Terry and Mary Inman, pastors at First Assembly of God in Fremont,
Calif., have seven sons (Jeremy, 29; Tim, 27; David, 23; Jon, 21; Sam,
19; Jesse, 17; and Jason, 15). Mary recently spoke with Kirk Noonan,
associate editor, about the triumphs and trials of raising a large family.
Evangel: What is your philosophy on parenting?
Inman: We started with our children held tightly in a closed
fist. We made all of their decisions for them they didnt
have any choices. But as they grew older we started opening the hand
up slowly to allow them to make their own decisions. By the time they
left home, they were ready to step out of our hands.
Evangel: Time management must have been crucial. What was your strategy
for handling the everyday rigors of life?
Inman: We developed some elaborate systems to divide all of
the chores between the children and myself. As soon as they were able
to do anything, they were responsible for the chores they could do.
We broke each task down so the boys could do their part, but we always
made sure they were not overwhelmed.
Evangel: Describe a typical day in the Inman house when all seven
boys lived there.
Inman: Constant words and action. On occasion I would tell them,
"No more words, because Mom has to think her own thoughts for a few
minutes." With that many children, there was a constant need for Mom
or Dad to be doing something for at least one of them.
Evangel: That must have created some unique challenges for your
marriage. How did you and Terry keep your marriage strong?
Inman: In order for our marriage to survive we had to get out
of the house and have conversations that were not interrupted by the
children. So we made that a priority. On most Mondays we would have
babysitters watch the kids for at least a few hours so we could spend
time together. Other times we had an overnight outing, which provided
enough time away that I came back refreshed and energized.
Evangel: How did you make time for God?
Inman: I realized early on that I had to get up before the family
got up in the morning. I just planned on it and had a place in the living
room where I knelt at the couch and prayed.
Evangel: What was the benefit for the boys in being raised in such
a large family?
Inman: They learned to share everything, including their parents.
There isnt as much money to go around when you have a large family,
and I think that made it better for them. They never expected the world
to hand them everything.
Evangel: How was it being the only female in a house of eight males?
Inman: I probably would have enjoyed more female-to-female conversations.
But there are some great things about having all boys. They love their
mother and that makes it easy to raise them. I didnt have to go
through the tough teen-age years that many mothers and daughters experience.
Evangel: How did you make sure each child received enough attention
Inman: Thats the downside of having so many children
they dont get as much time with the parents. But we made the most
of every moment. If I went to the grocery store I took at least one
of them with me. On Saturdays Terry would take them to the donut shop.
We always tried to turn everyday happenings into special times.
Evangel: What are some tips you would give to busy parents?
Inman: Children need to be raised by someone who is deeply in
love with them. That was my motivation for staying at home. I know not
everyone can stay home, but we have found that my staying home has really
Evangel: What was the most important thing you wanted your sons
to leave your house with when they had grown?
Inman: I wanted them to leave knowing that I was letting them
go so they could become the men God wanted them to become. I also wanted
them to carry a really strong faith in God so that when life knocked
them around they would be strong enough to survive.
Evangel: When you look back on how you raised your children is there
anything you would do differently?
Inman: Now that I am a grandma [the Inmans have five grandchildren]
I look back and wish I had had more time to interact with my children.
But I dont live with regrets. Once our children are grown, there
isnt anything we can do to change what we have or havent
done while raising them. We can only do the best we can do and let God
redeem all of our shortcomings.
Evangel: What advice would you give to someone who was raised in
a home where good parenting was not displayed?
Inman: Dont believe that you are somehow flawed and will
never "do it right." God is working on you and as He does He will help
you develop parenting skills. When we come to Christ He makes all things
new and He helps us to be better parents.
Evangel: How did all of you get to church and back on Sundays?
Inman: We had to take two vehicles. But the harder part was
getting everyone dressed on Sunday mornings. On Saturday night we had
the older ones lay out their clothes because there is nothing worse
than a missing shoe on Sunday morning.
Evangel: Did you ever see God provide supernaturally for your family?
If so, how?
Inman: There were some lean years because we had so many children.
During those years I didnt buy anything without talking to the
Lord about it. But God always provided one way or another. We saved
everything and rotated clothes from kid to kid and we tried to economize
wherever we could even when we didnt have to.
Evangel: What are some life lessons you learned from raising your
Inman: They taught me about the great diversity of God because
they are all so different. I thought my second child would be like my
first, but they all have their own gifts. God does not run out of creativity.
Evangel: Anything else?
Inman: I am so thankful I knew Jesus before I had children because
He has always been there for me, encouraging and picking me up when
I thought I wasnt doing anything right. One time while I was cleaning
those old cloth diapers and I was so frustrated I asked God when I was
going to get on with the really important things in life. God said,
"Thats what youre doing right now."