The average Australian family size with 2.4 kids is not as common as it used to be. Increasingly small sedans are making way for either Toyota Coasters or a Mazda MX5s. When we look to the Bible for guidance, we cannot find a passage that tells us how many children is ideal.

The often quoted verse is “blessed is he whose quiver is full.” In Christian pop culture, the pressure is on. Through their reality TV show, the Duggars have communicated their version of family life—and it is large. While I appreciate some of the principles that large families espouse, we should be deliberate in how we filter some of those messages.

On the other side of the equation, our society has uplifted the status of the deliberately barren. Whether it be financial pressures or simply the desire for more time for selfish pursuits, the choice to remain single and build a career is growing.

An Australian politician once famously but accurately said that the West was aborting itself into non-existence. The average birth rate in Christian Italy is 1.6 children per woman, while Islamic Yemen’s average birth rate is 7.3 children per woman. Even a simple mathematician can extrapolate where these trends will lead. If part of the purpose of having children is to share the gospel with future generations, then we are failing greatly.

While the Bible does not say how many children we should have, the command to multiply and fill the earth is still in force. Continuing to ignore this will result in great changes. So what do you think? Should we be trying to have large families?

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About Jeremy Crooks

Jeremy grew up in Sydney Australia. He has tertiary qualifications in business, training, and Bible. With experience in both church ministry and corporate human resources, Jeremy has a strong interest in how faith is demonstrated in our homes and workplaces. You can contact Jeremy at


  1. PJ 11 November, 2011 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Another notable politician talked about having “one for the mother, one for the father and one for the country.”

    Whenever I’m asked this question I always answer that if you are able, you should have one child and then after that it’s up to the wife.

  2. Jeremy 11 November, 2011 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Haha Good comment PJ

  3. david milson 11 November, 2011 at 9:07 am - Reply

    A married couple will have as many children as God wants them to. I doesn’t matter how hard they try, or try not to reproduce.
    Some couples quiver can hold many, some none. My wife and I have learned that our quiver can be full whatever the number of children in it.
    Try to have the amount if children you think God wants you to have, and let him do the rest. Don’t throw away the opportunities you have with what you have now, while being distracted trying to reach a specific number.
    God DOES know best and he IS always good!

  4. Kez 11 November, 2011 at 9:21 am - Reply

    While I wouldn’t trade my big family of 12 siblings for the world,I personally can not see myself ever having more than three or four kids tops. I grew up in a large family and all my friends were from large families too. In fact, we were part of the same schooling program the Duggard’s use so I’m very familiar with the way it works and the arguments for why it should work.

    But there are, I believe, even more reasons why having a large family can be a very dangerous thing. Based on finances alone, having a large family in today’s society is not cheap. To cut down on expenses, the children are often home-schooled which isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless the children are not receiving a good level of education of which many don’t. Medical problems – glasses, dental work and other non-fatal illnesses – in the lives of the children in these families are often neglected almost completely. I’ve seen families lose two or three newborn babies because each time they didn’t want the expenses of giving birth in a hospital. Some large families I’ve seen live in sheds with sheets between the boys’ and girls’ rooms because they can’t afford a proper house. So financially, is it good stewardship to take on such a huge commitment when you are not financially set up to do so?

    Then there’s the emotional level. Unless Daddy is rolling in money, he’s more than likely going to be out there killing himself to bring in just enough to provide for his hungry, growing brood. Throw in ministry expectations and dad is almost completely out of the picture. Whether he wants to or not, he simply does not have the time needed to get to know each of his children as they develop into individuals and becomes instead a distant figure in his children’s lives. In a worst case scenario, he will begin to resent his huge family and the burden of responsibility they place on him and become angry, abusive and/or obsessively controlling with them.

    Every mum I’ve seen in these big family situations is a stay at home mum. This not only leaves sole provision up to the dad, but it also leaves the bulk of the child-rearing to the mum. Since she is only one person who is usually exhausted from either being pregnant or from the early months of a newborn, she is unable to cope with 10 or more kids effectively. And so the Buddy System is introduced. The Buddy System basically breaks the family down into sets of two. Dad’s buddy is Mum and Mum has a temporary “second buddy” in her youngest baby.The rest of the kids are paired off in terms of who can care best for the younger siblings.

    The older siblings (still children themselves) are suddenly substitute parents to their still younger siblings and are handed the bulk of one of their siblings’ lives. They are often not only to dress, wash, feed, comfort, and care for that younger sibling’s needs and wants, but also to educate them as well – sometimes at the cost of their own education. In some more extreme cases, I’ve even seen older siblings in charge of physically disciplining their younger “Buddy”.

    So we’re left with a bunch of kids with a distant work-o-holic father and a tired or pregnant mother. The forced unhealthy “parental” relationships between older and younger siblings creates underlying resentments on both ends of their relationship equation that can turn ugly very very quickly. The older children will either start to “rebel” or will turn into obsessive compulsive control freaks to cope with the very adult pressure. Either way the scales tip, they will most likely begin to resent the parents for placing such a huge burden of responsibility on such young shoulders. I’ve heard children explode with, “Well, they’re not MY kid!”

    And basically that’s what it comes down to… If you, as a parent cannot look after another child – emotionally, mentally, psychologically, financially and spiritually… then you need to seriously be considering if you should be having another child. If you are gonna need your oldest children to be a parent to your younger ones so that you can have a manageable home and keep increasing the family size,then don’t keep increasing the size. In this unhealthy and (under the surface largely unsupervised) atmosphere, all sorts of twisted stuff will suddenly be given free rein to the lives and souls of your children sometimes doing irreversible and life-threatening damage to them.

    In my humble opinion and from what I have seen of large families, I believe it is highly irresponsible to have a large family if you cannot invest individually and personally in each of your children’s lives an ample amount of time, love, care and spiritual guidance. It is bad handling of a sacred stewardship God gives parents. I don’t believe 15 scarred, bitter and troubled kids are going to do more for the spread of the gospel than one child who has had time, energy, love and spiritual guidance invested into his or her childhood could do… Quality over quantity, I guess… Think of all the men in history who were the only men of their time to stand up and change the world and bring revival. It doesn’t take many for God’s will to be done. It just takes one who is completely given over to God and the pursuit of Him. =)

    NOTE: The above observations come from watching many many big families as I grew up – not any one in particular. I realize there are some good, healthy big families out there too so please don’t think I’m lumping everyone in together. I just don’t think big families are for everyone – especially those who want a big family but for whatever reason can not afford or care for a big family. Using God as an excuse for that kind of irresponsibility is just, IMO, downright blasphemous… FWIW

  5. Jane 11 November, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Wow, Kez. Your comments are reminiscent of the Quiverfull movement, first introduced to me many years ago in Mary Pride’s book, The Way Home. For many years, I was also the recipient of Above Rubies magazine by Nancy Campbell and daughters in which all birth control is condemned in favour of having as many children as possible. In fact, the Campbells even use Jeremy’s argument about Muslims versus Christians in promoting the “as many children as you can” argument. Sadly, this “doctrine” of large families has been used to abuse women who have been made to feel guilty that they are not trusting God when they hesitate to have another baby because of real health issues. When all things are subordinated to the one side issue of producing a large family (which is what happens in Quiverfull groups), many other real issues (doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God) are skirted around or even brushed aside completely in light of the “big family” guilt trip.

    There is on the internet a large group of women (and men) who have come out of and exposed Quiverfull, and unfortunately I find much of their rhetoric abrasive and reactionary. Obviously they have been deeply hurt by liberties taken with their lives in the name of “filling the earth.” Bitter diatribes fill their blogs. However, the Quiverfull heresy is a force to be tackled even in Australia. Once more, the Devil has taken a good thing (having children) and perverted it to distract people from the gospel of grace and to destroy people’s lives and faith in God. On the side of humanism, he attacks human fertility with abortion and negative child-associated issues; on the side of the religious right, he attacks human fertility by confusing Christians by shifting the gospel focus of the sufficiency of Christ into a works focus of having a lot of children as the sign of a life of obedience to God.

    In answer to Jeremy’s question, my own position is clear. Steve and I have six children and love each one of them as a precious stewardship from God. In light of scriptural principles and attitudes towards children, Christian couples should think carefully before rejecting childbearing outright. Children are a blessing but also a stewardship so while we rejoice in the gift of little lives in our families, we are also deeply conscious of our God-given responsibility to nurture them faithfully. Our quantity of children does not prove the quality of our faith.

  6. Kez 11 November, 2011 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Yes, Jane, that magazine is very familiar to me too. I’d just like to repeat though that I don’t think big families are inherently bad or show irresponsibility. I just think it should be a decision that is made carefully on a child by child basis as the parents are able to properly meet their full responsibility with each child. If they’re not able to, then don’t have another one because it only excabates the problem.

    I’m not sure I agree with David on God giving you as many children as he wants you to have. By that argument, Britany Spears should be allowed to continue having children because if she can get pregnant than God must want her to have more kids. I believe it is a matter of responsibility. Children are a gift from God but they are also a very important “talent” that we need to be good stewards with. Just because someone gets pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean God wanted them to. You wouldn’t tell a 14year old that it was okay for her to get pregnant cause God obviously wanted her to at that point in her life, right? God’s plan may be for that child to be born years down the track when she marries but because of her sin and irresponsibility, she’s now facing life as a single mother at 15. Does that make sense? :)

  7. PJ 11 November, 2011 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    @Jane – you nailed it. Amen.

    @Kez – thankyou so much for sharing that. Amen as well.

    @ Jeremy – I’m serious, after one it should be woman’s perogative, she has to go through all that pain, and I’m told its worse for some than others. Great topic. Thanks.

  8. Greg 11 November, 2011 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I really want kids.
    But that said, what about the concept of “why would you want to expose a soul to the sufferings and evils of this world?”

  9. Jeremy 11 November, 2011 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    @ PJ. I don’t subscribe to the approach that children should be soley the decision of either the husband or the wife. It should be a joint decision. If a wife has a particularly hard time with childbirth, a loving husband would not force her to have a 2nd. I hope that makes sense.

    @ Greg. That argument is a common one. It was around when my parents were thinking about having me. I am sure it was around in the 1st century too. My view is that God may have plans for your future child to be the next Billy Graham.

  10. david milson 11 November, 2011 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Kez, I think you may have misinterpreted my comments. “Try to have the amount of children you think God wants you to have”. Come to that decision by taking into consideration ability, finance, danger to mother, all of the things mentioned in the above comments by others. At the end of the day, God decides who bears or doesn’t bear children……….yes, even Britany.
    Alana and I decided on a number, God had other plans. We have none.

  11. Kez 11 November, 2011 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Ah, I see. Sorry for the misunderstanding and thanks for clarifying… =)

  12. Jason Harris 11 November, 2011 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I appreciate this discussion. It is particularly relevant to Australian Fundamentalists because the movement Jane describes was the mainstream IB approach for several decades in Adelaide and brought incalculable damage to so many homes.

    It’s something I’ve been meaning to bring up for discussion for years now and haven’t gotten around to it. But this thread is a good start.

  13. PJ 11 November, 2011 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    @Jeremy – 12:56pm.

    I agree with you. I put it in the terms I do because I absolutely want to remove any trace of male chauvinism in that decision-making process. I remember how my dear wife suffered, particularly in having our 2nd child and I tend to think that suffering gives her much more of a say than me in any decision about having more children.

  14. Jeremy 12 November, 2011 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Good points PJ. I agree.

  15. Jeremy 12 November, 2011 at 6:22 am - Reply

    I have four kids and I can relate to many of the pressures that Kez identified. With rising costs of living, it is difficult to raise a large family on a single income. I have discovered that once a family crosses the rubicon of having more than 3 kids, then:
    – a people mover needs to be purchased
    – a single hotel room on holidays is not an option
    – renting a house with enough bedrooms is virtually impossible

    Whether these are necessities is up for debate.

  16. Jeremy 12 November, 2011 at 7:18 am - Reply

    For what it is worth – The Duggar’s have just announced they are expecting child number 20 –

  17. Shane 26 November, 2011 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    I remember some of the ‘quiverful’ pushers of the 90s when I was younger. I didn’t think to much of it at the time.

    As someone who would love more kids and knowing several who have not been able to have any kids – if someone came up to me and started with the quiverful rubbish I’d be pretty offended.

    Some people have absolutely no idea of the heartbreak of not being able to have any children of their own or not have as many as they would have like.

  18. Jeremy Crooks 5 December, 2011 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Good comment Shane. It is a topic that is personal. What is right for one, is not always right for all.

  19. A concerned friend 17 October, 2012 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    I noticed that your web slogan is, “Expect truth in large doses”. So far, from what I can see, this discussion hasn’t even made reference to one Bible verse! Please let us remember that truth is found in the Word of God. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”John 17:17 I add the following “large dose” of Bible truth to this discussion,

    1. Children are a blessing from God.
    Psalm 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 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.

    Deut. 28:4 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.

    Deut. 28:11 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.

    Deut 30:9 And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:

    2. God opens and closes the womb.

    Genesis 20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

    Genesis 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

    Genesis 30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

    3. God gives and withholds conception.

    Genesis 30:2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

    Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son.

    1 Samuel 2:21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

    Genesis 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

    There are many more Scriptures but this is a start! Please consider the truth of the Word of God on this subject please before airing your opinions.

    • Jeremy Crooks 18 October, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      Hi Peter

      Thanks for adding those verses. I would add however that not every mention of truth requires a chapter and verse reference. All truth is God’s truth and yes the Bible instructs us on many of life’s issues. If you look at the posts on In focus you will find many with Bible references and others that are built on Biblical principles.

    • Jeremy Crooks 18 October, 2012 at 1:25 pm


      Is your point that you would like to see more Bible references or are you saying the Bible makes a case against contraception?


  20. Ruby 9 May, 2013 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Hi there, this is my first comment on this site and I thought seeing that everyone is allowed to say their opinion, I would add some thoughts..
    I’m sorry to say that I don’t know if this site is meant to encourage young Christians, but I am a young Christian and all I can see from what I have read so far (which I admit is only some of the articles and comments, so I am only speaking from them) is bitterness and a desire to tear down “Fundamentalists” and “IBs” with hardly any backup of Scripture. I am being completely honest in saying that this has been very discouraging read for me personally.
    I know everyone is entitled to an opinion and I will respect that.
    On the subject on hand, I, too, have met some large families who have not handled their children in what I see as a responsible way. They seem to have not treated and cared for them as treasures sent from God. But, at the same time, I am going from the outward and only God knows their hearts and desires.
    What I can mention is my own testimony of my own family, which I know isn’t always perfect, but if I speak of my own family I can be honest without judging just the outward. Like Kez, I am also from a family of 12 children and I honestly feel SO blessed to have been given so many people to love and learn from every day. I know that I don’t thank God enough for the family I have, but I am so grateful to Him for giving them to me and there is nothing I would rather have. I am privileged to have parents that have loved us, cared for us and have sacrificed their money, their time, and their dreams to be there for and to educate us all, spiritually and mentally. Their love for God, their love for each other and their love for each and every one of my siblings and I, has only ever pointed me toward and shown me a sample of God’s great love. Just as no human being is perfect, no parent is perfect and no child is perfect. We all make mistakes and fall at times. You can judge and criticize my parents if you want for having 12 children, but I can honestly say they are the godliest people I know. They don’t just talk about God, but they show through their daily lives and actions, their closeness to God and their desire to serve Him.
    Not only do I believe that God should be the One who decides the size of the family based on the Scriptures that were well pointed out in a previous comment, but also on the basis of being a Christian. As Christians, and I’m sure you will all agree, we are tested by God to bring us closer to Him and to bring glory to His name. And I’m sure we all also agree that God won’t give us a mountain that He won’t help us over. We should have faith, like Abraham, that God knows what He is doing and that He will bring us to the other side of every mountain and test. Just as we should not be telling God just how many trials and testings He should take us through, should we be telling Him how many children He should be giving us?? God gives us what He (the All-Knowing God) knows is best for us in all areas of life. We may not be rich, but God will always provide what is needed. So why are we drawing the line and only trusting God with some areas of our lives?
    Thank you for reading this. I know it is lengthy – sorry about that. ;)

    • Jeremy Crooks 28 May, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      Hi Ruby

      Welcome and thanks for your comments. May God bless your large family.

      Yes we all need to guard against bitterness.

      How do you see us as only trusting God in some areas of life?

  21. Joy 30 May, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

    to concerned friend:

    Fortunately, I can relieve your mind about your concern! (There WERE verses mentioned, but…)

    It is ASSUMED that we want to follow only what God says in the Bible and not our own opinion or what is currently popular in society.

    ABSOLUTELY the Bible is our foundation and we desire to not be guilty of adding or taking away from it.

    I am the mother of 7 and nana of 20 and deeply love each one of them.

    Considering your verses:

    1. We agree – children ARE a blessing from God! God does not specify the size of each couple’s quiver, however. And God does not indicate His disapproval (NON-blessing) by withholding children from some couples. Or by taking Home a child. It is not a punishment – which would be a logical conclusion from your premise.

    He has a different plan for each family. What you’ve been taught falls under the category of adding to the Bible & taking verses out of context.

    Some people, such as the group Kez (above) was in, tend to base their spirituality (and judge others!) on the number of children they have. It is possible you aren’t acquainted with the extreme-ism this thinking leads to – the pride involved, the belief the dad literally OWNS the daughter, prohibiting a daughter from EVER leaving home until marriage, the belief that women are only good for cooking and babies, etc.

    Think again about the verses in Deuteronomy you quoted. They were given to the nation of Israel and logically do not make sense if you take them as a promise to a family.

    2. We agree also that God opens and closes wombs, but these verses do not fit with your premise in number 1. If God’s blessing is expressed by a large number of children, then where does that leave couples who are unable to have children? They did not choose this, God did and He is incapable of being unloving.

    Also, these verses prove that only God gives life, nothing else, unless approached with a pre-supposed theory.

    3. this is the same as number 2.

    God gives children. He also gives brains and common sense! There are verses on being a good steward, too. He expects us to base our actions on logic when there are no express directives in His Word.

    I used to believe the teaching that we shouldn’t tell God ‘no’, too. God guides each of us by using circumstances, financial pressures, good/bad health, etc and we have to be sensitive to His small voice.

    I agree that selfishness must not enter our decision, as non-believers often do.

    We do not believe in works salvation and that IS the basis for the thinking you’ve been exposed to. It is essentially a grace-law issue.

    Here are other verses to consider, since we need to take the whole council of God into account … what God wants us to do with those children AFTER they are born is equally important!!

    Eph 6:4 is telling fathers to NOT provoke their children to anger. A parent who is rarely available to listen and have one-on-one fun produces anger. A parents who is frustrated and irritable produces anger. His child is deprived of that solid foundation every child needs – to know that he is secure in his parent’s love and accepted fully just the way he is.

    A parent must stay in touch with where each child is spiritually and be available to listen with 100% attention whenever they come to you to share their heart – WHEN they need it, not when you schedule it. There is no substitute for time.

    Proverbs – ‘My son, give me thine heart.’ — even though I’m never home and am too busy to really know you for who you are – your likes/dislikes, your friends, goals, dreams … let alone when your birthday is?!?

    Eph 6:4 tells parents to bring them up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord and Proverbs’ “train up a child in the way he should go” is talking to parents, not an older sibling or nanny. You can’t mass-produce training.

    I’m glad you posted and hope what I’m saying makes some sense to you – because I used to be where you are!

  22. Elizabeth 3 June, 2013 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    This is an interesting post with some very helpful comments.

    I actually just finished reading Mary Pride’s book ‘The Way Home’ and a few *red flags* went up along the way.

    I found the book had a sarcastic and unfriendly tone to it. Should I be surprised? (I think not).

    I have met many children and young adults from so called ‘Quiverfull’ families and from what I have seen, the kids are fed, loved, clothed and educated.

    I have heard that there are families within this framework who, as Kez has mentioned, have little money or time to spend with their children etc.

    It is these families who make the rest of the movement look bad. And from what I have heard there seems to be abuse occuring in many of these types of families which doesn’t reflect Christianity whatsoever.

    So I would hesitate to use those families as an example of why people should refuse to have as many children as God would give.

    My husband and I came to the conclusion shortly after marrying that we wouldn’t use contraception and would gladly receive as many children as God would give us.

    We also want to homeschool our kids.

    haha. Does that make us ‘Quiverfull’ and ‘adding to scripture’?

    I think not.

    I am certain that there are families who only have 5 children (and not 12) who have the same mentality that Joy described. It is not only 12 kid families with warped views.

    I don’t think that it is wrong to ask God for big families, nor do I think income has anything to do with it.

    There are plenty of people with two children on double incomes who are struggling and it isn’t due to lack of provision but rather folly.

    I know of one family on one low to average income with 10 kids and they do very well considering.

    To me, it reflects their prudence and trust in God.

    Either way… perhaps God is best the judge in these matters. Let people be as fruitful as they want to be and vice versa.

    • Jeremy Crooks 4 June, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Hi Elizabeth.

      Your comment about income levels and number of children is spot on.

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