“Young men and young women . . . Let them praise the name of Jehovah.”—PS. 148:12, 13.
1, 2. (a) What challenge do parents face, and how can they meet that challenge? (b) What four points will we now examine?
“WE BELIEVE in Jehovah, but that does not necessarily mean that our children will believe,” said a married couple in France. They commented: “Faith is not something you inherit. Our children acquire it little by little.” An Australian brother wrote: “Helping to build faith in your child’s heart is probably the greatest challenge you will ever face. You need to draw on every available resource. You may feel that you have dealt with a question to your child’s satisfaction. Then you find that he raises the same question again later! The answers that satisfy your child’s curious mind today may not be enough for him tomorrow. You may need to revisit some subjects regularly.”
2 If you are a parent, do you at times feel unequal to the responsibility of teaching and molding your children to become men and women who have faith? Really, in our own wisdom, none of us are up to the task! (Jer. 10:23) But we can succeed when we look to God for guidance. Consider four things that can assist you in helping your children to build faith: (1) Get to know them well. (2) Put your heart into your teaching. (3) Use good illustrations. (4) Be patient and prayerful.
KNOW YOUR CHILDREN WELL
3. How can parents imitate Jesus’ example in teaching?
3 Jesus was not afraid to ask his followers what they believed. (Matt. 16:13-15) Imitate his example. It is best, in a relaxed setting, to invite your children to express their feelings. That includes talking about any uncertainties, or doubts, they may have. A 15-year-old brother in Australia wrote: “Dad often talks with me about my faith and helps me to reason. He asks: ‘What does the Bible say?’ ‘Do you believe what it says?’ ‘Why do you believe it?’ He wants me to answer in my own words and not simply repeat his or Mum’s words. As I got older, I had to expand on my answers.”
4. Why is it important to take a child’s questions seriously? Give an example.
4 If a child is unsure about some teaching, try not to react too strongly or to respond as if you were on the defensive. Patiently help him to reason on the matter. “Take your child’s questions seriously,” said one father. “Do not dismiss them as of little importance, and do not avoid a subject simply because it may make you feel uncomfortable.” Actually, it is helpful to view your child’s sincere questions as an indication that he cares and wants to understand. Even at 12 years of age, Jesus asked serious questions. (Read Luke 2:46.) “When I said that I wondered if we had the true religion,” recalls a 15-year-old in Denmark, “my parents took it calmly—even though they may have been worried about me. They answered all my questions, using the Bible.”
5. How can parents show that they do not take their child’s faith for granted?
5 Get to know your children well—their thinking, their feelings, their concerns. Never assume that they have faith simply because they attend Christian meetings and share in the field service with you. Include spiritual discussions in your daily activities. Pray with and for your children. Try to be aware of any tests to their faith, and help them to deal with these.
PUT YOUR HEART INTO YOUR TEACHING
6. When parents inculcate Bible truth in their own heart, how does this help them as teachers?
6 As a teacher, Jesus reached hearts because he loved Jehovah, God’s Word, and people. (Luke 24:32; John 7:46) Similar love will help parents reach the hearts of their children. (Read Deuteronomy 6:5-8; Luke 6:45.) So parents, be good students of the Bible and of our study aids. Take an interest in creation and in articles in our publications that discuss this topic. (Matt. 6:26, 28) Your doing so will broaden your knowledge, deepen your appreciation for Jehovah, and better equip you to teach your young ones.—Luke 6:40.
7, 8. When a parent’s heart is filled with Bible truth, what will be the result? Illustrate.
7 When your heart is filled with Bible truth, you will want to discuss it with your family. Do this not only when preparing for Christian meetings or during family worship but at any time. Moreover, such discussions should not be forced but should be natural and spontaneous—a part of your everyday conversation. A couple in the United States reflect on Jehovah when the family enjoy an aspect of nature or certain foods. “We remind our children of the love and forethought that Jehovah put into everything he provided for us,” the parents state. When gardening with their two girls, a couple in South Africa point to aspects such as the marvels of how seeds germinate and then plants grow. “We try to develop in our daughters a great respect for life and its wonderful complexity,” say the parents.
8 When his son was about ten years old, a father in Australia took advantage of a visit to a museum to help his son to strengthen his faith in God and in creation. “We saw a display of ancient sea creatures called ammonoids and trilobites,” says the father. “It struck us that these extinct animals were beautiful, complex, and complete—no less so than what we can see today. So if life evolved from simple to more complex forms, why were these ancient creatures already so complex? It was a lesson that deeply impressed me and that I shared with my son.”
USE EFFECTIVE ILLUSTRATIONS
9. Why are illustrations effective, and how did one mother demonstrate this?
9 Jesus often used illustrations, which stimulate thinking, appeal to the heart, and aid the memory. (Matt. 13:34, 35) Children tend to have a vivid imagination. So parents, try to use illustrations liberally in your teaching. A mother in Japan did just that. When her two boys were eight and ten respectively, she taught them about earth’s atmosphere and the care Jehovah showed in making it. To do that, she gave the boys milk, sugar, and coffee. Then she asked each of the boys to make her a cup of coffee. “They took great care,” she explained. “When I asked them why they were so careful, they said that they wanted the coffee to be just the way I like it. I explained that God mixed the gases in the atmosphere with similar care—just right for us.” That illustration was fitting for their age, and it engaged them in a way that passive learning might not have. No doubt they long remembered the lesson!
10, 11. (a) What illustration could you use to help your child build faith in God? (See opening picture.) (b) What illustrations have you found to be effective?
10 You might even use a recipe to help your child build faith in God. How? After you bake a cake or a batch of cookies, explain the role of the recipe. Then hand your child a piece of fruit, perhaps an apple, and ask: “Did you know that this apple started off with a ‘recipe’?” Then cut the apple in two, and give him a seed. You could discuss that the recipe was “written” in the seed but in a language far more complex than the words in a recipe book. You might ask: “If the recipe for the cake had a writer, who wrote the much more complex recipe for the apple?” For an older child, you could explain that the recipe for the apple—in fact, for the entire tree on which it grew—was part of the code in the DNA. Together, you might even look at some of the illustrations on pages 10 to 20 of our brochure The Origin of Life—Five Questions Worth Asking.
11 Many parents enjoy discussing articles in the Awake! series “Was It Designed?” with their children. Or they use this feature as a basis for teaching simple ideas to very young children. For instance, a couple in Denmark compared airplanes to birds. “Airplanes look just like birds,” they said. “But can airplanes lay eggs and hatch small airplanes? Do birds need special landing strips? And how would you compare the sound of an airplane to the singing of a bird? So who is more intelligent—the maker of airplanes or the Creator of birds?” Such comments, along with good questions, can help a child to develop “thinking ability” and to build faith in God.—Prov. 2:10-12.
12. How can illustrations help children to build faith in the Bible?
12 Effective illustrations can also strengthen a child’s faith in the accuracy of the Bible. For example, consider Job 26:7. (Read.) How might you show that this scripture was inspired? You could just state facts. Instead, why not stimulate your child’s imagination? Bring up the fact that Job lived long before telescopes and spaceships. Your child’s job could be to show how difficult it might be for some to believe that a very large object, such as the earth, could sit on nothing. The child could use a ball or a stone to illustrate the point by showing that objects with mass have to rest on something. Such a lesson would impress on your child that Jehovah had facts recorded in the Bible long before humans could prove them.—Neh. 9:6.
ILLUSTRATE THE VALUE OF BIBLE PRINCIPLES
13, 14. How might parents impress on their children the value of Bible principles?
13 It is particularly important that you impress on your children the value of Bible principles. (Read Psalm 1:1-3.) There are many ways to do this. For example, you could ask your children to imagine that they are going to live on a remote island and will have to choose a number of people to live there with them. Then ask, “What qualities must each person have if all in the group are to live in peace and get along well?” You could also talk with them about the wise directions found at Galatians 5:19-23.
14 That exercise could teach two important lessons. First, God’s standards promote genuine peace and harmony. Second, by educating us now, Jehovah is preparing us for life in the new world. (Isa. 54:13; John 17:3) You could drive these points home by selecting an experience from our publications. It might be from the series “The Bible Changes Lives,” published in The Watchtower. Or if someone in your congregation has made major changes in order to please Jehovah, you could invite him to join you and share his story. Such examples bring Bible principles to life!—Heb. 4:12.
15. What should you have as a primary goal when teaching your children?
15 The point is this: When teaching your children, do not get into a rut. Try to use your imagination. Stimulate their thinking, keeping their age in mind. Make learning exciting, faith strengthening. “Never tire of experimenting with new ways to approach old subjects,” said one father.
BE FAITHFUL, PATIENT, PRAYERFUL
16. When teaching children, why is patience vital? Illustrate.
16 God’s spirit is needed to produce strong faith. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Like literal fruit, faith takes time to grow. Thus you will need to manifest patience and perseverance in teaching your children. “My wife and I simply gave our children a lot of attention,” said a father of two in Japan. “From the time they were very young, I studied with them for 15 minutes every day, except on days when we had Christian meetings. Fifteen minutes was not too hard for us or for them.” A circuit overseer wrote: “As a teenager, I had many more questions or doubts than I ever put into words. Over time, many of these were addressed at meetings or during family or personal study. That’s why it’s important for parents just to keep teaching.”
17. Why is good parental example important, and how has one couple set such an example for their girls?
17 Something that is very important, of course, is your example of faith. Your children will observe what you do, and it certainly will affect them for the good. So as parents, keep building your own faith. Let your children see how real Jehovah is to you. When a couple in Bermuda have anxious moments, they pray with their children that Jehovah guide them, and they encourage their children to pray on their own. “We also tell our older daughter, ‘Have complete trust in Jehovah, keep busy in Kingdom service, and do not worry too much.’ When she sees the outcome, she knows that Jehovah is helping us. This has done wonders for her faith in God and in the Bible.”
18. What important fact must parents recognize?
18 In the end, of course, children have to develop their own faith. As parents, you can plant and water. Only God can make it grow. (1 Cor. 3:6) So pray for his spirit, and work hard to teach your precious children, for by doing so, you give Jehovah much to bless.—Eph. 6:4.