Families, Praise God as Part of His Congregation
“Among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.”—PSALM 26:12.
1. What is an important part of true worship in addition to study and prayer at home?
WORSHIP of Jehovah includes not only prayer and study of the Bible at home but also activity as part of the congregation of God. Ancient Israel was commanded to “congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones,” to learn the law of God so as to walk in his way. (Deuteronomy 31:12; Joshua 8:35) Both older ones and ‘young men and virgins’ were encouraged to share in praising the name of Jehovah. (Psalm 148:12, 13) Similar arrangements apply within the Christian congregation. In Kingdom Halls throughout the earth, men, women, and children participate freely in sessions that involve the audience, and many find great pleasure in having a share.—Hebrews 10:23-25.
2. (a) Why is preparation a key factor in helping young ones to enjoy the meetings? (b) Whose example is important?
2 True, helping young ones to get into a wholesome routine of congregation activity can be a challenge. If some children who attend with their parents apparently do not enjoy the meetings, what may be the problem? Of course, most children have a short attention span and are easily bored. Preparation can help to handle this problem. Without preparation, children cannot share in the meetings in a meaningful way. (Proverbs 15:23) Without preparation, it will be difficult for them to make spiritual advancement that brings satisfaction. (1 Timothy 4:12, 15) What can be done? First, parents need to ask whether they themselves prepare for the meetings. Their example is a powerful influence. (Luke 6:40) Careful planning of the family study can also be an important factor.
Building Up the Heart
3. During the family study, why should special effort be made to build up hearts, and what does this require?
3 The family study should be a time not merely to fill heads with knowledge but also to build up hearts. This requires both an awareness of the problems that confront family members and a loving concern for each one. Jehovah is “an examiner of the heart.”—1 Chronicles 29:17.
4. (a) What does it mean to be “in want of heart”? (b) What is involved in “acquiring heart”?
4 What does Jehovah find when he examines the hearts of our children? Most of them would say that they love God, and that is commendable. Yet, one who is young or who is newly learning about Jehovah has limited experience in Jehovah’s ways. Because he is inexperienced, he may be “in want of heart,” as the Bible expresses it. Perhaps not all his motives are bad, but it takes time to bring one’s heart into a condition that will really please God. This involves bringing one’s thoughts, desires, affections, emotions, and goals in life into harmony with what God approves, to the extent that this is possible for imperfect humans. When someone does such molding of the inner person in a godly way, he is “acquiring heart.”—Proverbs 9:4; 19:8.
5, 6. How can parents help their children to ‘acquire heart’?
5 Can parents help their children to ‘acquire heart’? True, no human can put a good condition of heart into another person. Each one of us is endowed with free will, and much depends on what we allow ourselves to think about. With discernment, however, parents can often draw their child out, learning what is in the heart and where help is needed. Use such questions as ‘How do you feel about this?’ and ‘What would you really like to do?’ Then, listen patiently. Do not overreact. (Proverbs 20:5) An atmosphere of kindness, understanding, and love is important if you want to reach the heart.
6 To fortify wholesome inclinations, frequently discuss the fruitage of the spirit—each aspect of it—and work together as a family to cultivate it. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Build up love for Jehovah and for Jesus Christ, not merely by saying that we should love them but by discussing the reasons why we love them and how we can express that love. (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) Strengthen the desire to do what is right by reasoning on the benefits that will result. Build up the desire to shun wrong thoughts, speech, and conduct by discussing the bad effects of such things. (Amos 5:15; 3 John 11) Show how thoughts, speech, and conduct—whether good or bad—can affect one’s relationship with Jehovah.
7. What can be done to help children to deal with problems and to make decisions in a way that will keep them close to Jehovah?
7 When a child has a problem or needs to make an important decision, we could ask him: ‘How do you think Jehovah views this? What do you know about Jehovah that makes you say that? Have you prayed to him about it?’ Starting as early as possible, help your children to build a pattern of life in which an earnest effort is always made to ascertain God’s will and then to do it. As they come to have a close, personal relationship with Jehovah, they will find pleasure in walking in his paths. (Psalm 119:34, 35) This will build within them appreciation for the privilege of being associated with the congregation of the true God.
Preparation for Congregation Meetings
8. (a) What may help us to include in our family study all the things that need attention? (b) How important is this study?
8 There are many matters that need attention during periods of family study. How can you fit them all in? It is impossible to do everything at the same time. But you may find it helpful to make a checklist. (Proverbs 21:5) From time to time, review it and consider what needs special attention. Take a keen interest in the progress of each family member. This arrangement for family study is an important part of Christian education, equipping us for life now and preparing us for the eternal life to come.—1 Timothy 4:8.
9. What goals regarding meeting preparation might we gradually work on during our family studies?
9 Does your family study include preparation for congregation meetings? There are a number of projects that you might progressively work on as you study together. Some of these may require weeks, months, or even years to accomplish. Consider these goals: (1) each one in the family ready to comment at the congregation meetings; (2) each one working on giving comments in his own words; (3) including scriptures in comments; and (4) analyzing the material with a view to personal application. All of this can help an individual to make the truth his own.—Psalm 25:4, 5.
10. (a) How might we give attention to each of our congregation meetings? (b) Why is this worthwhile?
10 Even if your family study is usually based on the Watchtower lesson for the week, do not overlook the importance of individual or family preparation for the Congregation Book Study, the Theocratic Ministry School, and the Service Meeting. These too are important parts of the program for teaching us to walk in Jehovah’s way. You may periodically be able to prepare for the meetings as a family group. By your working together, study skills will be improved. As a result, more good will be derived from the meetings themselves. Among other things, discuss the benefits of regular preparation for these meetings and the importance of having a definite time set aside for it.—Ephesians 5:15-17.
11, 12. How would preparation for congregation singing benefit us, and how might this be done?
11 At the “God’s Way of Life” Conventions, we were encouraged to prepare for another feature of our meetings—the singing. Have you followed through on that? Doing so can help to etch Bible truths on our minds and hearts and at the same time enhance our enjoyment of congregation meetings.
12 Preparation that includes reading and discussing the meaning of the words in some of the scheduled songs can help us to sing from the heart. In ancient Israel, musical instruments were prominently used in worship. (1 Chronicles 25:1; Psalm 28:7) Does someone in your family play a musical instrument? Why not use that instrument to practice one of the Kingdom songs for the week, and then sing the song as a family. Another possibility is to use a recording of the songs. In some lands our brothers sing beautifully without musical accompaniment. As they walk on the roads or go about their work in the fields, they often enjoy singing the songs that are scheduled for the congregation meetings that week.—Ephesians 5:19.
Family Preparation for Field Service
13, 14. Why are family discussions that prepare our hearts for the field ministry valuable?
13 Witnessing to others about Jehovah and his purpose is an important part of our lives. (Isaiah 43:10-12; Matthew 24:14) Whether young or old, we enjoy this activity more and we accomplish greater good if we are prepared. How can we do this within the family?
14 As with all matters that involve our worship, it is important to prepare our hearts. We need to discuss not only what we are going to do but also why we are going to do it. In the days of King Jehoshaphat, the people were given instruction in divine law, but the Bible tells us that they “had not yet prepared their heart.” This left them vulnerable to enticements that could take them away from true worship. (2 Chronicles 20:33; 21:11) Our goal is not simply to be able to report hours spent in the field service, nor is it merely to place literature. Our ministry should be an expression of our love for Jehovah and of our love for people who need the opportunity to choose life. (Hebrews 13:15) It is activity in which we are “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) What a privilege! As we share in the ministry, we do so in cooperation with the holy angels. (Revelation 14:6, 7) What better time could there be to build up appreciation for this than in family discussions, whether at our weekly study or when discussing an appropriate text from Examining the Scriptures Daily!
15. When might we prepare for field service as a family?
15 Do you occasionally use time at your family study to assist the members of your household to prepare for the week’s field service? Doing so can be very beneficial. (2 Timothy 2:15) It can help to make their service meaningful and productive. Occasionally, you might set aside an entire study session for such preparation. More often, you might deal with aspects of the field ministry in shorter discussions at the end of the family study or at some other time during the week.
16. Discuss the value of each of the steps listed in the paragraph.
16 Family sessions might focus on a series of steps, such as the following: (1) Prepare a well-rehearsed presentation including a scripture to read from the Bible if opportunity permits. (2) Make sure that each one has, if possible, his own field service bag, a Bible, a notebook, a pen or pencil, tracts, and other literature in good condition. The service bag does not have to be expensive, but it should be neat. (3) Discuss where and how to do informal witnessing. Follow up each stage of this instruction with periods during which you work together in the field service. Offer helpful suggestions, but do not counsel on too many points.
17, 18. (a) What sort of preparation as a family can help to make our field ministry more fruitful? (b) What aspect of this preparation could be done each week?
17 A major part of the work that Jesus Christ assigned to his followers is disciple making. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Making disciples involves more than preaching. It requires teaching. How can your family study help you to be effective in doing this?
18 As a family, discuss whom it would be good to make return visits on. Some of them may have accepted literature; some may simply have listened. They may have been met in the house-to-house work or in informal witnessing at the market or at school. Let God’s Word guide you. (Psalm 25:9; Ezekiel 9:4) Decide whom each one of you wants to call on that week. What will be talked about? Family discussion can help each member to prepare. Make note of specific scriptures to share with interested ones as well as appropriate points from the brochure What Does God Require of Us? or the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Do not try to cover too much on one call. Leave the householder with a question that will be answered on the next visit. Why not make it part of the weekly family routine to plan which return visits each one is going to make, when he will make them, and what he hopes to accomplish. Doing this can help to make the field ministry of the entire family more fruitful.
Go On Teaching Them Jehovah’s Way
19. If family members are to continue walking in Jehovah’s way, what must they experience, and what contributes to this?
19 Being a family head in this wicked world is a challenge. Satan and his demons endeavor to destroy the spirituality of Jehovah’s servants. (1 Peter 5:8) Moreover, today there is a lot of pressure on you parents, especially on you single parents. It is difficult to find the time to do all the things you would like to do. But it is worth the effort, even if you can apply just one suggestion at a time, and gradually improve your family study program. Seeing those who are very close to you walk loyally in Jehovah’s way is a heartwarming reward. To walk successfully in Jehovah’s way, family members need to find joy in being at congregation meetings and in sharing in the field ministry. For that to be true, preparation is required—preparation that builds up the heart and that equips each one to have a meaningful share.
20. What can help more parents to experience the sort of joy that is expressed at 3 John 4?
20 Concerning those whom he had helped spiritually, the apostle John wrote: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) Family studies that are conducted with clear objectives in mind and family heads who deal in a kind, helpful manner with the individual needs of family members can do much to enable the family to share such joy. By cultivating appreciation for God’s way of life, parents are helping their family to enjoy the very best way of life.—Psalm 19:7-11.
Can You Explain?
□ Why is meeting preparation so important for our children?
□ How can parents help their children to ‘acquire heart’?
□ How can our family study help in preparing for all the meetings?
□ How might preparing for field service as a family help us to be more effective?
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Your family study may include preparation for congregation meetings
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Practice for singing at the meetings is beneficial