"Bringing Up Bates" Stars Share Secret to Raising 19 Children

Gil and Kelly Jo Bates and their 19 children are starring in a new reality TV series “Bringing Up Bates,” showcasing how they balance life, faith, and family.
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Gil and Kelly Jo Bates and their 19 children are starring in a new reality TV series “Bringing Up Bates,” showcasing how they balance life, faith, and family.
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Bringing Up Bates” is a brand new reality series that will premiere on UP TV at 9 p.m. EST on New Year’s Day. The series will focus on the supersized, everyday life of this close knit, hard-working, ever-expanding Tennessee family with 19 children and their new grandchild. Gil and Kelly Jo talked over the idea of the show with their family. “We decided it was important to do the show in order to encourage other families going through the same struggles,” shares Kelly Jo.

The show centers on their everyday life and family values. Everyone has chores, watches little to no TV, insists on dresses only for girls, and strictly enforces side hugs until marriage. The children range in age from 2 to 25. “We’re not a perfect family. We have the same struggles that other families have, only multiplied. But in spite of extra laundry, extra chores, extra diapers, and extra noise, we have an extra measure of laughter, an endless supply of fellowship, and an added dose of faith to get us through it all,” shares Kelly Jo. They hope their show will help to improve communication with other families and help them develop better relationships between parents and their children. Gil says, “We hope other families learn they can trust God with everything. His ways work.”

CHRISTMAS FAMILY TRADITIONS

Each year, the family decorates the house for Christmas. They put out several manger scenes in the house to help remind their children the real “reason for the season.” They also have a traditional dinner and make an effort to see the Christmas lights in Gatlinburg. One thing they do not do at Christmas is exchange gifts with their immediate family. The family exchanges gifts on Valentine’s Day or as they like to call it “I Love You Day.”  At Christmas they try to reach out to their extended family and show them love and exchange gifts.

GIL AND KELLY JO

Gil and Kelly Jo both grew up in South Carolina. They met as undergraduate students, attending Anderson College in South Carolina and Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. They were married in 1987. Initially Gil, then 22, and Kelly Jo, then 20, prayed about what method of birth control to use. Their intentions were to wait 5 years before having children, but the more they discussed their options, the more they hesitated about the choices. They began to wonder if God wanted to have control of this important decision in their life. They had already given God control of their vocations, finances, and goals. They wondered ifGod wanted them to trust Him in this area or if that would be a lack of planning and preparation on their part. The more they studied and prayed, the more God began to move on their hearts that children really are a blessing. “We asked God to give us as He saw fit and with each child, He has given us an extra measure of grace . . . to cope, to love, and to enjoy,” says Kelly Jo. The couple now has 19 children (10 boys and 9 girls) and one grandchild.  Kelly Jo navigates all the meals, laundry, home schooling, cut knees, birthdays and holidays for the family. Gil runs a tree service and relies on sons Lawson (25), Nathan (21), and Trace (17) to help him. Gil is also the pastor at Bible Baptist Church, which he founded in 2012, in Clinton, Tennessee.
                     
KELLY JO’S TESTIMONY

Kelly Jo was raised a “preacher’s kid.” Growing up, she heard the gospel over and over, but never had assurance of her salvation until she was in the 9th grade. “I had believed in God, however, I had no conviction of my own personal sin. I had always thought of myself as a “good person,” she says. At a youth meeting, Kelly Jo finally broke over the guilt of her sin and realized that it was her awful sin that Christ died for. “That realization changed my life,” shares Kelly Jo. She soon learned that a new life in Christ was far more than just freedom from the fear of dying; it was what makes life worth living.

GIL’S TESTIMONY

Gil attended church regularly as a young boy, but it was only out of habit and tradition. “I had no idea of the real purpose and fulfillment of a relationship with Christ,” shares Gil. In high school, Gil heard the gospel presented by his football coach. “I was so impacted by the message of Christ’s sacrifice for me, that a few days later I was moved to kneel by my bedside to pray for God to save me. At that moment, God transformed me, my goals, and the direction of my life,” he says.

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