Why Grandma Quit Having Kids

Let’s think about why my grandmother quit having kids.

The truth is she was pregnant, probably 20 percent of her entire life as she lived to just age 58 when a stroke took her away from us.

I calculate that she was pregnant for about 14.5 years. She had 16 kids. All of them lived, which was kind of amazing given the times and the medical support available. After number 16, they quit. You can easily guess why – she was tired.

Parenting a lot of kids wasn’t unusual in her generation. When I was a kid in elementary school, I knew many people whose grandparents had ten children or more. Friends with eight aunts and uncles were pretty standard. Five or six was commonplace.

But, the world changed. My parents had three. Today, people have one and done, or a girl and a boy, then call it quits.

So what’s the lesson for church leaders? As church planters or churches that plant, we get to a point where having kids is doable but challenging. The two largest churches that I planted don’t plant any longer. One is busy reviving church multiplication, and that’s exciting (Hermosa Beach).

I’m old—both in years and as a pastor and leader.

The churches that I’ve led have grown old. As they aged, they slowed. Grandmothers can have babies but not as quickly or easily as they did when they were young.

There was a time in Hawaii when we gathered the leaders of our church plants to remind them, “Hey, grandma’s getting tired. We’re still pumping out new churches, but it’s becoming more difficult. It’s up to you to carry the ball further down the field.” And they did. And their offspring did. That’s why we can now count a bit more than 2,600 churches claiming our church in their lineage. A few weeks ago, I would have put that number at around 2,400 but I ran into a pastor who told me of more than twice the number that he reported just five years ago in Africa.

This reproduction/multiplication thing is pretty exciting stuff.

A goofy event triggered this blog. I discovered that I had been paying for an account on one of those websites which record your genealogy. I paid for it for three years while thinking it was my wife’s account. Before canceling the subscription, I explored my grandparents’ family history. It was a knockout.

Shortly before heading off to college, I counted a few more than 220 first and second cousins whose names I knew. I didn’t know most of them, personally, but I did know they existed. They were the result of my prolific grandparents and their 16 children plus their less prolific kids.

My foray into my grandparent’s genealogy brought up last names I’d never heard. They live all over the country. Some in Hawaii and others in San Diego (it’s scary to think how many unknown relatives I may have angered in traffic).

I never heard of most of those people. But that’s the way it should be.

A parent has kids. They have kids, and they have kids. It goes on from there. That’s the way it should be with us. I believe that every church is called the multiply itself, or at least a reproduce a couple of times – even if it’s just one or two and done. But the real goal is that we multiply those that can multiply.

We should be looking at reproducing ourselves to the fourth generation. This fits with Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:2 NLT).

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