How to Teach Children About God—What Methods Work Best?
“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.”—DEUTERONOMY 6:6, 7.
PARENTS may at times feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of training their children. When they seek advice, however, the sheer volume of counsel on the subject may swamp them further. Relatives and friends are often keen to pass on their suggestions. And books, magazine articles, and Internet sites offer parents a constant stream of sometimes conflicting advice.
The Bible, on the other hand, provides parents not only reliable counsel on what to teach their children but also practical direction on how to teach them. As the Bible verses quoted above indicate, parents need to find some way each day to talk about God to their children. Discussed below are just four Bible-based suggestions that have helped thousands of parents to teach their children about God.
1. Draw lessons from creation. The apostle Paul wrote: “[God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) Parents can do much to help their children see God as a real Person by drawing attention to God’s creative works and then helping their children discern what qualities of God those creations reveal.
Jesus used this technique when teaching his disciples. For example, he said: “Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?” (Matthew 6:26) Jesus here highlighted Jehovah’s qualities of love and compassion. But he did more. He helped his disciples reason on how God expressed those qualities toward his children.
Wise King Solomon pointed to the instinctive wisdom God gave to ants, and he used these little creatures to emphasize a valuable lesson. “Go to the ant, you lazy one,” he wrote, “see its ways and become wise. Although it has no commander, officer or ruler, it prepares its food even in the summer; it has gathered its food supplies even in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8) What a powerful way to teach the value of setting worthwhile goals and then using our God-given strength to achieve them!
Parents can imitate the effective teaching of Jesus and Solomon by doing the following: (1) Ask their children which plants and animals interest them. (2) Learn more about those plants and animals. (3) Draw lessons about God from such creations.
2. Imitate Jesus’ attitude toward those whom he taught. Of all the people who ever lived, Jesus had the most important things to say. Yet, he spent much of his time asking questions. He was keenly interested in the thoughts and feelings of those whom he taught. (Matthew 17:24, 25; Mark 8:27-29) Similarly, parents have many important lessons to teach their children. To be effective, though, they need to imitate Jesus and encourage their children to state freely how they feel.
What if children display a bad attitude or are slow to learn some valuable lesson? Consider the way Jesus dealt with the apostles. They at times argued bitterly among themselves and were slow to learn the benefits of being humble. Yet, Jesus remained patient and repeatedly spoke about the need for humility. (Mark 9:33, 34; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24, 25) Parents who imitate Jesus will patiently correct their children and, if needed, will repeat the same lesson until the children fully grasp its importance.*
3. Teach by example. Parents do well to listen to the counsel the apostle Paul gave to Christians living in Rome. To them he wrote: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal?”—Romans 2:21.
That advice is relevant because children are far more impressed by what parents do than by what they say. In fact, parents who practice what they preach are more likely to have children who listen to what their parents teach.
4. Start while the child is young. The apostle Paul’s missionary companion Timothy had an excellent reputation in his community. (Acts 16:1, 2) One reason was that “from infancy” he had been taught “the holy writings.” Timothy’s mother and grandmother not only read the Scriptures to him but also helped him to reason on the truths those writings contain.—2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15.
Where You Can Find Help
Jehovah’s Witnesses produce a number of publications specifically designed to help parents teach their children the truth about God. Some are written with young children in mind. Others can help parents and their teenage children keep the lines of communication open.*
Of course, before parents can teach their children about God, they need to know the answers to some of the difficult questions that children may raise. For example, how would you answer such questions as the following: Why does God allow suffering? What is God’s purpose for the earth? Where are the dead? Jehovah’s Witnesses would be happy to help you learn the answers to those and other questions so that you and your family can draw close to God.—James 4:8.
The Hebrew word translated “inculcate” at Deuteronomy 6:7 carries the thought of repeating a point often.
For younger children, parents can use the book Learn From the Great Teacher, which highlights the teachings of Jesus Christ, or My Book of Bible Stories, which relates in simple language key lessons from the Bible. For youths, parents can use the books Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volumes 1 and 2.