One of the greatest blessings in the Truth is the opportunity to bring up children in a godly environment. We need to realise that they are God’s children lent to us to look after for Him. This great privilege is also a responsibility. As the response of the world diminishes, the future of the ecclesia lies increasingly in our children. We  are therefore preparing the ecclesia of tomorrow,  should the Master remain way. This then is a most important work of the younger married couples in  the brotherhood.

Dealing with children often requires quick  thinking, so we should watch our own spiritual  development, that our instinctive reaction is right,  guiding our young ones through times of joy and  sorrow, laughter and crying, triumphs and disasters,  with a continuing recognition of God’s love in all  our lives. Our love of the Truth should be strong so  that as young minds grow in discernment they may  see that we love them and the Truth, and we may  have the joy of seeing them led to obedience.

The process starts before the child is conceived.  The “seed of Elohim” sought by Yahweh is first of  all in the parents (Mal 2:15 mrg). Eve was formed  “to evoke” in Adam “the latent resemblances of  his similitude” to the Elohim (Elpis Israel p47).  The spiritual development of both parents with a  full commitment to the Truth, working together  and helping each other will provide a godly  harmonious home. This is easier said than done,  but perseverance is well worthwhile.

Before the first child is born there are a few  months’ opportunity to prepare for the birth. The  hormonal changes taking place within the mother  will need patience and understanding from the  father. There will be work involved in preparation  of the house for the new arrival. The miracle of  new life and the wonder it brings will be balanced  by the fact that life will never be the same again  when the baby is born. Interrupted nights’ sleep  may bring tiredness and lack of concentration. We  know not “how the bones do grow in the womb”  (Eccl 11:5), reminding us that this is a work of God,  and He should be at the centre of our thoughts at  this time.

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow,  because her hour is come: but as soon as she is  delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the  anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world”  (John 16:21). This reminds us that all our sorrows  are a prelude to a time of joy. This miracle of new  life, adorable and cuddly as it may be, is nevertheless  “flesh” and will need to be trained in spiritual values.  Its desire for milk is an indication of the desire we  should have for the Word (1Pet 2:2).

The mother is mainly involved in the early  stages of a child’s life. Hannah “gave her son suck  until she had weaned him” (1Sam 1:23). We read  that Samuel “grew” (2:21) and John and Jesus  “waxed strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80; 2:40). The  Truth must still come first. Mummy’s spiritual  health is important as she adopts new routines, so  the ecclesia and family will not be forgotten. She  will still attend meetings when she can, and daddy  will see to it that she has as much opportunity as  possible. Soon there will be Sunday School and the  child can be taught to recognise the love of God and  to offer simple prayers. In all things we should aim  for consistency.

Children need boundaries and feel more secure  when they know ‘how far they can go’. They need  a godly background with understanding of right  and wrong by the time they go to school. Few  have a Heritage College to go to; so the tussle with  the world can start early. They will find friends at  school, and this is not necessarily a bad thing if it  does not clash with ecclesial activities. But the Truth  still comes first and the ecclesia should still be the  focus of their, and our, attention. It is a time of quick  decisions and children need guidance into profitable  pursuits. Avoid hypocrisy at all costs—children are  very perceptive in this area. It is not good to say  “no” to everything, and hobbies under parental  control help to broaden their experience. The best  course is to get them involved in, and comfortable  with, the meetings. Bible reading is an excellent  way to develop reading skills. Reading stories to  them is time well spent and family holidays will  enhance the family bond.

By this time other children may have come along.  Here is an opportunity for the older to share in the  wonder of new life. On the other hand a new baby  is a rival for attention, so it is good for them to share  in the work of looking after baby. At this stage we should understand that children are different. Even  with the same parents and the same upbringing there  are plenty of scriptural examples of this: Cain and  Abel, Jacob and Esau etc. We have as far as possible  to lead each individual character in godly ways, and  accept that each has his or her contribution to make to  the family as a whole. As more children are born we  need to watch our attitude, particularly if unexpected.  They are “an heritage”, a “reward”, and we should  be “happy” (Psa 127:3–5). Mealtimes should be  happy occasions, even if discipline is needed! (Psa  128:3–4).

It is not only parents and children that are  involved. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, some of  whom may have no children of their own, ‘meeting  aunts and uncles’, and possibly cousins too, will all  be interested in your family. They can all help as an extended family in making the children feel as though they belong. Don’t exclude them; they are your extended family too.

Money can be a problem with a young family.  Children should learn to be responsible with it  and giving them all they ask for is not good. They  need to know they cannot have everything others  have. As far as possible the opportunity to take  them to outings and fraternals should be taken.  Gatherings with other families in the Truth are an  excellent source of companionship that will help  them to look forward to the next time, and we all  benefit from like-minded company. Bible Schools  are an important way to widen the circle of their  acquaintance, and form lasting friendships.

The Scriptures are full of advice on family  relationships. The whole of the book of Proverbs  is an exhortation to a son. Here is an area where we  have first to set an example. Look for instance at  Proverbs 6:20–24. We are told to “keep”, “forsake  not”, “bind” and “tie” the “commandment” and  “law”—keep them with us all the time. There are two issues here. We have first to carry it out  ourselves, and then give wise counsel to our  children. If we go then to Proverbs 22:6 we are told  to “train up a child in the way he should go”. How do we do this? Deuteronomy 6:4–7 tells us. The  basis is that Yahweh will ultimately be a multitude  in one. It is His good pleasure to call us to be part of  Him. Our response should be to love Him with all  our being, and make His Word the heartbeat of our  lives. Then we use that same Word to sharpen our  children, talking constantly of it in our conversation day by day with them and with each other. If only  we could live up to this high standard and so inspire  our children likewise. This is the way we develop  a “seed of Elohim”, or as Paul exhorts the sisters,  “guide the house” (1Tim 5:14).

As we all know “the flesh” needs discipline,  and children in particular need discipline if they  are to be led to righteousness: indeed children are  happier if they know what is acceptable and what  is not. Proverbs exhorts us to “train up” a child,  (22:6) and, if “foolishness” remains, to use “the  rod of correction” (22:15). Even then it should  be done in love for the benefit of the child (Heb  12:10). Children will respect this if they know  what has been done wrong and the punishment is  administered in the right spirit. Anger needs to be  kept well under control in this situation.

There are other important aspects. Children  need to be entrusted with responsibility so that  their diligence can be developed. A real danger  is favouritism, which may seem justified, but can  create resentment, as Jacob found. We should  consider appropriate rewards for particularly good  behaviour. Children’s spiritual progress should  be our constant concern. Every family has its  occasional disaster, or a problem the parents cannot  solve on their own. Where do they go for help?  First we should go to the Father in prayer. Then  we should involve the ecclesia; firstly a respected  brother or sister, and then if necessary, the arranging  brethren. Ideally we should never need to seek help  outside the brotherhood.

When children attend a senior school, more  aspects need to be considered. They will be with  older children and preparing for the adult world.  Their questions will become more penetrating  and the answers need to be given more thought.  We see now the value of a good foundation laid in  their earlier years, as they should already be able  to think through solutions for themselves. We are  now laying a foundation for the next stage. The  question of propriety of relationships of boys with  girls should be made clear to them and the dangers  to be aware of. In Genesis 34 Dinah went “to see  the daughters of the land” but it was a son who  saw her, and we know the evil that followed. One  of the greatest dangers of a sheltered upbringing  is ‘going overboard’ when challenged by such an  environment.

This can be a very busy time involving much sacrifice of time and money. They should be  encouraged to get fully involved in activities in  the Truth, and if we belong to a small ecclesia this  may involve long journeys. Having laid a good  foundation we need to give them some freedom to  make their own decisions. Good companionship  should be encouraged, but not imposed against their  will. The family should still be at the centre of their  lives, being led by a father who has the courage to  “keep and do all that is written”, “to love Yahweh  our God”; not “cleave unto the remnant of these  nations”, but say “as for me and my house, we will  serve Yahweh” (Josh 23:6–16, 24:14–15).

As they get older our children should learn to  discern character and be drawn to those who are  spiritually minded. They need privacy for prayer  and their own study and contemplation of the  Word. They may then be thinking of baptism but  the decision needs to come from them. If such a  decision is not forthcoming this will be a test of  our care and love for our children; they remain  God’s children and need to be led in the right way;  hopefully they will respond later. We endeavour  to prevent the “cares and riches and pleasures of  this life” choking the Word for them (Luke 8:14).  If they do respond, may they be a true “seed of  Elohim” and receive “a full reward of Yahweh God  of Israel, under whose wings” they have “come to  trust” (Ruth 2:12).

This may all sound utopian and we all have our  failures, but effort brings its reward. Would that  it be said of us as it was said of Abraham: “For I  know him, that he will command his children and  his household after him, and they shall keep the  way of Yahweh, to do justice and judgment; that  Yahweh may bring upon Abraham that which he  hath spoken of him” (Gen 18:18–19).