Why the ‘Bringing Up Bates’ Family Wanted to Have 19 Kids

There are quite a few gigantic families that are making their way into the realm of reality TV — and the Bates family is one of them. Gil and Kelly Jo Bates are known for having 19 children on Bringing Up Bates, and fans are continually fascinated with their Christian fundamentalist way of life, which includes plenty of strict guidelines most others wouldn’t even think to abide by. Making the family even more fascinating is their association with the Duggars — another family of 19 we’ve been watching for years. Altogether, that’s certainly a lot of mouths to feed.

Having 19 children seems unfathomable for many, and it wasn’t necessarily a simple decision for Gil and Kelly, either. Here’s how they came to the decision to have so many kids in the first place.

Gil and Kelly Bates didn’t always want 19 kids — but then they read over the Bible

The Bates family from "Bringing Up Bates"
Gil Bates, 45, and his children queue for the bathroom | James Ambler/ Barcroft USA/Getty Images

The Bates’ lives are deeply steeped in religion, but they having so many children wasn’t always at the forefront of their minds. Gil spoke to the Christian Examiner regarding his decision to have kids — and apparently, it was mostly Kelly’s idea. “My wife one day said, ‘I think God wants us to trust Him on having children’,” he told the publication — and he also noted he was hesitant at first. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. We could have 20 kids. You just can’t do that.'” Eventually, Gil came around after reading the Bible, as he realized God thought of children as blessings. Together, he and Kelly took the leap of faith and stopped using all forms of birth control to see what would occur.

Gil continued, “There’s only two things that are going to last forever – God’s Word and people. We went down a path, and we didn’t know anyone else in the world thought this way, but we were convinced it was what we should do.” Now, we know their path led them to 19 kids.

They believe it’s not about how many children you have, but rather about following God’s will

The Bates family from "Bringing Up Bates"
The Bates family from Bringing Up Bates | James Ambler/Barcroft USA/Getty Images

For Gil and Kelly, it was never about having as many children as possible, which is the end goal for some Christian fundamentalist groups. Instead, they wanted to trust in their God that He would lead them down the path that was most righteous. As Gil told the Christian Examiner, “You may be asked to trust the Lord in having no children; you might not be able to have children. It’s not a matter of how many children God gives you; it’s really a matter for us of finding God’s will for your life, and being willing to trust Him in whatever He’s asked you to do.” He went on to add, “We didn’t know it would be 19 kids, but I don’t think we would have seen and experienced some of the amazing blessings we’ve seen in life had we not chosen to trust God.”

It’s also worth noting that Gil and Kelly’s lives weren’t always as steeped in religion as they are now. CBN notes it took Kelly many years (even though she was a “preacher’s kid”) to accept Christ into her life, and Gil only went to church as a kid out of habit. Eventually, they were deeply impacted by the Biblical word and chose to follow it.

The Duggar family follows the same belief system

The Duggar Family Visits "Extra"
The Duggar Family Visits Extra | D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

The Duggars and the Bates took the same approach when it came to having children — and that was that they wanted to trust that God would bless them with as many little ones as they were meant to have. There is one large difference, however — and that’s that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar seemingly always wanted a large family, whereas we now know the Bates were more reserved here. Michelle has even spoken about how if she could have more than 19 kids, she would — and she’s been pregnant with another child before. Sadly, she miscarried, and even the youngest Duggar, Josie, nearly didn’t make it.

Will any of the Bates or Duggar kids have as many children as their parents? We’re not sure — but we wouldn’t be too surprised if they do.

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