When my wife and I began adding children to our home initially everyone thought it was delightful. We received comments like “Oh, how wonderful!” and “What names have you picked out?” and “Do you know yet if it’s a boy or a girl?” After the fourth child the comments began to have an edge to them, like “Well you’re probably done now, huh?” and “This should complete your family, right?” When we had our sixth and seventh the comments were downright nasty, like “Shouldn’t you save some resources for other people?” and “Don’t you know what causes this?” and “Aren’t you going to stop!?” and “You are too old to be pregnant again.” Of course when they saw how that hurt us to hear that they’d back off and say, “Well, you two are good parents and will raise them right.” But the hurt was done. I can safely say that 95% of the comments I received regarding my large family were negative when we passed the four kid mark. It actually got to the point where I didn’t want to tell anyone when we were expecting another child, including extended family.
Fortunately my wife and I are not easily swayed by persons who don’t agree with our values and choices. We have these values and choices as a result of thought, reflection, and purpose. Getting rude comments from acquaintances is not pleasant but tolerable, getting rude comments from persons who are friends hurts, and getting rude comments from family bites deeply. Still, it’s the price we paid and would pay again. If you will have a large family you better know that the negative comments will come. I do have a small list of friends and family who always encouraged me and never gave negative input. I know who they are to this day and they are still close to me at the deepest levels, including my mom and my wife’s mom, our fathers, the president of the prison ministry, Rev. Greg Von Tobel and my late Grandma Mae.
So why did we have a large family? This is not what we set out to do. We were married a good five years before expecting our first child, and even when this child came we were not planning for it. I was doing what all American Christians were doing – establishing myself in my career and in property ownership and putting children out of the picture because I had bought into the myths of what having children would mean to my plans. Now, we did plan on having kids eventually, but not eight! I came from a family of two children, and my wife came from a family of three. We never discussed, or thought about, having a large family until after our first child came.
The short story of why we chose to have a large family is that after our first child came the local Baptist church paid us a visit (they checked the newspaper announcements for births and they visited new parents as a method of evangelism). We were already solidly in the Christian camp and members of a church so when they offered us a Bible or a book on family matters I chose the family matters book. The book is entitled The Home – Courtship, Marriage and Children: A Bible Manual of 22 Chapters on the Christian Home by Dr. John R. Rice. Within the first week of receiving the book I had read it in its entirety, and I was confronted with the author’s strong arguments, example (he had six children), and scriptural reasons behind having a large family. It all made sense to me and inspired me. I shared the book with my wife and she had the same response I did. It wasn’t really that the book changed my thoughts so much as that it resonated with and revealed the thoughts I didn’t know were inside of me. God deposited faith in our hearts toward his word. That day we decided to allow God Almighty to simply have his way with our family. To this day, when one of my children is to be married I provide a copy of this book to them and their spouse-to-be so that they can assess the materials like I did and have “another side to the story” concerning children.
After reading this book by Dr. Rice I went on a campaign to read other books on raising children, having children, educating children, disciplining children, and just about anything I could get my hands on dealing with children. My wife did the same. Everything we read had value, most of what we read we agreed with, some things we did not, but we at least found out the views of others, why they had those views and the results in their own lives of enacting the principles and philosophies they had developed and written about.
As of this writing we have eight children. Two are married. One is to be married later this year. Five will be through college this year. Six will be through high school this year (we Homeschool from K – 12). All have done well in their academics. All love the local church and the work of the ministry. All have many friends. All enjoy the company of others. All are motivated. All get along with others… but let me now shift to thirteen misconceptions of a large family and describe our own experiences that dispel these errors.
1 – Many children cost too much and are too expensive to support.
When I was younger I remember my own father saying to me “Son, if we had had more children then you would have had proportionately less than you and your brother have now.” That made sense to me. There is only so much to go around. Simple math, right? Wrong! There is something to the saying “cheaper by the dozen.” Our experience has been that the cost per child in the family is not linear. Costs only go up incrementally. There are hand-me-downs, gifts from others, smart shopping, judicial buying practices, God’s blessing (not to be overlooked!), and in the end we had plenty to go around.
2 – You can’t afford college for many children.
Here’s how we handled college: first two years at a community college, with the child living at home (thus no room and board fees at a college, plus lower tuition, plus more individualized attention). Second two years at the local university, again, no room and board fees. Our kids all did so well in Homeschool that they breezed the community college courses and even breezed the university. One daughter went on to a master’s program out-of-state, but was on the maximum scholarship available, and it was a great experience with little ongoing debt accumulated. As of this summer we will have one child with a master’s degree, two with a bachelor’s degree, and two with an associate degree. All pursued what they wanted to at the college level, and based on their goals, personality, and desires did what they chose. Our kids earned scholarships when available. We kept costs down and rewarded the kids’ good work, manners, and results by providing for their tuition and room and board at home. They all worked part time while going to school. It is a myth that you have to save up $100,000 to send a child to college.
3 – If I had a large family it would constrain my ministry goals.
I have heard this said more than once in my life. It’s a myth that children constrain ministry goals. In my case I have preached around the world and monthly locally in jails and prisons for 30 years. I lead teams. I equip teams. I have a certificate of ministry through my home church and a doctor of ministry degree and ordination from a Bible college in India. By God’s grace I serve as chairman of the board of directors for an international prison ministry. So what have I missed out on? What has having a large family preventing me from doing in ministry? It’s a myth that kids are “in the way” when it come to ministry. Pure bunk.
4 – Kids fight all the time and with many kids the home would be constant chaos.
It’s astonishing to me how many homes are run by the children. One or two brats keeps momma in frazzles. Kids who won’t eat what everyone else eats. Kids who backtalk their parents. Kids who throw tantrums. There is no child-initiated chaos in our home. One has to have a plan with many kids. With one or two kids a parent can get lazy and fall into the trap of letting the kid have its way. You can’t do that with a large family. You have to take charge, you have to be in control, you have to maintain order, and with a large family that’s just what you do. We did not permit our kids to fight among themselves; we nipped it in the bud immediately. We had more discontent in my childhood home of two boys when I was growing up than my home has now or ever has had with two boys and six girls.
5 – With many kids you cannot possibly spend enough quality time with all of them.
Who says? With our large family I was home every night (aside from infrequent business trips and most recently overseas annual ministry trips) and with us being a Homeschool family my kids received constant attention and time with their mother. I also determined to do things that we could do as a family, so we had annual family passes to the Seattle Science Center, the YMCA, the gun range; we rode bikes together a lot, and we camped in RVs and had private park memberships that allowed us to go to places with swimming pools and amenities, all of which allowed us to spend a lot of time together.
6 – Family vacations will be impossible with lots of children.
When we were starting out and had four smaller kids we saw that staying in hotels each night on a vacation would be problematic. I talked them into letting us use one room often, but we could see that those days were numbered. I took some trips for my work and included the family. My employer reimbursed to me what I would have spent in airfare and hotels and I applied that to our travel expenses. We did this more than once, taking a long trip with a significant subsidy provided by my work. When I arrived at the convention for my work, I’d spend the days there and the evenings with the family. We have purchased four different RVs, and our current RV is the nicest of them all. It’s a Class-C motorhome with accommodations for 10 persons to sleep. We have taken it to all 48 of the lower United States, and we’ve gone to special places on these trips, including the Space Center in Florida, the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Niagara Falls in New York, the many monuments in Washington DC, the Atomic Museum in New Mexico, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, the Redwood Forest in California, many, many national parks, Jamestown and Williamsburg in Virginia, Independence Hall and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, the Oregon Caves, and wonderful cities like New Orleans, LA, Montgomery, AL, Columbia, SC, Oklahoma City, OK, Chicago IL, Madison, WI, museums in Montana, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Oregon, and many other places. We’ve taken many motorhome trips, and have been all across the state of Washington camping and sightseeing. We do a lot of homeschooling on these trips too, in fact, this was homeschooling!
7 – The parents won’t be able to go away by themselves for personal time.
This one depends on what your objectives are. We had children so we could be around them. I can count on no fingers the things that delight me more than being with my wife and children doing something together. Now I get to add a grandson, and shortly (hopefully) more grandchildren to this. I also get to add sons-in-laws and daughters-in-laws too, so the family unit is ever expanding. I like that very, very, very much. My wife and I had no need to vacation for a day or a weekend or a week without our children. We arranged our lives to be with our kids. Our family life isn’t something we needed to escape from. I remember that for a year or two I enjoyed playing golf with my friends. We’d meet early in the morning, or meet on a Saturday for a round of golf. The weather is nice, the scenery is nice, and I get to visit with my friends for four hours. As much as I liked that, I saw it as a big time sink away from the family. So I donated my clubs to the Goodwill and that was that. I choose to participate in recreational activities that my kids can participate in with me, saving the times I need to be away from family for things that are a higher priority than my own personal pleasure.
8 – The older children will hardly know the younger children.
Karissa was born seven years after the next youngest, Nathan. All the older seven kids were born about two years apart. They all adore their little sister. She participates in everything the older ones do. When my grandson Jakob was born to Andrea and her husband Gary, who live in Virginia, my wife and two youngest daughters, Amanda and Karissa, traveled back to spend part of the summer with Andrea’s family. Karissa has spent the night with Rebecca and her husband Gabe in Bellingham, Washington. When Melissa is married and makes her home in Vancouver, Washington, I expect Karissa will spend time with them too. She has, from the start, learned to integrate with all ages.
9 – Your kids will resent a large family and will want to leave the home as soon as possible.
Rebecca was 25 when she left for graduate school; Andrea was 23 when she left to be married to Gary; Melissa is 23, and she will be 24 when she leaves to be married. Ryan is finishing college this summer and just turned 22, and Jessica is a paralegal and just turned 20, and they both live at home and show no resentment toward it. Everyone gets along. Everyone respects each other and is best friends one with another. When Andrea was married her sister Rebecca was the maid of honor, when Rebecca was married her sister Melissa was the maid of honor, when Melissa is married her sister Amanda will be the maid of honor. Karissa, the youngest, is a participant in all these weddings. Ryan and Nathan, the brothers, were always involved in the events. All the sisters participate in the weddings. When we traveled across the country we lived in close quarters for two, three, and four weeks at a time. There was very little fighting, arguing, or bickering – well, they ARE human! Everyone enjoyed each others’ company. Everyone wished we could go right back out again after we got home.
10 – Babysitters are impossible to find or afford with a large family.
This was an easy one for us. We didn’t use babysitters. We took our family everywhere we went, and I mean everywhere. If we visited friends, we took the kids. If we went shopping, we took the kids. If we went to a restaurant, we took the kids. They were trained from the beginning to mind their parents and behave in public. The double benefit here was that we saved money on babysitters, and we spent more time with our kids. Further, they had the benefit of learning how to act around adults and they quickly learned to do so, a skill that benefited them from a early age. The exceedingly few times we had babysitters it was their grandmothers. If we got home and got a less-than-stellar report they knew they were in for it but good.
11 – The “terrible twos” and the “trying threes” and all the rest are too much to handle!
The hardest time we had with a large family was before it was ‘large’ – up through the third child. We had to get each one dressed ourselves and bathe them and pretty much do everything for them. By the time the fourth one came along the first one could not only dress herself, but could help with the others. This only improved over time. We had no problems with the “terrible twos.” I remember reading in Christian publications how we’d have to hang on by our fingernails through the “terrible twos.” I rejected that then and I still do. I enjoyed eight trips through the “blessed twos” and ones, threes, fours, fives… up to and through high school! Some of my kids had very strong wills, but we worked and did our best to turn and bend their will in the proper direction so it could be a benefit to them instead of a curse. Some of my kids had high energy but my wife and I had more. The point here is that we decided the path the family would take and didn’t hand over the responsibility to the children. I exerted my strong will and high energy every opportunity I had. In the middle of church I took unruly kids out of the sanctuary and to the restroom where they got a series of swift swats across the backside. Then I put my finger in their crying face and said to knock it off and quit crying and do what I say or there will be more where that came from. When I said in the car, in the church, in the home, or anywhere, to straighten up and they didn’t, then consequences came down on these precious angels with amazing (to them) swiftness. I was bound and determined and had a singular focus that my kids would not be brats and would not grow up to be selfish, unruly, disobedient, or any other undesirable behavior I could think of.
12 – It takes two salaries these days to make ends meet.
What a myth this is! Our experience is that we can live on my income and we’ve done that since our eldest was born, that’s been 27 years now. After our first baby was born, and up until a few months after our second baby was born, my wife worked 4 hours on Saturday’s so we could keep our free health insurance and I took care of the baby for a few hours. By the time the third baby came we lived entirely on my salary. We had a home mortgage payment and that was it. No car note. No credit cards. No loans. No debt of any kind. We paid cash for everything. What we didn’t have was a brand new car every three years. We didn’t dine out four nights per week. We didn’t have a 400-inch plasma LED whiz-bang entertainment center. We were in our early 20s and getting our start and some things we just didn’t have by choice. We lived well on one salary. We gave generously to the work of the Lord. We were able to do things for our parents. We paid bills on time. We have never, never, never, ever been in financial trouble. Never. All on one salary. All with eight kids.
13 – To be fair to them, what you do for one you have to do for the other, that’s expensive!
The answer here is to be fair over the long haul, but not necessarily daily. Giving everyone the same exact thing isn’t being ‘fair and equal’ because everyone does not place the same value on the same things. When they began to be old enough to notice it we began breaking them in on the concept by purposely disciplining ourselves to go ahead and purchase an item we felt one child needed or should have without necessarily getting the same thing for any of the other children. Generally, we found that we felt worse about it than they did. We wanted them to see right up front that everything in life didn’t come in pre-measured equal portions. When I’d go on a business trip I’d like to bring back some gifts for the kids, like a shirt or a cap or something. Sometimes I wouldn’t bring something back for everyone. Other times if I saw something I liked and knew one of the kids would like it I’d get that and bring it back. Early out I heard the groans of “hey, they got something and I didn’t, that’s not fair!” So I set them down and taught them then and also later over the years that we have a large family, everyone will get gifts at some time, but if I have to give everyone a gift every time I get anyone a gift, then no one is going to get anything from this point forward. They saw the light and agreed to rejoice with the one who received something, knowing that in due time they’d get something special too. If I had to keep score and be fair all the time then we would just forget it altogether. So the kids learned through this experience to be happy for others and not be concerned for their own gift.
We are in the New Testament age. Faith is a major part of the Christian life. It is not a blind faith, but rather faith based on believing God and the word of God. Consider this teaching by Jesus himself: Matthew 6: 24-33 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. With these promises from Jesus Christ in a direct teaching that cannot be misinterpreted, why would anyone not believe that God can take care of them, even with a large family.
I’ll add this too, having raised a large family I can say that my kids are fearless in pursuit of their dreams, and they have big dreams! While still teenagers Rebecca, Andrea, Melissa, and Jessica have all travelled internationally, without their parents. Andrea and Amanda drove across country alone; no fear. My oldest son Ryan bought and repaired a motorcycle, directs many of the services at our church (cameras, etc.) and teaches our other son Nathan to do the same (Jessica too). My kids are in plays, choirs, they’ve sung solo’s, performed music solo, and on and on. Andrea has piloted single engine planes solo as a teenager. Every child has been to all 48 states, some multiple times. Rebecca, Ryan, and Jessica have been on long organized bike rides with me with no complaints and no fear. They have a deep confidence in themselves because they were raised to be so and encouraged to be so. Our kids score very high on their annual standardized tests that homeschoolers in Washington State are required to take. They enjoy school and learning. Melissa has her own business she’s building after she gets home from her regular work. Our kids like being around each other, they encourage each other, and they are accountable to each other. No one wants to bring shame or dishonor to the family and I like it like that.
Here are some relevant scripture verses pertaining to children with my personal experience regarding these scriptures:
Psalms 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
I am very, very, very happy with my family. I have a full quiver and it is a delight. I enjoy and enjoyed every minute of having and raising children. Watching them grow, watching them participate in life, watching them take on responsibility, watching them learn, and seeing them excel in life. My kids are each special in their own way, they have their own personalities, their own communication style, their own disposition and emotions. Some are very extroverted, some more introverted, some studious, some free-lancing risk-takers, some sensitive, some stoic, but all loved and all special and all precious to me and their mom. Having many children has not divided my love, time, or resources; rather, it has expanded and multiplied them!
Psalm 128:3, 4 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. 4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.
We have a long dinner table, and when all of the kids are seated at it it’s full from end to end. Olive plants grow and extend, and as the kids grew up my heart was enlarged with joy at looking at them, laughing with them, and enjoying their stories as well as using the opportunity to mold and shape them. We graduated into various vehicles and RVs because the kids were growing like olive plants and we needed more room. We converted part of the garage into living space because the family room became a bedroom. I used to have an office of my own but that got swallowed up by the olive plant kids who grew and extended and required the space!
Deuteronomy 28:1-4, 11 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. 3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep…11 And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
This was a promise to the emerging nation of Israel, but the principle applies to the people of God to this day. I admit I was stupid enough in this scientific, enlightened, tolerant society we live in to take God at his word and believe his promises and act on them without reservation. His word plainly said that if I would harken diligently to his voice and keep his commandments that I could expect to succeed in my career, education, domestic affairs, and I’d be blessed with increase, recognition, ability, capacity, property, and children. Gee whiz, that’s exactly what happened! My how the word of God works!
Jesus himself was raised in a large family. We know from the scriptures that he had four brothers and at least two sisters. That means he was raised in a family of at least seven children. Matthew 13:54-56 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
Jesus was raised by Joseph, Mary his mother, and had brothers and sisters in the home. If God felt Jesus needed an abundance of parental attention, as many today think, then he could have easily closed Mary’s womb so that they’d only have the one child, Jesus. But is it not plausible that God did just the opposite because just the opposite is true, that is, that God wanted Jesus to have the love and nurturing of parents who had expanded capacity to love and care, and thus Joseph and Mary were blessed with a full quiver consistent with the testimony of the scriptures. Imagine that, God’s word said a large family was a blessing and the life of Jesus was consistent with God’s declaration of having children, even many children, in the home.
Consider these excellent passages in the Bible regarding the husband, wife, and children: Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Now there is real, practical teaching that you don’t find in the me-first-me-only religious writings making the circuit and expounded by self-styled guru’s and backslidden preachers. Further, not a few women in the Christian camp look upon this teaching with disdain, and chafing at the idea of being submitted to their husband as unto the Lord or as unto anything. Husbands are to love their wives and to not be bitter toward them (Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them). Kids are to mind their parents.
If you live your life according to the Bible, expect to get Bible results. Sister, if you want to be a liberated woman then prepare for disappointment. Brother, if you want to make up your own rules then prepare to reap the whirlwind. I’ve been volunteering in jails and prisons in America for over thirty years. Every man, every woman, and every juvenile I minister to at one time was a newborn baby but through sin, error, and ignorance kids wind up going down a path that can end in incarceration. It’s a shame and it’s a grief. Proverbs 19:26 He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach. Thank God for the restoration of that which the locust has eaten, but better to never go down the wrong path. The closer to Biblical child-rearing, and the larger the family, the better the outlook. Do not attempt to raise one or eight or two-dozen children without Christ as the head of the family and his teachings as the guide for your life.
The pastor who transitioned me from being a liability to being an asset in the kingdom of Heaven, Pastor Rolly Capes, raised his own family and adopted children as well. His example had a big impact on me. He was my pastor before we had any children. He dedicated our first child to the Lord. He always had sufficient of this worlds goods, and more, and I noticed that. Though he had many children, he was very blessed. Another man of God, Pastor Randy Siers, had five children. We only had three children when I first met him and joined his church and I was impressed with his life and family. He too was a blessed man, capable, godly. My current pastor, Dr. Joe Fuiten, has four children and would have had more, if it were possible and annually oversees our church praying for couples who want children. The pastors in my life have all set an example to me of the benefits of having a large family and the value of children and how God takes care of them and their children.
Let me add that as it hurt me to hear negative comments toward my large family, that I know it also hurts those who cannot have children and the comments they endure as well. Why it is that good people who want children cannot have them is a mystery to me. I see examples of women in the Bible, especially Hannah in the Old Testament and Elizabeth in the New Testament, begging God for a child and the anguish of their heart being poured out before God. Annually at our church service for couples wanting children I pray at the altar with men and women who sob and sob as they too pour out the desires of their heart once again before God Almighty. I then contrast that with those who say “oh, in a couple years we’ll have two children and then that will be the end of it…” and I marvel at their comment, as if God has no say in the matter, especially among Christian couples. Astonishing!
Following is a listing, in no specific order, of some things that have worked well for us in raising a large family that loves God and gets to participate in life:
- Homeschool them. Allows much quality time. Allows time flexibility (evenings, vacations).
- Avoid debt. This allows you to do more with what you have, and you maximize your resources.
- Assassinate your television set. TV has a profound negative influence and is largely anti-Christian.
- Be consistent. My kids can predict my response to almost anything, because they know how I think and my values and priorities because they have experienced it many times. Set the example.
- Use discipline. When reasoning with a 2-year old doesn’t work; spanking works.
- Get involved. Know your kids’ friends, open your home so they come over and you can size them up.
- Love the Lord. Be a part of the church community; support the local church.
- Go to church every week. Have your kids sit in the church service with you, the whole time; it doesn’t discipline them, it disciplines you, and then you discipline them.
- Teach and train. My kids know my views on being productive and they know my views concerning the Budweiser and MTV crowd.
- Stay married. Broken homes can destroy the trust a child has in their parents and in God.
Here are some verses that are intended to guide parents in how they are to raise their children and how they are to regard children. The teachings in these verses may be in contrast to past and modern psychologists and counselors and other Dr.-Come-Lately’s but these teachings work and these are what we followed. The Christian parent who won’t spank or discipline their child “because I love him/her too much” actually hates them, according to the scriptures, and they are setting the child up for hardship and failure since they won’t restrain their rebellious behavior.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Deuteronomy 4:9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (early).
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Psalm 113:9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Proverbs 29:17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
John 16:21 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.
Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Proverbs 15:5 A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
Isaiah 54:13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
Luke 18:16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
No one has done more for my kids than their mother and I. No one else even comes close. We brought them into the world, we raised them, we invested in them, we prayed and cried over them, and we rejoiced with them. I expect something in return for this! If the actuarial tables are right, and what I see around me happens to me, I will precede my wife to heaven by a number of years. Just seems to be the way things go. If that does happen, then I expect my children to ensure that their mother is always cared for.
Where ever my kids are living, I expect them to contact their mother, provide for their mother, support their mother, and care for their mother. When there are a number of children, then the load is more easily distributed. I expect my kids to have this same attitude toward the mother of their spouse, assuming she too is widowed. Children should indeed see to the needs of their parents. My wife and I have provided a measure of support as we can to our parents and have for many years; my brother has too and my wife’s brother, and her sister and her husband have as well. This is proper. The larger the family, the easier this is for the children to do.
This paper is intended to encourage and not discourage. I am not saying that only one way of family life is the right way, but I am saying you should not let the world tell you that having a large family cannot work or is not worth the effort, if it is what you desire to do. If you have chosen to have one or two children, and your time for bearing children is past, then rejoice in what you do have, as children are a blessing from God. If you never had children by either choice or infertility, then be the best friend, uncle, or aunt you can be to other children, and take an interest in other children. God may use you to bless a family in a way that no one else could, and this is well-pleasing to God. If you are young, then consider the teachings of the Bible, and let faith rise up in your heart, and believe God that having many children is a blessing and not a curse, it is a joy and not a burden.
Many people don’t see children as a blessing because they misunderstand what receiving a blessing means. It doesn’t mean something that makes you feel good, pleases you, makes your life easier, or helps you get your own way (though it could do that). As a matter of fact, a blessing is often something that causes you discomfort, moments of frustration, makes you have to grow, endure difficulty, and be persistent, it may even cause you to temporarily sacrifice your own wishes. A blessing is something that is a benefit to your life, something that makes your life better than it would have been in ways that may be tangible or intangible, something that makes you a better person, enlarges your vision, or expands your world, something that shows you that your ‘wishes’ were too small compared to what God actually desired to give you. A blessing teaches you about the character of God and how much he cares for us all. That is what having children does for you. That is what having a large family did for us.
Our first seven children all came two years apart. My wife bore every one of them through natural childbirth. All were delivered with midwives; three of our kids were born at our home. My wife was able to carry children well, birth them well, and nurse them well. Not all women can do this and that is understood. Yet no matter how well a pregnancy goes, it is still work and commitment and sacrifice to bring children into the world. Though today having a large family is unusual, still God’s eternal word is the standard by which we want to lead our lives and conduct ourselves and behave. In the area of family and children, let the Lord have his way with you. His blessing and promise of provision makes up for what you cannot do yourself.
Lest anyone walk away with the thoughts that all is Pollyanna, let me say that that is not the case. We have been blessed, and we enjoy each other and support each other. But like any family there are times of friction, disappointment, aggravation, frustration, and sacrifice. This will happen in a family of one child as easily as it will with a larger family. Not having had the experience of being from a large family I have made some mistakes and I have some regrets. Not everyone has regrets, but I know that I do. There is a price to being in full-time part-time ministry and working multiple jobs (seldom have I worked one job at a time, and often I work into the evenings and weekends depending on the season of life) that results in not being around the kids as much as I would have liked as I look back. We didn’t participate in organized sports for a number of reasons, but had I to do it over again, I may have changed this. My kids don’t seem any worse for the wear, and we did do a number of things together, but I do reflect on some things I did and did not do with them and wonder if I made the right call in every area. When the kids got older and into their years where they became interested in marriage matters I reflect that it would have been good for me to have been more sensitive sooner to this and provided better guidance earlier. I am no Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias, but I have read what these men say about being away so much from their children and I can relate in my own way to this. My calling into the jails and prisons was clear, but with that and the responsibility to earn a solid income have taken a price in my time availability to the kids at all ages.
One lesson I always taught the kids was that because we have a large family and we don’t have unlimited resources that we can take the money we do have and invest in bicycles, motorhome trips, gym memberships and the like, or we can pay counselor fees, rehabilitation costs, attorney bills, bail bondsmen and the like; take your pick. This has proven effective, and we have maximized what resources we do have to participate in life and do and experience things together. The kids have or will have a college education provided and room and board provided if they behave properly, and so far they all have.
I have asked my children to weigh in how they view being a part of a large family. They are the ones who shared clothes, shared rooms, sat at a packed dining room table, went through (or are going through) Homeschool, attended church weekly with their parents, had birthdays and Christmas’s with a lot of siblings around, attended college (some still to start that) and did things with their mom and dad. I asked them to feel free to share in 200 to 300 words the good, the bad, and the ugly as they so desired. So here is what they have to say about being a part of a large family.
In brackets after their input are three adjectives I put in to describe them, each one being different. Regarding adjectives, all of them are trustworthy, mannerly, respectful of others, go-getters, confident, enjoy church and church life and are responsible. My girls will enter marriage knowing how to manage children, budget money, cook, handle domestic responsibilities, and will have a high degree of confidence in approaching life and business. My sons will understand to how to function in a large family, will have been raised around girls and thus know better how women think and what their needs are far better than I was prepared for being raised in a family with only one brother. My boys will know how to respect women and to provide for them. All of our kids will have seen the work ethic of their mother and father. Hopefully my boys and girls will have learned from their mom and dad how to lead their own families one day.
- Rebecca (age 27, almost 28, married in 2012 to Gabriel) Being the first of eight children was one of the key elements that formed me into who I am today. My personality is naturally rather introspective, but daily interaction with siblings of many ages and personalities taught me to get along with anybody, confidently and comfortably. As the oldest, my parents instilled in me the responsibility of being a good example for my younger siblings, and I have done this to the best of my ability, though not perfectly. I also learned to take care of babies and children in the more practical sense, but my duties were never to the point where I felt like a “replacement mom.” I never felt ignored or unloved, and if there were any material things I lacked, I never missed them. Motorhome trips with my family were definitely the highlights of my childhood! My parents gave me an excellent Homeschool education that prepared me well for college, and they paid my undergraduate tuition. None of us were involved in team sports, but we enjoyed swimming, bicycling, and yoga, plus a gym membership. I had piano lessons and I remember at one point wanting violin lessons too, but had to choose either that or continuing piano. Luckily for everyone’s ears, I stuck with piano. People have asked if I wish my family were smaller, but to me that’s like asking which sibling I wish I didn’t have. I love watching them grow up and develop their own interests, goals, and families of their own. I know my family will always be there for me, just like I will always be there for them. [focused, introspective, artistic]
- Andrea (age 25, married in 2009 to Gary, one child, Jakob, born 2012) Growing up in a large family gave me a unique opportunity to experience the “real world” before moving out into the workforce and world at large. In a smaller family, I may have grown accustomed to having my whims catered to – my bed made, special meals prepared to my taste, and separating myself physically from people I didn’t get along with. In a large family, members were expected to “pull their own weight” with natural world consequences for not keeping up, like running out of clean clothes. In a smaller family, we may have been divided into different bedrooms if we couldn’t get along; but in a large family living in a three bedroom house, we were forced to share a space and, over time, learned to get along. Interestingly, we’ve all found our skills as mediators and pragmatic problem-solvers have made us natural arbiters of the parochial arguments and disputes in the workplace, at our places of higher education and everywhere else. [extroverted, risk-taker, strong-willed]
- Melissa (age 23, almost 24, to be married to Erik summer of 2013) I think that growing up in a big family has been an overwhelmingly positive thing. I believe it has given me an advantage in being able to relate to more people, being more flexible and able to take changes in stride, and being less self-centered. We didn’t have all the same kinds of opportunities that my friends have had, but we had others that more than made up for it to me. Not everything has been good – life is more chaotic, for sure! We also tended to draw more attention and get questioned more when we would go out. In a way I’ve always enjoyed that we have a certain level of notoriety as a big family! I like being set apart from the crowd. One of the main things I appreciate about my big family – and one of the reasons I plan to have a big family too – is that we are a very tight and strong support network for each other. I feel comfortable having funny or serious conversations with everyone in my family and I really respect their opinions. I always go to my family first when I have a problem to solve or something to celebrate. We always have each other’s backs and I always have someone to help, whether it’s talking to my sister or Mom about emotional/relational issues, or calling my brother or Dad when I need help with my car, or with running off someone that’s bothering me! As we all get older and in-laws join the family, our family is only getting better and stronger! [sensitive, people-gatherer, elegant]
- Ryan (age 22) Living in a large family has been a very positive experience for me. My favorite thing about it is the strong bond I have with every member. I could pick any of my brother, sisters, or parents and spend the day doing something we both enjoy and thoroughly enjoy myself. It is like having a permanent friend base who you are very close to and who are always there for you no matter what. They are better than friends though, they are family. There are probably things that I “missed out” on because of the size of my family, like having my own room or getting more toys or whatever, but I wouldn’t trade my situation now for anything. My parents also made every effort to make sure we all felt special and loved. We did lots of things as a family like road trips, picnic bike rides, trips to the beach, barbeques, and campfires, because my parents were willing and happy to go to the extra effort to make that all happen. It’s true that it is almost impossible to maintain a clean house with 8+ people living in it. And wear and tear on everything is accelerated, but the experience is worth it. Having a close family like mine is a huge blessing that I do not take for granted. [industrious, mechanical, athletic]
- Jessica (age 20) Being from a large family is fun. I see it as an advantage in many ways. For one thing, you get used to people thinking you are a little weird, so it doesn’t bother you much when people treat you a little differently. This has saved me from a lot of pointless and useless stress and worry in many situations. For another thing, it is like having my own personal social security safety net. I know that I can always rely on my parents, brothers, and sisters to be there when I need them. I was born in the middle of the family (5th of 8), which I see as another benefit. I get to watch and learn from my older siblings (1 engaged, 2 married, 1 of those 2 with a son of her own), and having younger siblings gives me a chance to see the way my parents interact with their children in every stage of their life. This, I imagine, will greatly benefit me when I have children of my own. One of the best things about having lots of siblings is that every person is a bit different, and has different interests, but we all fit together so well. I love that no matter what I’m in the mood to do, I can almost always find a brother or a sister who wants to do it with me. Whether it’s singing in concerts with the church choir, or hiking up a mountain, reading books, or shooting clay pigeons and pop cans. I have never once felt neglected, ignored, or passed over. I don’t feel that I have missed out on anything that isn’t surpassed by the things I got to do instead. I wouldn’t trade my family for any family in the world. [articulate, fast-paced, athletic]
- Amanda (age 17, almost 18) When a friend of mine frankly told me that she was her mother’s favorite, I was absolutely shocked. My parents never gave me the impression that they had a favorite; we were all treated equally. If any of the rules seemed unfair, at least they were unfair to everyone. Being homeschooled added an interesting dynamic to the relationship of the family. Being together all day every day built bonds that will last a lifetime. I don’t have proof, but it seems to me that spending the majority of each day in separate classrooms is not conducive to friendship. Another benefit of homeschooling was the ability to take ‘extended field trips’. Thanks to my parents’ love of travel, I’d been to all 48 contiguous states by the time I was ten years old. This wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t been able to simply bring all our school with us. Networking is easier than ever; when one sister needs to leave her job, there’s a good chance that you will get called in to replace her. The flexibility of my schedule and the work ethic that was instilled in me by my parents gave me the opportunity to start working fairly early, and I believe that what I have learned from it will be useful to me in my future. Building a family is still pretty far out for me, but I already know one thing: I want more than 2.5 kids. [witty, intellectual, sensitive]
- Nathan (age 15) Being in a large family has its advantages and drawbacks. One of the good things is that when I was younger I would hear larger words and adult conversations, leading me to an improved vocabulary and giving me the ability to talk to adults. The drawback is not the bathroom waiting list (a much smaller problem than you might think) but the pressure to be as good as my older brother and sisters, and the high expectations in general. Overall though, sharing a room – and a lot of other things – is nothing compared to the gain. Life just wouldn’t be right without Rebecca practicing the same song all day until she had it just right for her concert, Andrea convincing us to act out her latest movie script, Melissa always ready to entertain us little kids (not so little now though), Ryan the math enthusiast ever prepared to explain (even though I never understood), Jessica not afraid to speak her mind whether you like it or not, but always happy and helping, Amanda the book lover, eventually managing to reel me into her obsession, and last but not least, Karissa bouncy and enthusiastic, dragging you into her fantasies and adventures. [thinker, studious, discoverer]
- Karissa (age 8) I like being in a big family, because having tea parties with Rebecca is fun, and I like seeing Andrea, and Gary, and their baby, and I like watching Veggie Tales with Melissa. Also I like playing games with Ryan. I like to watch movies, and have sleepovers with my sister Jessica. I like going on trips with Amanda, I also like to make wagons out of cardboard boxes and play Oregon Trail with stuffed animals with Nathan. I really like watching cartoons and swimming with Dad. Another thing I really like is cooking and doing puzzles with Mom, and I love going on big family road trips! I do not like how all the yummy food is gone before I get a chance to eat it, I do not like being bossed around which happens a whole lot since I am the youngest. I do not like having to share a room, I do not like being the youngest, I do not like how I can’t pick which movie we get to watch. It can be fun, annoying, and even downright boring but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. [outgoing, active, expressive]
Lastly I asked my wife Leslie to write a few words from a mom/wife’s viewpoint on having a large family. We first met in high school and have been married almost 34 years. When we were married we rented a small one-bedroom house for six months, then bought a small two-bedroom home and lived there for two years. Since it was in our heart to start a family, we knew that we’d have to have a larger home, and by God’s grace were able to move to a much larger three-bedroom home, with a family room and a double-lot that we knew we could fence in one day and have a yard for our children to play in. That all came to pass. My wife and I were in agreement or came to agreement in every important family decision that was ever made in our home.
- Leslie I am very glad that God has given me the husband and family that I have and the life experiences we have all shared, instead of the narrow, boring, effortless concepts of life that I would have dreamed up for myself. Our large family has caused me to use or develop skills, talents, and backbone that I never would have taken the effort to achieve for any lesser cause. Occasionally I laugh with my husband and the kids as we marvel to each other that we really aren’t supposed to enjoy hanging out together or doing the same activities – at least, not according to much of what we see and hear from the rest of the world. Of course I want the kids to grow up and move on to their own adult lives but I don’t understand it when I hear people say that ‘they can’t wait until their kids turn 18 and get out of the house’. To me that is like saying you can’t wait until one of your best friends moves away. Oh, sure, I would love to take it easy, have less responsibility, get everything my own way, and have the house all quiet, clean, and organized again …or would I?
In my career I’ve had many accomplishments, traveled extensively, learned a great deal, and have made many great friends. In my ministry I have had innumerable positive experiences, likewise have traveled extensively, have accomplishments, have enjoyed the anointing of God on my teaching and preaching, and have in the ministry made many great friends. Yet I can say that what pleases and satisfies a part of my life that can be done by nothing else is having a large family. Being married agrees with me and always has. Having a noisy house with a lot of activity pleases me. Seeing my children grow, prosper, learn, and do so many things, and have academic success (as of this summer I will have three children married, five through college, and six through high school) and work success (except for the youngest all have earned money in either regular part-time work or full-time work). Getting nice comments from so many people concerning our children of course is a source of pride for their mother and me (in a godly way).
So there is our story. Being perfect is not the requirement. Yet with the blessing and guidance of God Almighty our story is that one can indeed have a large family and enjoy the joys and blessings that come with it. Whatever your disposition, you now have the perspective, in practical and biblical terms, of a large family. May God have his way with you in all areas of life, family and otherwise, and to Him be the glory both now and evermore, amen and amen!