Raised Quiverfull: Church

What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?


Before my parents divorced in 1987, we attended an American Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  It was quite a liberal church.  They had a female pastor and preached about cultural issues with little Scripture, along with the typical Lutheran liturgical traditions. A highlight of my life there was drinking Kool-Aid in Sunday school and their annual sauerkraut dinners with peppered rutabagas.

After the divorce, Mama was convinced that Billy Boy G [Bill Gothard] wanted her to stay at her “husband’s” church and we remained members until my father remarried.  Once he remarried, Mama felt that Billy Boy G wanted her to attend a church blessed by him and we became uber-followers of Normandale Baptist in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA.

Everyone at this church thought the same way.  They all homeschooled and had large families.  A few had radical beliefs but they were easily sidelined or railroaded out of the fellowship.  The church built its life around the Basic and Advanced seminars of IBLP and the annual pilgrimage to Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, for the ATI homeschool conference.  Everything at this church revolved around the belief that divorce was evil, a scarlet letter on your spiritual chest.  I carried this belief baggage around for many years.


It’s hard to identify a pattern except that we changed churches a lot.  During my childhood, we attended various Baptist churches.  In my early teens when my dad wasn’t attending church, we formed a home church with several CP/Q families that we knew from the homeschooling community.  For some reason that fell apart, but at that point my dad was ready to attend church again.  We attended two more Baptist churches before we all ended up at Reb Bradley’s church, Hope Chapel.  We attended Hope Chapel with many other homeschooling CP/Q families from my mid-teens through early twenties.

Libby Anne:

I actually grew up in an evangelical megachurch. While it was a generally conservative atmosphere – both doctrinally and politically – almost no one there was part of the Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull movements. However, because the church was so large, it was possible for us to only socialize with the most like-minded families. Furthermore, we never attended youth group activities (too worldly). There were other churches in our area that were made up primarily or entirely of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull families, but my parents felt those were too legalistic.


Since my Dad didn’t find a denomination that suited him, we switched churches a lot. He thought he had some sort of say in the church community, which caused us to be cast out rather quickly. In some churches, they didn’t want us because we were too legalistic, others we left because they didn’t represent what my Dad believed in. I can’t tell you just how many churches we tried out, but it was certainly more than 10 communities we were involved in over 20 years. Some churches we stayed in for months, others we visited once or twice and didn’t like the people, or the pastor, or something else. But it was mostly Baptist communities, and they were also the ones we stayed at for the longest time. We met a whole lot of like-minded families, some we stayed in contact with, many others changed their ways and didn’t agree with what we believed in (any more). My Dad thought those families had a bad influence on us, so we cut the contacts.


My family attended a number of different churches over the years. We started out in Calvary Chapel, participated in two different Vineyard churches, joined a run-of-the-mill evangelical non-denominational church, and then we moved from CA to VA to be part of a Sovereign Grace Ministries church (then PDI). We attended there for some 10 years, and that was the only church we went to where we weren’t the only large family or the only homeschoolers. At that church, most of the families had 6-8 kids and homeschooled. I left this church when I moved out and went away to college. My family left about three years later, when some abuses of authority by the leadership were exposed.


When I was young, we attended several churches. Usually small, preferably led by an older pastor, and sometimes leaning pentacostal. The women were usually dressed modestly, no loud music. After age 10 we moved again and got more conservative. After that we tried out a couple of churches but nothing was ever approved by my dad, eventually we stopped looking. When I was 18 we started to consistently attend a very conservative church full of very large patriarchal homeschooling families.


When we finally DID go to church the summer before I turned 13, it was a tiny family church with one service, no worship band, and no daycare. Families of 8, 9, and 10 kids were the norm. Families would take up an entire row of chairs by themselves, and we never made it through a service without at least 6 babies crying loudly. Our pastors preached CP/QF doctrine from the pulpit and by example. Many people in our church had followed the leading of God and gone back to having children even thought they were nearing their 40’s and already had 4 or 5 older children. Our church stressed the importance of reading scripture in the home, and encouraged fathers to be “spiritual leaders.” They also had a highly structured and supervised “youth group” that my dad never allowed us to attend.


My church [Branham’s The Message of the Hour] practiced the patriarchy it preached. Most families were also quiverfull, although their children tended to number in the high single digits. In addition to the patriarchy, submission, courtship and purity culture, we lived by extremely strict dress codes. Skirts had to cover the knees while sitting and be loose enough to reveal nothing. Pants were forbidden in every context. Shirts had to be loose, long and absolutely not sleeveless. Hair could not be cut, even trimmed. All makeup was forbidden. Piercings were forbidden. Painting nails and wearing jewelry were treated with suspicion.

We only had Sunday services for most of my tenure there, because we were poor and rented a YMCA building. Special meetings like communion, footwashing, fellowship and prayer meetings were held occasionally in people’s homes.


My parents did a lot of church hopping and shopping before becoming involved with the housechurch movement when I was in my teens.  The man who led the housechurch my parents got involved in was one of the more well-known apologists for housechurching in our area. Himself by no means a CP/QF advocate, he tended to attract a mixed crowd and the meetings were usually interesting, to say the least. We were part of that group for many years, until it broke apart and a few of the CP/QF families that were involved, my family included, started a housechurch of their own. After that break, things became much more homogonized and in some ways stifling, because literally everyone in our group was reinforcing the CP/QF paradigm, either by explicitly promoting it or simply by being the people they had become.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — Living the Life Summary

On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
On Indiana
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    Two of the panel used the word “legalistic” here, in a context where I’m not sure exactly what it means. Is this some kind of terminology used a lot in evangelical/CP circles? Or is it just a coincidence?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Not a coincidence. “Legalistic” means following rules instead of following God. In practice, it’s generally used by conservative Christians to condemn those who are more conservative than them. In other words, if I follow Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy teachings but I let me daughters wear pants and cut their hair, I might call the family that is skirts only and insists on long hair “legalistic” – and because I, say, don’t let my children listen to rock music, some family that doesn’t censor their kids’ music will in turn call me legalistic. So it gets thrown around a lot, usually to justify one’s own beliefs (“oh no, I’m just following the Bible, I’m not legalistic like them”) but is generally ill-defined.

      • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

        Gotcha. I had an inkling it was something along those lines.

        It’s funny how specific terminology like that crops up surrounding a particular belief system. You’d be surprised how often I can recognize a Mormon, for instance, simply based on her choice of words (I was raised Mormon, hence I know the lingo).

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Uh, “choose the right.” And “heavenly father says…” And that’s all I know about Mormon lingo. And…I got it all from watching Big Love. :-P

  • charlesbartley

    The whole “more conservative than them” thing has always fascinated me.

    I am 40 now, any my church going days were in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. I went to two churches when I grew up. A “Berean” Bible church, and and former Congregational bible church. Biblical inerrancy was the cornerstone of each church. Both were AWANA churches. I would call them politically and religiously conservative, but with no hint of Pentacostalism. No one I knew home schooled, but I knew that the movement existed.

    At school, I naturally found friendships with other Christian kids to be “safer” and “less worldly” than with non-Christians. But with those friendships I discovered that every one of their churches emphasized different things. They looked “weird” and “legalistic” to me, but I had to be super impressed when they could show me how their practices were biblically based. I even had a Pentacostal friend… I went to church with him where they were speaking in tongues and stuff. Totally weirded me out. So there was always this tension between “oh good, you believe the correct things” and “wow, this is a little to strange, legalistic, etc.” They of course were looking at me in the exact same way. I think we all secretly felt admiration for each other’s purity, and distain for them for getting it wrong. If you follow the Bible to closely then you were too legalistic, almost as bad as a Pharisee and your faith was dead. If you didn’t follow it closely enough then it was a sign that you were not a true believer. The Holy Spirit indwelling in you was supposed to help you tell the difference.

    I still believed the whole bit about “consistency of message” in the Bible, so I figured that these were all legitimate attempts to follow God and that they were ultimately compatible. I always envisioned some sort of “super Christian” that could follow all of these paths but in perfect balance with each other. Of course, that was Jesus.

    In college in the early 90s, I went ELCA Lutheran on my path away from my church (somewhat like what happened with Libby Ann’s time as a RC). The biggest thing I remember from talking with the three pastors at my church was that they thought that the whole church ecosystem that I came up in was just crazy. “You all like rules, who sets them? How do you tell what the real doctrine is? How do you catch those that preach an incorrect doctrine? What lens do they view the bible from?” They saw the system as ripe with opportunity for cultism, heresy, false teachers and that it had a HUGE lack of accountability. They were of course right. But so, I thought was the view that the Bible churches had of the mainline denomination churches–they could ignore anything that they didn’t like without even feeling guilty about it! They were wrapped up in bureaucracy. Ritual could replace belief.

    It wasn’t until much later that I just stopped believing the whole mess. So much dissonance just went “poof” the first time I said to myself “there is no God.” I was of course then left with a huge void between me and all of my friends and family…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Oh, AWANA.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I’m actually continually surprised by how many people who similarly walked away mention AWANA. Not that there’s a connection between the two, I don’t think there is, just that every time someone mentions it in this kind of situation I feel an automatic commonality. Like, we have this piece of our past in common. We could talk about Sparkies or Chums and Guards and know what the other is talking about.

    • Noelle

      Ex-Lutheran here too. And I see Joe mentioned it as his beginning church. Lutheranism is a nice step out. It’s downright liberal compared to the rest of American Christianity. We were encouraged to be free thinkers, and no topic was taboo. Women working? No problem. Women preachers? Sure thing. Evolution? A-Okay to believe in that and God simultaneously. Want to vote Democrat? Go right ahead. Gay marraige? I’ll bring a casserole to the reception. Birth control? Yes, please (my family with 6 kids was way out of place. But it wasn’t by choice. Mom had inconsistent access to health care and contraception). Even discussing that abortion might not be evil during youth group wasn’t off the table.

      It also encouraged complacency in having a reason to bother challenging my faith to the point of giving it up entirely. My religion was benign, boring even. We weren’t contributing to the evil stuff atheists attributed to religion. I could listen to my atheist friends spout it all, and I could shrug it off. However, when it came time, I used the same critical thinking of my own Lutheran upbringing to shed the last bits of faith. With no drama, of course. Lutherans don’t do drama.

  • charlesbartley

    You have never mentioned AWANA before :D Don’t forget AWANA Olympics. And all of the horrible songs… oh the songs (groan).

    After I became an atheist, I felt oddly grateful for AWANA. I had memorized so much of the Bible and knew my way around it so well that it actually made my eventual leaving easier.

    AWANA had (what I think of as) inoculating verses for everything. For “assurance of salvation” see Romans 8:38-39. (I can still remember that and I haven’t read the Bible in 15 years and I can still quote it in the KJV). They tried to prepare you with a verse for every situation that you could end up in, or for every doubt that you could have.

    What those verses really ended up providing for me was cover from the accusations that “If you just believed the right thing, if you just knew the bible better, if you just prayed correctly… then you wouldn’t have become an Atheist.” None of my family ever accused me of those things. They knew better (which I think makes all of this even more painful for them). I think I had to overcome those accusations in my head first though. I have always been my harshest critic. Looking back on it, I often feel that my deconversion took far too long, and I was far to cowardly in facing up to the changes that needed to happen. I really wanted the safety of belief. I wanted the safety of a world that operated according to all of those verses.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Nope, I hadn’t mentioned it before. :-P Did they do the AWANA Grand Prix when you were in it? We got these little kits and carved them into cars and painted them and they set up a huge race track in the gym. Every year. Also, quizzing.

      And you’re absolutely right – I memorized SO MUCH of the Bible, it was crazy. And I know each book, like what it talks about, when and why it was written (fundy version, not scholarly version), etc. And same as you, it works out nicely when people accuse me of “never having been saved” or something. Memorizing all those definitions, doing all those Bible drills…oh, AWANA. :-P

      • Stephanie

        Oh my goodness…the memories are coming back. I was raised Southern Baptist, and definitely NOT Quiverfull/CP (there wasn’t even a hint of it in our church)…but AWANA was definitely there! I even won a ‘best design’ award at the Grand Prix one year…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Oh and YES, the song sung at the opening ceremony each day? In retrospect it’s kind of militant. “Youth on the march!” Also, pledging allegiance to the AWANA flag…I mean, isn’t that kind of overkill?

      • Charlesbartley

        We had the grand prix also. I had forgotten about the pledge. Bletch.

  • Tamilia

    Someone shared this book with me that points out many things in the church that strengthens the urge not to be a Christian. After reading this I saw that those who are least like Christ are Christians! Maybe the author didn’t mean for it to be used as literary suicide to his belief’s position by Atheist but glad it was shared with me. PLEASE Share with your friends! See it here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the-zeal-of-thine-house-has-eaten-me and http://zeal-book.com

  • Emily

    The theme of authority is one that keeps coming up in this discussion, but the primary emphasis is on family authority (i.e. the husband is the head). From there, it seems like families (specifically, the dad) picks one of two paths: house church where he gets to be the head or submit to the authority of a powerful pastor-head (like those the writers named). What distinguishes dads that chose either path? Is there a concept of the father submitting himself to Christ and the local leader(s) of the congregation? I come from a Church of Christ background where a group (2 or more) of shepherds or elders are the authority over members of the congregation, including the preacher. I know some quiverfull families in Churches of Christ but the were part of that fellowship before they became quiverfull, in most cases. So what do you think: is house church an extension of father headship and is there an attitude of submission in fathers who put themselves under a Bill Gothard type leader?

    • Karen

      I grew up Catholic, in a household where Mom was Catholic and Dad was Lutheran. Mom seemed to think she needed to submit to Dad because he was her husband. I tended to consult Dad, and follow his recommendations, because he was a smart, sensible person who could frame the right/wrong of a topic in a way I could relate to.

  • Ibis3

    What is AWANA?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      A Bible club popular in fundamentalist churches. AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. It’s from the Bible. :-P

  • ScottInOH


    I was struck by your comment that your church in Bloomington seemed built around the idea that divorce was the worst possible sin, but your mother chose to go there after she was divorced. Do you know what her thinking on that was?

    Slightly OT:

    I notice a number of the contributors went to many different churches growing up. I wonder how common that is among QF/P families. I know there is a Catholic-flavored version of QF/P, and I would imagine those families stay rooted in their parishes, but non-Catholics have a lot more freedom to experiment.

  • Nimue

    @Emily: I grew up church of Christ also. There weren’t any quiverfull families at my parents’ church, but this was mainly because it was part of a suburbia-culture more so that in it was part of a Christian subculture. My husband also grew up church of Christ, and he comes from a solidly QF family (he is child #3 of 11, and all 11 of them have first and middle names from the Bible). There was one other quiverfull family at his family’s church, but they both homeschooled and spent time with other QF families in the area. My family’s church was structured the way you describe, and there was a huge emphasis on fathers being the authority in their families. My parents think James Dodson is practically divinely inspired (for those unfamiliar with him, think Michael Pearl-light) and definitely thought *every* parent-child interaction was a power struggle. Seriously, if they told me to clean my room and I forgot, I aside from getting yelled at to go clean my room, I would get a lecture on how they weren’t going to allow me to control them, and how they “knew” that the reason I hadn’t cleaned my room was to defy/deny their control over their own home…Yeesh. I still consider myself church of Christ but my husband and i attend an Anglican church regularly now.

  • http://incongruouscircumspection.blogspot.com Incongruous Circumspection


    “Joe, I was struck by your comment that your church in Bloomington seemed built around the idea that divorce was the worst possible sin, but your mother chose to go there after she was divorced. Do you know what her thinking on that was?”

    A surprising number of divorcees attend that church to this day. I see it this way: Since divorce is considered anathema, they get to live in a perpetual repentant state. Continual flogging of oneself to win the “most humble” award is pretty hip in this culture. The worst part about it are the couples that have been divorced and remarried. They get the “loving frown” treatment whenever addressed. It still surprises me how people willingly subject themselves to maltreatment for their entire life, just to appear humble.

  • http://christiancompletely.blogspot.com/ Skarlet

    “What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?”

    Well, up until I was about 11 or 12, we went to a legalist and judgmental church that pretty much hated my family. In that church, you were judged if you admitted to any struggle or shortcoming – everyone there always had their “good face” on. And relationships were seen as a means to an end; fellowship was just a way to exhort other believers. The church was against large families, against homeschooling, for rock music, against women wearing skirts/dresses. Also, the leadership wanted the kids in the family to only be in Sunday School, and not the main service, but my parents wanted us in the main service and not in watered-down Sunday school. So there was ongoing conflict at that church, mainly on the side of the leadership and others in that church trying to consistently pressure my parents, and not letting them be involved in any ministry. It was a non-denominational brethren church.

    After that, we went to a small little non-denominational church. The people there were very nice, but we were the only family going there, who had more than three kids. The pastor was old, and when he retired, the family moved on another similar church – Community Bible Church. In this church, though, there were several other large families, and a bunch of them were homeschoolers as well (but not ATI), though most of the girls also wore dresses and skirts.