By Daniel C. Juster, Director

The Scripture tells parents, especially fathers, "You shall teach them [that is, the commandments] diligently to your children." (Deuteronomy 6:7) The context of this parental mandate is the Sh'ma, which teaches absolute commitment to God and His standards beginning with the command to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and might. Furthermore, we are told to talk of these commands when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way and when we lie down and rise up. The central confession of Jewish biblical faith is thus connected to life and instruction in the family. In the New Covenant Scriptures - echoing and confirming the instructions given through Moses - fathers are told to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:5). The New Covenant commands take front and center, including the commands of Yeshua and His apostles. These include abiding in the Vine and walking in the Spirit. Again the family is paramount.

The Loss of the Next Generation

In the past I have lamented that we have lost a great number of our next generation. There are several reasons: the failure to disciple through the life of the congregation, the influence of higher educational institutions where our young people are socialized into immorality and secular thinking, congregational life that is perceived by our young as irrelevant and lacking power to transform people's lives. We have not prepared young people for their college years and do not provide supportive institutions for them during those years so they might stand strong. More critically, however, both the general Church world and the Messianic Jewish world in particular share a central problem: that we have not trained our people sufficiently in marriage and family life.

Marriage and Family Training

During my years leading a congregation, we offered both marriage seminars and parenting seminars. I think our record for our young people continuing in the faith into their adult years was good and certainly much better than the larger population of believers. This is also partly attributable to our full time day school for children and young people. However, looking back, I would have put greater emphasis on family life. I assumed that families were receiving the instruction from the pulpit and were enjoying a vibrant Messianic Jewish family life. Yet I have found in recent years that more families than I would have wanted did not have such a home life.

Here is my central point. Whether or not young people continue in the faith of their parents is primarily a factor of whether or not the life they see in the family is something they love and want to reproduce in their own families. The life of the congregation is secondary in the formation of children. The congregation is crucial for discipling parents into healthy family life. However, if the family is not really healthy, it is difficult to overcome the deficit in the next generation. We can sometimes do so, even with divorce, with the right supports in place, but families with a dull or boring spiritual life are great impediments to the goals of the Kingdom.

Marriage the Greatest Gift

A happy Yeshua centered marriage is the greatest gift that parents can give their children. The first step in intergenerational faith transmission is to disciple our couples into solid and loving marriages. For this to be done, it is crucial that spiritual leaders of congregations have solid and loving marriages and that they know how to pass on what they have attained to others. The disciplines of a happy marriage are rooted in dying to self according to Romans 6. When that self-centered root is overcome, marriage can flourish. Sometimes this requires spiritual healing so that those sensitive wounds no longer fester and provoke violent reactions or withdrawal. Learning how to treasure the other and to see them with Yeshua's compassion is a wonderful gift of God's grace available to couples.

Loving, Joyful and Disciplined Family Life

A rich and loving marriage can translate into loving and firm parenting. I have noticed over 37 years of ministry that strictness alone is not the key. Consistent patterns of discipline within the boundaries of biblical norms are important, but this is not enough. Successful families can vary in levels of strictness. Children do crave boundaries. However, more important is the quality of joy in the life of the family. In Christian homes of yesteryear there were special times at the table every night, the family altar, stories and much more. Jewish life provides wonderful daily, weekly and seasonal gatherings for family enrichment that are ordered by biblical times and seasons. From the earliest age, our children learned that the Sabbath evening was a wonderful time where they would have the attention of Mom and Dad, even when there were guests. The best food, joyful singing, engaging stories and laughter permeated the evening. The Jewish feasts were also such seasons. Our Passover Seder was never a somber occasion but one of joy, humor, laughter, and the solid content of the Passover story and its meaning in Yeshua. Bar Mitzvah training was also serious and joyful. It featured family trips including a New York heritage trip with Dad, a Broadway play for the girls and a baseball game in New York for the boys. Throughout my childrens' Bar and Bat Mitzvah training I would review and discuss with them the content of our discipleship book Growing to Maturity. Learning to chant the Hebrew text was also a time of enjoyable learning.

Quality family vacations are also an important time of bonding and memory. They need not be expensive and camping was a mainstay for us. We also sought to expose our children to conferences where the power of God was in evidence. Healings, supernatural impartations and accurate prophecy gave them immediate experience with the reality of God's Spirit. Young people also need a good presentation of answers to the arguments they will be given against our faith and a strong rationale to save their sexual expression for marriage.

Today's Generation of Parents

Generally, parents today have little understanding of how to do what we are presenting here. If they try to do spiritual things in the home, it is dull and awkward. They fear to enforce standards. They need to see how successful parents do it, which means they need to be partnered with a successful family. Parents depend on the congregational program to fill in the gap but it cannot do so; congregational teaching is a supplement to the home and cannot replace the responsibility to train children to live godly lives that God has assigned to parents.

In the 1970s and 1980s I was overjoyed because of the many swept into the Kingdom of God from the Jesus movement. The number of Jews who embraced Yeshua was a thrill. Yet this first generation of believers has been woefully equipped in the matters of family life. They are losing the second generation at an alarming rate - unprecedented in history. It will take an outpouring of revival with Kingdom extension to reverse this. However, this reversal can only be truly successful if we train those already brought into the Kingdom. Training in marriage and family is crucial. May we begin now with those we have in our midst! My main context in this article is the United States. This is also a huge challenge in Russia, Ukraine and Israel. In the Russian speaking world, Communism has crushed biblical family values. The effect on men has been devastating: passive, ineffective husbands and fathers; passive aggressive men who do not know how to love and maintain standards.

In Israel the trauma of the Holocaust and the libertine ideas of the West have produced a terrible lack of morals and discipline that make it hard for believers to attain biblical standards. My message is as relevant in the Russian speaking Messianic Jewish context and in Israel as it is in the United States. Please pray for us that the Lord will use Patty and I to be a source of family restoration in these communities.

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
08:57 02Sep09 Carol McCarty -
Great article! It's great to read how to raise our family in the world we live in today and get back to family values that include God.

10:51 02Sep09 Emma Moore -
I pray that this excellent article will have a far reaching effect in the families in the earth and will bring about the shift that is needed to get them back on track.

11:59 02Sep09 Marlene Rosenberg -
I share your concerns about raising up our next generation. Much prayer, love and time must be sown into them. Also, we need to start making a place for them in the various ministries of the congregation. We need not wait for them to be fully prepared. They can come alongside of us in service and be fully released when they're ready. They have so much to offer and we can learn from them!

12:56 02Sep09 Jean O'Brien -
This is such an important matter in these last days. The second generation believers do seem to struggle more with compromise, yet when they find their direction they run with such zeal. We need more people like yourselves, willing to invest in these young ones with prayer and direction.

16:14 02Sep09 Shaliah Amani -
I personally agree with this view of things. The basic background for teaching is the family. Then if for any reason people are not able to live according to God's commands the congregation takes over the teaching. At this stage it is very difficult to achieve good education without the anointing because behind the failure of education in Lord, the devil is associated in the leadership in man. The knowledge and practice of God's word frees our spirit and life from satan's slavery. The teaching in a family of believers is fundamental. The teaching in the congregation is a supplement to recover good sense in human beings and can fail if there is no convicting power of anointing. When people are still children they are more inclined to obey parents but when they grow up they have the tendancy to reject parts of parents teaching because they have freedom to talk and decide for themselves.
When people attend a congregation every disciple becomes like a child. No-one else speak if not the pastor and no one has authority to react if not given permission to stand and speak. Holy Spirit helping human behaviour is corrected.

  -- Dr Juster replies: You certainly get the meaning well.

18:20 02Sep09 Raymond E. Wiggins Sr. -
Amen to these words of exhortation and correction! Recently I wrote a booklet entitled "Simply Simple Church, (Being The Church At Home First)" in which I stated the following on the cover, "If We are not the church [at home] then we are not the church [away from home]. "Going" to church without "being" the church, is "playing" church, hence, religious [hypocrisy] at its worst!" The hearts of the fathers, especially, need to turn to the children!

  -- Dr Juster replies: I do agree with what you mean, but I think there is a more accurate way to put it. The church is that place where families come together and are under an eldership government. Their first job is to see that families live out the Gospel.

20:35 02Sep09 Jeanette Johnson -
I agree 100% with you. God has healed our marriage and I see the children (even though married) are getting healed also. We are establishing a new godly heritage in our family. I love partnering with this ministry. I am excited to see what God is doing even in the midst of great trials.

21:22 02Sep09 Margarita Brea -
Yes, the libertine ideas has caused our children to lose the morals we have taught them. Every mother I meet have told me the lack of respect, love and consideration they are experiencing with their children. Even though we teach them the word of G-d and raise them under these standards, but when they go to the colleges they lose that sense of control and adopt the unbeliever way of life to turn into a miserable way of family life. I pray constantly for all of us, my brothers and sisters in the L-rd, to bring back our children to the biblical family values we taught them.

21:43 02Sep09 Marika Kern -
Amen to everything you said.The breakdown of family values, especially the lack of "FATHER" LEADERSHIP IS A CURSE TODAY. Malachi 4-6 says: He shall turn the heart of the FATHERS to the children,and the heart of the children to the FATHERS, lest He come and smite the earth with a CURSE. Let us pray, that the CURSE may be removed !!!

03:13 03Sep09 Miriam Maranzenboim -
I felt the Lord telling me when my four were small that what they were getting on sabbath through a good congregation plus the camps & weekends wouldn't be enough. I began to teach them using CEF materials on a regular basis. We went through all the Bible & missionary series. It was our "private-in-Israel" GNC (Good News Club). My husband got rid of the TV early on. This has got to be one of the biggest distractions; we also had to limit the computer games. Messianic schools are not necessary (we're the salt of the earth) - just faithful, praying & fasting parents. By G-d's grace all were baptized and are following Yeshua now. (My husband came to Israel in '76 & myself in '77 - one CAN survive here!)

17:08 03Sep09 Vern Miller -
So true! I see my first ministry as the priest of my household which is awkward at times for me, but critical. One of my peeves is that we are so 'outreach' oriented yet the evangelical church in America is losing between 70-80% of its churched youth. I'm not saying not to evangelize but we at times are so eager to find the lost sinner yet fail to engage our own family. I do admire the strong family thrust of the Jewish culture.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Absolutely true. And in addition, our young people are our greatest force for evangelism.

00:47 04Sep09 Mary E. Dow -
An excellent article ... much needed, for sure!!

05:23 04Sep09 Margaret Reuben -
This Article deserves a wider circulation around the world. What you have brought out in the Article is a matter of concern parents the world over.

12:19 07Sep09 Sarah Gardner -
This is great stuff and what I think the Liberal churches of my country need to hear too. I too have noticed a despondency in youth groups and corresponding "falling away". As a young adult myself, I only found true meaty growth in my faith and walk with the Lord when I started reading Genesis, Psalms and the Prophets. Each in a way helped me to understand the Good News and Jesus' life, death and resurection WAY better then when I just heard it on its own. Hebrews is fast becoming a real favourite.

15:51 07Sep09 Rick Arii -
Excellent article. The root of healthy society is healthy families - it is systemic like plant life - if the root is healthy, the rest will be strong and withstand the tests of time. The current state of marriage and family in American culture is a big hurdle to overcome. The encouragement is for young parents to get started - even if there is not solid family history on which to stand. It may take a generation or more before we see a major change at the societal level, but it's got to start somewhere.
Also, the "light bulb" went on for our children when they heard the same things we were saying coming from others they trusted. It helps when truth is consistency expressed in a community of believers.

06:59 05Oct09 Marty F -
Good article. It seems to me that the scriptures that were quoted about child training were written to a tribal people. Our western mentality is institutional to include our congregations. Do you think that you really are calling for a radical reformation of our current way of existence? A institutional hierarchy or perceived hierarchy could very well be adverse to the accomplishment of discipline in a family setting compared to historic biblical examples that were inherently family oriented. So the call to make this a congregational matter, then means that you first must change the expectations in and towards the congregation and it leadership as a whole. Let us see how this actually works out over time.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Well, I would not use the word tribal, but community or communal. I think it is very important for family training to be a major part of congregational life. The point of the tribal is just this, they transmitted intergenerational wisdom most naturally. In lieu of the absence of the tribe, I think the congregation needs to have successful marrieds and parents convey the way and to train in family life.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Eitan Shishkoff: Friendship is Forever
Moshe Morrison: Moshe's Messianic Musings
Asher Intrater: Death & Ressurection in all Things
I'm Loving It!