EDITOR’S NOTE: The Duggar family are most famous for their reality television show “19 Kids and Counting.” The family lives in Springdale, Ark. The mother and father, Jim Bob (48) and Michelle (47) got married in 1984. They have 19 children; 10 boys and nine girls. Family members will be speaking in Tyler at Green Acres Baptist Church on Orphan Sunday this week. This interview has been edited for length.
I’ve read a bit about your story and how, as pro-life Christians, you chose not to use birth control after you believe it caused the miscarriage of Michelle’s second pregnancy, even though doctors still disagree that can be a cause. Was there ever a moment, after several pregnancies, where you thought “How can we possibly take care of all these children?”
We read in our Bible that children are a gift from God, and we really decided to give that area of our life to God. Right after that, God blessed us with twins. Then we had another one and another one. We got up to about seven or eight, and we thought ‘What have we done? We’ve got all these kids; we’re outnumbered!’ (laughs) We were buckling up all these car seats and changing all these diapers and trying to feed all these kids. It was really overwhelming, but in faith we kept going and tried to daily be consistent with taking care of the needs of our kids and investing in their spiritual life and encouraging them in their walk with God.
That’s so much responsibility! How were you able to invest in each child?
It’s really a joy to have a large family. A lot of people ask, ‘How in the world do you have enough love for all these kids?’ But what we’ve seen is, the more love you give, the more love you receive, the more you’re loved. Our book is called ‘A Love that Multiplies’ and it describes the whole dynamic of a large family, and how love really does multiply over and over.
You’re coming to Green Acres Baptist Church to speak at the Orphan Sunday event. What are you going to say about orphans?
Over the years, we have gone to a lot of orphanages in Central America and have been involved with helping in Northwest Arkansas shelters that take care of children. We really want to encourage people at Green Acres and in Tyler to reach out to children who don’t have parents. They may have parents in prison, they may have parents who are involved in some abuse, but every child needs to be loved. My father-in-law grew up in an orphanage in the Great Depression. He said that there were people from The Salvation Army who would bring Christmas gifts and special treats. He said that was one of the highlights of his life. There were people who invested in his life, and even though he didn’t have a father figure until later, those people who invested in his life made a world of difference. He went on to be a great dad to seven children. Michelle is the baby of those seven children.
Were you from a big family as well?
I just have one older sister! I’d never really been around children until we started having them, but it’s really been a joy. It’s kind of funny: I always wanted a brother, and now I have 10 sons!
What are some unique things people wouldn’t expect about having a large family?
People don’t realize it’s easier with 19 than it is with five! There’s a reason God doesn’t give you all of the children at once! Sometimes you get twins or something like that, but being staggered in age is a benefit. It’s difficult at first, but when you encourage them to have a servant’s heart and work as a team, it creates harmony in the family, and the kids become each other’s best friends. We homeschool, and it’s a lot of joy and fun. We have a lot of friends from smaller families who come over and like to hang out because it’s endless amounts of activity!