Special considerations apply when we are dealing with Jehovah’s Witness children.
By “children,” I mean any minors who are still under the authority of their parents.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have just as much right to determine the religious upbringing of their children as the rest of us.
You wouldn’t want someone trying to convert your children to their religion, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are entitled to the same consideration from us.
In fact, if you have children who associate with Jehovah’s Witness children, be alert to make sure that their parents aren’t trying to witness to your child or give them Watchtower literature. Let them know that this is not acceptable—that you will not be trying to undermine their child’s religious upbringing and that you will not allow them to undermine your authority either.
This can actually be a witnessing opportunity for you. Offer to discuss Bible topics with the parents in order to understand each other better.
Sometimes Witness children go door-to-door witnessing along with their parents or other adults. I have ex-Jehovah’s Witness friends whose parents started them in the door-to-door field service ministry at age 4. If they come to your door along with adults, it’s fine for you to engage in Bible discussions with the adults just as you would if the children weren’t listening.
I want to make you aware of special challenges Jehovah’s Witness children face so you can be sensitive to them.
If you have contact with Jehovah’s Witness children, be aware that they are not allowed to participate in birthday or holiday activities, patriotic observances, competitive sports, and many other normal childhood activities. They are not even supposed to develop close friendships with “worldly” people (non-Witnesses).
As a side note, make sure your children don’t invite their Witness friends to come to church with them. They won’t be allowed to go.
Because of these restrictions, many Witness children feel ostracized or humiliated. Imagine how you would feel as a child if you were always excluded from activities in which all your peers are engaging.
That might make you proud and arrogant.
Or it might make you feel rejected and worthless.
Maybe a little of both.
Don’t hold any of that against them. They are just obeying their parents.
In addition, the Watchtower trains them to expect persecution from you (“the world”) because of their religion.
Since they are minors and under the authority of their parents, you are limited in what you can do and say. The most important thing is to make sure that neither you nor your children feed this negativity by your words, attitudes, or actions.
Have a talk with the parents regarding what activities their children are and aren’t allowed to be involved in. Let them know that you want to include their children just as you would anyone else and yet you want to honor their rules.
If the parents will allow it, find a time when their children can be present with you and the parents and be involved in these discussions.
Go out of your way to let Witness children know that you understand that their family’s religion has restrictions and that you know they have to abide by them. Ask them to alert you to any acceptable alternative activities in which they would like to participate.
Let them know that regardless of these issues, you will always consider yourself their friend and that you are more than willing to listen if at any time they would find it helpful to talk any of this over with you.
If the child’s parents are divorced, be aware that there may be family strife over the religion, including its doctrines and restrictions. Talk things over with both parents so you don’t end up being caught in the middle. Go out of your way to be kind and understanding to their children because they are caught in the middle.
I want to add a few words to any schoolteachers who may be reading this.
Sometimes teachers have tried to force Jehovah’s Witness children to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance along with the rest of the class and have shamed them as unpatriotic if they refuse. Likewise, they have sometimes insisted that Jehovah’s Witness children engage in birthday or holiday activities at school even though their religion forbids it.
Don’t do that.
Not only will you open yourself and your school to civil rights complaints and lawsuits, but you will also be hurting the children.
The real challenge, I think, comes in trying to find a suitable alternative.
In order to avoid confrontations, schools often have teachers send Jehovah’s Witness children to another room while the rest of the class engages in parties or activities the Watchtower forbids. Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who experienced that as children have told me that they felt ostracized and rejected by the exclusion. Even if they are old enough to understand the religious reasons for what is happening, they still often hurt from being considered different or “less than.” This just feeds the persecution mindset the Watchtower instills in Jehovah’s Witnesses (never mind that it is the Watchtower’s rules that are causing the exclusion).
The best suggestion I can give you is to have a meeting with the Witness children and their parents and discuss all of this openly. Ask them to tell you the restrictions and the acceptable alternatives.
Tell them that you want to make sure that the children understand they are loved and valued just as much as all the other children and that you want to go out of your way to let them know that.
Even with your best efforts, there’s always the risk that the other children may look down on the Witness children because of their non-participation.
Some may taunt them.
Some may even bully them.
Be especially sensitive to this possibility and do all you can to prevent it.
Talk with the Witness parents about this possibility and ask for their suggestions in how to prevent it or to deal with it if it happens. Invite them to let you know if their child is being subjected to mistreatment by the other students.
Even if you can’t shield the Witness children from all negativity or problems created by the religious differences, the concern and sensitivity you show to them and to the parents will stand out as an example of genuine Christian love.