Christians.”
Robert also assigned research at other times. His wife, Nancy, recalls: “When we researched the apostles of Jesus, each of us was assigned one apostle every week. How thrilling it was to see the children enthusiastically present their report at the family study!” Doing their own research and sharing the information with the family helps children ‘grow up with Jehovah.’—1 Samuel 2:20, 21.
Asking questions—viewpoint as well as leading questions—is also a fine way to get children involved. The Master Teacher, Jesus, asked viewpoint questions, such as, “What do you think?” (Matthew 17:25) “When any of us had a question, our parents never answered us directly,” remembers Maria. “They always asked leading questions, helping us to reason on the matter.”
Communicate—Do Not Irritate!
The joy of a family study is enhanced if all present can communicate their viewpoints and feelings without the fear of being ridiculed. But “good communication during a family study is possible only if the lines of communication are open at other times,” says one father. “You cannot put it on just for the study period.” By all means, avoid thoughtless comments that stab, such as, ‘Is that all? I thought it was something important’; ‘That is silly’; ‘Well, what do you expect? You are just a child anyway.’ (Proverbs 12:18) Be compassionate and merciful to your children. (Psalm 103:13; Malachi 3:17) Find pleasure in them, and support them as they endeavor to apply what they are learning.
The mood of the family study should be such that the child’s mind is receptive to instruction. “When you start to correct children,” explains one successful parent of four, “you have a somewhat hostile audience.” In such an atmosphere, the information probably will not sink in. So avoid making the study periods sessions for discipline and punishment. If they are needed, administer these later and individually.
The Effort Is Worthwhile
Building a spiritually rich family takes time and effort. But the psalmist declares: “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3) And the parents are entrusted with the responsibility of “bringing [children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) So develop the skills to conduct an effective and enjoyable family study. Do your best to provide “the unadulterated milk belonging to the word,” so that your children may “grow to salvation.”—1 Peter 2:2; John 17:3.
Although many suggestions presented in this article pertain to helping children in a family study, the concepts apply also to a family study where there are no children.
Some of the names have been changed.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.