Regularly Study God’s Word as a Family
“Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—MATTHEW 4:4.
1. What does the Bible say about the responsibility of family heads to teach their children Jehovah’s ways?
JEHOVAH GOD gave family heads frequent reminders of their responsibility to teach their children. Such instruction would equip the children for the present life and could also help to prepare them for the life to come. An angel representing God pointed out to Abraham his responsibility to teach his household so that they would “keep Jehovah’s way.” (Genesis 18:19) Israelite parents were told to explain to their children how God had delivered Israel from Egypt and how he had given them his Law at Mount Sinai, in Horeb. (Exodus 13:8, 9; Deuteronomy 4:9, 10; 11:18-21) Christian family heads are admonished to bring up their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Even if only one parent serves Jehovah, that one should endeavor to teach the children Jehovah’s ways.—2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15.
2. Is family study needed if there are no children in the home? Explain.
2 This does not mean that family study of God’s Word is only for households where there are children. When a husband and wife have a family study even if there are no children in the home, this shows fine appreciation for spiritual things.—Ephesians 5:25, 26.
3. Why is regularity of the family study important?
3 To accomplish the most good, instruction needs to be given regularly, in harmony with the lesson that Jehovah taught Israel in the wilderness: “Not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Depending on the circumstances of the family, some households may arrange for a weekly study; others may have shorter study sessions on a daily basis. Whatever arrangement you choose, do not leave the study to chance. ‘Buy out the time’ for it. Paying the needed price for such time is a sound investment. The lives of the members of your family are at stake.—Ephesians 5:15-17; Philippians 3:16.
Objectives to Keep in Mind
4, 5. (a) Through Moses, what did Jehovah set before parents as an important objective in teaching their children? (b) What does that involve today?
4 When you conduct the family study, it will accomplish the greatest good if you have in mind clearly defined objectives. Consider a few possibilities.
5 At each study, seek to build up love for Jehovah God. While Israel was assembled on the plains of Moab, before they entered the Promised Land, Moses focused their attention on what Jesus Christ would later identify as “the greatest commandment in the Law.” What was it? “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Matthew 22:36, 37; Deuteronomy 6:5) Moses urged the Israelites to impress this on their own hearts and to teach it to their children. That would require repetition, drawing attention to reasons for loving Jehovah, dealing with attitudes and conduct that could hinder the expression of such love, and demonstrating love for Jehovah in their own lives. Do our children need the same sort of instruction? Yes! And they too need help to ‘circumcise their heart,’ that is, to remove anything that would impede their love for God. (Deuteronomy 10:12, 16; Jeremiah 4:4) Among such impediments may be a desire for things of the world and for opportunities to get immersed in its activities. (1 John 2:15, 16) Love for Jehovah must be active, expressive, moving us to do the things pleasing to our heavenly Father. (1 John 5:3) For your family study to have long-term benefits, every session should be conducted in a manner that strengthens this love.
6. (a) What is required in order to impart accurate knowledge? (b) How do the Scriptures emphasize the importance of accurate knowledge?
6 Impart accurate knowledge of God’s requirements. What does that involve? It involves more than being able to read an answer out of a magazine or a book. It usually requires discussion to make sure that key words and principal ideas are clearly understood. Accurate knowledge is a vital factor in putting on the new personality, in keeping in focus the really important things when dealing with problems in life, and, thus, in doing what truly pleases God.—Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9, 10; 3:10.
7. (a) Use of what questions may help the family to make practical application of study material? (b) How do the Scriptures emphasize the value of such an objective?
7 Help to make practical application of what is learned. With this objective in view, during each family study, ask: ‘How should this material affect our lives? Does it require any change from what we are doing at present? Why should we want to make adjustments?’ (Proverbs 2:10-15; 9:10; Isaiah 48:17, 18) Giving sufficient attention to the practical application of things learned can be an important factor in the spiritual growth of family members.
Use Teaching Tools Wisely
8. What tools for Bible study has the slave class provided?
8 “The faithful and discreet slave” has provided an abundance of tools that can be used for study. The Watchtower magazine, for use with the Bible, is available in 131 languages. There are books for Bible study in 153 languages, brochures in 284, audiocassettes in 61, videocassettes in 41, even a computer program for Bible research in 9 languages!—Matthew 24:45-47.
9. How might we apply the counsel in the scriptures cited in this paragraph when having a family Watchtower study?
9 Many households use the family study period to prepare for the congregation Watchtower Study. How helpful that can be! The Watchtower contains the principal spiritual food that is provided to build up Jehovah’s people worldwide. When you study The Watchtower as a family, do more than read paragraphs and answer printed questions. Earnestly seek understanding. Take time to look up scriptures that are cited but not quoted. Invite family members to comment on how these are related to what is stated in the paragraph under consideration. Get the heart involved.—Proverbs 4:7, 23; Acts 17:11.
10. What can be done to involve the children in the study and to make it an enjoyable time for them?
10 If there are children in your household, what can you do to make your study not merely a family ritual but an upbuilding, interesting, and happy time? Endeavor to keep each one involved in an appropriate way so that the attention stays focused on the study material. Where possible, arrange for each child to have his own Bible and study magazine. In imitation of the warmth displayed by Jesus, a parent may have a young child sit very close, perhaps putting an arm around the little one. (Compare Mark 10:13-16.) A family head may have a youngster explain a picture that appears with the study material. A young child might be assigned in advance to read a certain scripture. An older one might be assigned to point out opportunities for practical application of the study material.
11. What other teaching tools have been provided, and where these are available, how might they be beneficially used in connection with the family study?
11 Though you may be using The Watchtower as a basis for your discussion, do not forget the other study tools that are available in many languages. If background information or explanation of a Bible expression is needed, Insight on the Scriptures may provide it. Other questions may be answered by consulting the Watch Tower Publications Index or by using the computer research program provided by the Society. Learning to use these tools, if they are available in your language, can be a valuable part of family study. With a view to stimulating the interest of young ones, you may also set aside part of your study time to watch a portion of one of the Society’s instructive videos or to listen to a section of a drama on audiocassette and then discuss it. Good use of these study tools can help to make your family study interesting and beneficial to the entire family.
Adapt to Your Family’s Needs
12. How can the family study play a role in dealing with pressing family needs?
12 It may be that your family usually studies the Watchtower lesson for the week. But keep your finger on the pulse of the family. If the mother does not have secular work, she may be able to spend time with the children every day when they come home from school. Some situations can be handled then; others may need further attention. When there are pressing family needs, do not ignore them. (Proverbs 27:12) These may involve not only problems at school but also other situations. Select appropriate material, and notify the family in advance about what will be studied.
13. Why might family discussion of how to cope with poverty be beneficial?
13 As an example, a large part of the earth is in the grip of poverty; so in many places, it may be necessary to discuss how to cope with it. Would a family study built around real-life situations and Bible principles be advantageous to your household?—Proverbs 21:5; Ecclesiastes 9:11; Hebrews 13:5, 6, 18.
14. What situations might make family discussion of Jehovah’s view of violence, war, and Christian neutrality timely?
14 Another subject requiring discussion is violence. All of us need to have Jehovah’s view firmly impressed on our minds and hearts. (Genesis 6:13; Psalm 11:5) Family study of this subject can provide a forum for discussing how to deal with bullies at school, whether to train in martial arts, and how to select suitable entertainment. Violent conflicts have become common; nearly every country is plagued either with civil war, with political or ethnic strife, or with gang wars. As a result, your family may need a discussion about maintaining Christian conduct while surrounded by warring factions.—Isaiah 2:2-4; John 17:16.
15. How should instruction about sex and marriage be given to children?
15 As children grow, they need instruction about sex and marriage, suitable to their age. In some cultures most parents never discuss sex with their children. Uninformed children may get twisted views from other youths, and the results can be disastrous. Would it not be better to imitate Jehovah, who gives straightforward but tasteful counsel on this matter in the Bible? Godly counsel will help our children to maintain self-respect and to treat those of the opposite sex with dignity. (Proverbs 5:18-20; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) Even if you have already discussed these matters, do not hesitate to do it again. As new situations arise, repetition is vital.
16. (a) In various households, when is family study done? (b) How have you dealt with obstacles in order to have a regular family study?
16 When can family study be done? In imitation of Bethel families around the earth, many households schedule their family study on Monday evening. For others it is different. In Argentina a family of 11, including 9 children, regularly got up at five o’clock every morning to have their family study. Because of varied work schedules, no other time was possible. It was not easy, but it impressed on the minds and hearts of the children the importance of family study. In the Philippines an elder had a regular family study with his wife and their three children as they were growing up. During the week the parents also had personal studies with each of the children so that each one would make the truth his own. In the United States, a sister whose husband is not a Witness walks with her children to the school bus each morning. While waiting for the bus, they spend about ten minutes together reading and discussing appropriate Scriptural study material, and then the mother offers a short prayer before the children board the bus. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woman whose unbelieving husband deserted the family has to work hard at study because of her limited education. Her grown son helps by visiting the family each week to take the lead in a study involving his mother and his younger brothers. The mother sets a fine example by her diligent preparation. Is there some situation that makes regular family study difficult in your household? Do not give up. Earnestly seek Jehovah’s blessing on your efforts to have a regular Bible study.—Mark 11:23, 24.
Rewards From Perseverance
17. (a) In order to have a regular family study, what is required? (b) What experience illustrates the value of regular family instruction in Jehovah’s ways?
17 Planning is needed. Perseverance is required. But the benefits that come from regular family study are well worth it. (Proverbs 22:6; 3 John 4) Franz and Hilda, in Germany, raised a family of 11 children. Years later, their daughter Magdalena said: “What I consider of most importance today is that there was not a single day that passed without our receiving some spiritual instruction.” When the spirit of nationalism became intense under Adolf Hitler, Magdalena’s father used the Bible to prepare his family for the tests that he realized were coming. In time, the younger family members were seized and taken to a reform school; others of the family were arrested and held in prisons and concentration camps. Some were executed. The faith of all of them held firm—not only during that time of fierce persecution but also, for the survivors, during the years that followed.
18. How have the efforts of single parents been rewarded?
18 Many single parents, as well as those whose mates do not share their faith, have likewise provided their children with regular Bible instruction. A single mother, a widow, in India worked hard to instill love for Jehovah in her two children. Her heart was broken, however, when her son stopped associating with Jehovah’s people. She begged Jehovah to forgive her for any shortcomings in her training of her son. But the son had not really forgotten what he had learned. After more than a decade, he returned, made fine spiritual progress, and became a congregation elder. Now he and his wife serve as full-time pioneer ministers. How grateful are those parents who have taken to heart the counsel from Jehovah and his organization to provide regular Bible instruction within the family circle! Are you applying that counsel in your household?
Can You Explain?
□ Why is regular family study important?
□ What should our objectives be during each family study?
□ What tools for teaching have been made available to us?
□ How can the study be adapted to family needs?
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Definite objectives will enhance your family study