New Life – The Growing Family


Editorial note: Our friend “gc” has been offline for awhile, taking care of his growing family. Congratulations on your new child! Here are some thoughts on families by gc. Please read and respond to his heartelt words. He raises numerous questions that have not been discussed openly in the UBF context. This article provides a nice segue into the next UBF heritage point, “house churches”.

1. Introduction
I was inspired to write this article to bring together a variety of experiences that married couples are confronted with when having a baby in UBF. Of course there is no standard for social behaviour between (chapters/co-workers), but there is a natural interest in the future children. Just as there are many stories from couples there are even more stories from the second gens themselves. My inspiration comes after the birth of my second baby and my interest reflects observations and experiences within three different chapters. There is no opening or conclusion to this article. Hopefully, it can be built and developed by the readers to share a living experiential account of what happened when they began to expand their family by having children.

2. When are you ready for children? How many should you plan to have?
After marriage I did not have any counsel about how many children I should plan to have. I had seen many examples among different families. I had also observed different levels of stress according to native shepherd and missionary. I had no plan in my mind for the number of children, but rather kept in mind the need for properly supporting my family. I grew up in a family of six – that is four children. My wife and I conceived maybe about 5-6 months after we married. In our relationship with each other we were ready to start our family. However, in a practical sense we were not necessarily ready. As a result, we have both been stretched to our limits with even just one child due to our working schedule and the ministry requirements. When we depended on grandparents to help us it has meant sending our daughter to another city for not just one day or weekend but for maybe three weeks to a month at a time.

I have seen a recurring comment whenever the family unit is raised – ministry vs. children (sometimes spouse). In UBF when are you ready to have kids? How many? Since our schedules usually include an average 8 hour working day five days a week, our remaining time is divided between ministry and family (sleeping/not sleeping). In UBF we have many meetings, Sunday worship service and as many Bible studies as we can organize depending on the number of students who agree to study with us. Is it humanly possible to carry out each ‘role’ and ‘hat’ effectively? Assuming we are divided by 3 aspects of our life (family, work and ministry), then we can distribute our focus according to our desires. But not one of these will receive 100% of our attention. So, as a UBF shepherd or missionary – Should you have kids? How many can you manage? How many women are burnt out or depressed? Whose parents assist in raising the children? Does the husband engage in the dirty work of supporting domestic life?

3. Abortion/Birth Control
One topic which has as many interpretations as there are people is abortion and birth control. This reflects both moral and religious values so it is never clear what UBF requires. It is clearly taboo since the elephant in the room has been the history of demanded abortions which has yet to be properly addressed by leadership. But in a different context, what experiences have people had among the chapters? It is a deeply personal aspect of married life, but there are also degrees of interpretation of what birth control means. Could it mean prescribed abstinence as directed by the chapter director or shepherd? Is it abstinence at the discretion of the couple? Could it just simply imply the use of pills and condoms? What are feelings on surgery (vasectomy, tubal ligation and hysterectomy)?

4. Relationships Between Shepherd Family and Senior Leaders
This comment is strictly theoretical in essence, but maybe there are people out there who can contribute and develop it as per experience. The relationships between people in any time and place always affect group dynamics. How does the dynamic in a chapter influence the time of starting a family? Does it even play out as an influence? Is it important at all? What happens socially to a couple that for whatever reason cannot conceive? What emotional and spiritual support is there for a woman who has miscarried? What if a senior family believes that one, two or three children were respectively God’s plan for their family and therefore attempt to apply it to a younger family?

5. Men and Women: What are your roles?
I have had an interesting experience in my married life since I was thrown into my wife’s country without any preparation. In Canada I was responsible to represent my family for any official procedure because my wife was able but shy to use her English. I had lived independently and knew how to cook and bake. I had been meticulous at house-keeping. In general I was used to supporting myself and taking care of domestic concerns. For a Korean woman I was opposite the expectation – that is because I had grown up in a society which demands of men to know all of the above in the name of equality. Any North American woman will observe immediately that the UBF church social order has two influences:
a) Traditional roles as defined by a church doctrine
b) Traditional Korean family roles
In simplicity, that is why most often modern western women would refuse to marry a Korean man in ubf. They do not want to be set back by several decades in their own social construct.

Since being in Korea almost all of my abilities have been silenced because of my natural limitations here, but also because the social structure reinforces my life in such a way. That being said, I have been making efforts to return to my former initiative, but it is not always easy. This of course includes an active interest in the raising of children.

6. The Baby is born – What are the names? Why?
Picking a name is important for anyone. If you are Christian it is important to have vision for yourself and certainly your family. Most times names will be after the biblical narratives. However, sometimes I have seen selection to honour senior leaders. I cannot make a broad statement whereupon a senior leader demanded this, but I have observed apparent voluntary action. I have also observed and experienced absolute freedom from ministry and coworkers in the naming experience. I have a simple view for the naming of children in my family. My wife gives the Korean name and I the non-Korean name. For my daughter, I just simply liked the name. However, my wife dreamt and had a sort of vision when naming her. For our son it was the reverse situation. We both named our children with prayer and vision.

7. Direction from Chapter director?
Has there ever been a case where direction of any kind occurred in the chapter? By direction I mean the hope and vision for any child that is born in that chapter. Do children belong to the family or the chapter? Have they in some way been blessed with certain implications made by a chapter director? Most church tradition initiates newborns with a baptism, but that is not what I mean. Since a member often makes an oath, vow or other such promise then has it ever been practiced on a submissive and unaware baby or child?

8. The Family Unit/The Greater Family Unit/The Ministry Family Unit
For most parents establishing their family is among the most pleasurable events in married life. No matter the struggle or difficulty in raising a family it is an endless reward and experience for our lives on earth. Also, for our own parents or siblings there is much joy in coming together as a big family. We have raised many complaints on several occasions because of misunderstood priorities between family and ministry. Why does UBF implicitly (sometimes explicitly) justify church relationships to become more important than our own family in terms of parents and siblings and also spouse and children? Is there a viable Christian explanation? Where is the boundary between biological families and church families? Who is more important? Why? We all have varying attitudes on this as well as experiences so remember the difference between your ideal and the actual reality.


  1. Thanks gc. The love between a husband and a wife is the closest human relationship of intimacy and love that reflects the perfect love and intimacy of the godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Children are the fruit of this love. The family of love is surely the single best reflector of the God of love to a fallen world.

    Sadly, some leaders in ubf have artificially created a false and unnecessary dichotomy between the family and mission. As many have already shared, this has created countless conflicts and painful wounding (usually from the chapter director), which stemmed primarily from a poor and horribly wrong understanding of the trinitarian God and the Bible.

  2. Thanks for your questions, gc, and congrats again on your new family addition. The questions you raise are very timely and important, and yet difficult. In my experience, the couple, family, and ministry created a strange love-triangle that had a profound impact on each relationship. As Ben said, splitting our life into mission and family and keeping these areas separate is very artificial, but that was the predominant viewpoint in my chapter. The result was ultimately very counter-productive.

    Another issue that you didn’t specifically raise in your article relates to the spiritual education of children. Most traditional churches are involved in educating children through Sunday school and other related activities and by integrating children into the activities of the church. There is thus a synergy between the education done by parents at home and done by the church body and typically resources or at least encouragement is provided to parents to help them educate their children in the things of God. However, how does this occur in UBF? How should it occur? What role should the chapter director or other coworkers have in the spiritual education of children? What if the parents differ on what this role should be? Should children be integrated into main activities of a chapter, or should their involvement be diminished and considered as a side-job? What resources or encouragement should parents expect from their church? If they do not receive sufficient support, to what extent should they be permitted to seek it elsewhere?

    I’d wager that among married couples who leave UBF, 95% of them do so because of the unsatisfactory answers given to them by UBF to the above questions.

    • Joshua, I was reviewing the blog. Please make an article out of this topic. I have not seen education for children anywhere on the blog as a specific topic. With your personal family experience combined with insights from many years in UBF you can capture an array of points. Also, I am sure that many may also be good at contributing to develop as well. However, I think as Brian pointed out wait a little until after ISBC.

    • Joshua, “I’d wager that among married couples who leave UBF, 95% of them do so because of the unsatisfactory answers given to them by UBF to the above questions.”

      Yes that is true in my family’s case. We left for numerous reasons, but it started with my wife noticing how we had neglected our children. Also, we left because not only did we receive unsatisfactroy answer to numerous questions, we received MADDENING SILENCE to most questions.

  3. big bear

    THIS is so needed in ubf. You have some good well thought out questions here. Whenever we went to our director he always told us that all he knows how to do is pray and that he does not like to get involved in marriages. This causes much frustration in Ubf because leaders play dumb and marriages fall apart and children are suicidal. My advice is love your wife and children deeply and have balance in your family and never abandon your wife and children with the excuse of mission.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Actually, when I sat down this was more of a sketch. I was wondering about revision and co-author or something to catch things that did not leap in my mind right at the moment before I hit send.

    Joshua, I didn’t raise the issue for maturing children because my inspiration was for a new born baby and family in general. It is very important however I agree.

    Over the many years for me in UBF I have observed many things. At times I, along with others, was caught looking in at the mess that many families face after they have their first child. I would say that extreme stress re-appears maybe by the third or fourth. Anyway, everyone is different.

    I will say quickly that I did see a very sad example over miscarriages where the woman was not properly supported. I have known many couples where the woman had miscarried and I urge UBF to do more than just “pray.”

    I do hope that this can develop beyond the immediate discussion.

  5. gc,

    Thanks for sharing this. I did not want to polish this into some sort of academic paper (I don’t have that ability anyway :) because this rough outline gives us several good talking points, without dictating a specific opinion. I find your rough thoughts to be a good example of critical thinking.

    I expect ubf people to go silent now, as the ISBC is this week. And of course, they will be pumped up, pro-ubf afterward due to the cheerleader style ISBC program (until PCD and PCG set in :(

    I have much to share on your topics. I’ll do so later on. First however I’d like to share a quote from “Your Church is Too Small”. I believe this quote begins to explain one reason why ubf people refuse to discuss or even admit there are any issues with the topics you raise.

    “True Christian faith is not found in personal religious feelings but in the historical and incarnational reality of a confessing church. Therefore, if we refuse to come to grips with our past, our future will not be distinctively Christain.”

    ubf people are trapped by “personal religous feelings” and so they do not come to grips with their past. How can ubf go forward then, and avoid the cult/heresy/sect label? Can ubf really be considered Christian if they continue to avoid dealing with their past even after all that has happened the past 2 years?

    Karl Barth’s words speak volumes to this point: “No one dare do contemporary theology until they have mastered classical Christian thought.”

  6. Speaking of ubf people going comatose for the next 7 days or so (due to the post-conference conferences and visiting), would some brave soul be willing to be a live blogger?

    Maybe someone could blog or tweet what happens and what they see during the ISBC? Share your feelings and your thoughts and questions on your phone or iPad?

    • I would love to have some director-level person blog about the behind-the-scenes meetings too. I suspect there will be a meeting about this website…

  7. @Brian. Live blogging or tweeting at any and every conference is now commonplace and virtually the norm. But this will not happen in UBF for multiple reasons:

    * we’re not that big or diverse,
    * our conferences tend to be the same and quite predictable, and
    * older UBFers generally fear technology because of the fear of private information becoming public, which results in a fear and general dislike of emails, social networking, facebook, twitter and “the dreaded ubfriends.”

    • Sadly yes, Ben, all that needs to happen for “live tweeting” a ubf conference is this:


      Of course live tweeting and blogging would not be sanctioned by ubf (they probably would turn off the campus wireless). But this does not prevent anyone brave enough to do so. Anyone with a Verizon or ATT or other phone/data connection can live blog the event. No one can stop this.

      And yes, as you mentioned earlier, people at the ISBC will not be “forced” to write a sogam (now called reflection writing). But there will be 1,000 pounds of guilt pressure if you don’t, and much more pressure after the conference to “review one thing you learned”. [Note to all ISBC attendants: That “one thing” you learn had better be “So love the world” and it darn well better reveal your loyalty to ubf heritage.

  8. Hi GC, you’ve raised many very important questions and I appreciate the dialogue on this matter. I’d like to focus my comments on the statements below, inasmuch as they pertain to women: ” Assuming we are divided by 3 aspects of our life (family, work and ministry), then we can distribute our focus according to our desires. But not one of these will receive 100% of our attention. So, as a UBF shepherd or missionary – Should you have kids? How many can you manage? How many women are burnt out or depressed?” Family is perhaps the greatest ministry there is. I can speak from my personal failures that after many years of serving ministry outside of my home, it was hard to develop a relationship with my growing children. One day when I tried to have a conversation about something important, my eldest said to me, “You were never there when I was little, why should I listen to you now?” all I could do was apologize and receive God’s forgiveness for my missplaced priorities: sheep first, all others last. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to change my course; still I regret missing out on all those days when they were young. Being a young mother is perhaps the most stressful time in any woman’s life. As a working mother, that stress is only compounded. We really can’t have it all as someone mistakenly once said. I was often overwhelmed ( and still am sometimes), trying to do just that. Research shows that the first 5 years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of formation, and that the great majority of believers come to faith by the time they are 11 years old. Spending time with your children, nurturing them and helping them to know parental love and God’s love is perhaps the greatest mission there is.

    • @Liz: thanks for your comment. Sacrificing family for mission isn’t just a challenge for UBF. I have a friend whose father worked for Youth with a Mission, another missions ministry. My friend also felt abandoned by his parents because of their priority to their mission. It severely affected his faith and his later marriage and fatherhood. Why do groups like this still push people so hard for their mission at the expense of their family when the evidence and testimony from Scripture and history is so overwhelming?

    • Might it be because we idolize ourselves by idolizing self-sacrifice for a “higher cause”?

    • @Ben: Perhaps. In my chapter, we were very unsuccessful in discipling students despite all of our efforts–we were basically spinning our wheels. But at the end of the day, we could always pat ourselves on the back and think we were doing great things because of all we sacrificed. With such clouded thinking, if we didn’t sacrifice our family, we had nothing to credit ourselves for. How I mourn over the darkness in which I lived!

    • The problem, Joshua, is that ubf teaches you to sacrifice every good fruit, which includes your bible students. ubf bore SO much good fruit. Then they smashed the fruit, sacrificing good faithful Christians to the ubf heritage.

    • Thanks Liz very much for your story. As a simple member when I was younger sometimes I (along with others) was witness to fights between parents and children. It has been one of the main reasons why I concern about it much myself. It is something that gives more conscience to take care of the children in spite of ministry. Thanks again.

  9. Thanks, Liz, for sharing. As you suggested there is clearly no place for sacrificing one’s children/family on the altar of mission. For sure, no one in ubf will ever say that anyone should do this. Yet sadly, the implicit communication has been that mission is more important than family.

    Thus, I’ve heard this very unfortunate and extremely tragic guilt-tripping statement that some ubf leaders have made to mothers to compel them to sacrifice more for mission: “You are family centered.”

  10. Thank you Liz, for sharing here again! I for one value your input and the input of women highly. You expressed a sad story that I know all too well. (However I am thankful that my youngest children know nothing about ubf at all).

    The root of family neglect in my observation is that ubf shepherds and missionaries teach the bible incorrectly. Specifically, Genesis 22:1-24. How many of us have heard that we must “find our Isaac” and then “sacrifice your Isaac”. That is hogwash! Such teaching comes from a Confucian mind, not the mind of Christ.

    Look at what the key verse of Genesis 22 OUGHT to be:

    Genesis 22:11-13 “But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

    ONE WORD: Abraham sacrificed a lamb INSTEAD OF HIS SON.

    • And furthermore, why the heck does ubf teach that that Genesis 22:2 is the key verse?

      “2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

      If that is what you focus on, then you think that you must sacrifice anything and everything you like, love and cherish in order to obey God.

      God’s point was to reveal the love and grace and mercy and justice of God. God’s point was to cause us to think about Christ! God’s point was to challenge the evil religions of the time which did actually sacrifice their children. God says don’t do it.

      ONE WORD: Do NOT lay a hand on the boy! (Genesis 22:12)

    • “If that is what you focus on, then you think that you must sacrifice anything and everything you like, love and cherish in order to obey God.”

      Why are you amazed about this, Brian? This is the essence of what UBF teaches. Of course, if you grow older in UBF you slowly learn that the more “honorable” you become, the less you need to sacrifice. Instead, maybe you can become a chapter leader and take from the sacrifice of others (e.g. by not having a real job but living from offering money), and instead of offering your children, sending them to elite universities. Actually, I think their main point is not even that you do all these things, but that members always feel guilty because there is still one more thing you could sacrifice. They want to force people to obey them, fear them, be thankful for them, and continuing their heritage. The only leverage they have to achieve that is creating feelings of guilt and indebtedness in people. That’s what UBF has done for 50 years and they are very good in it. UBF (primarily SL) has developed effective means supporting this goal, like weekly sogam sharing.

      Also, it’s amazing how much they can brag about offering. For instance, the former UBF president was honored and famous in UBF because he allegedly once donated some blood offered the money he good to UBF. But they make sure that everybody knows such a story, and that way they can even become president, because offering your own blood sounds so good and can be used to set an example for others to follow. Peter Chang in Germany always bragged how he “offered” his Ph.D. in pharmacy for the sake of UBF (by not working as a pharmacist) but he always made sure that everybody knew he had a Ph.D. and called him “Dr. Peter Chang”. There are many examples like that. Sacrifice can be a good means to inflate your own honor and make others feel guilty.

    • “Why are you amazed about this, Brian? This is the essence of what UBF teaches.”

      I’m not amazed that ubf teaches this; I’m amazed I believed it :)

  11. Samantha

    I appreciate this article very much. Having a family in UBF is not an easy task. Our family moved away from the HQ 8 years ago, so perhaps things have changed. While at HQ, our family was exclusively focused on campus ministry. My husband worked full time. I did not have a job, but we shared an almost full time nanny with other UBF families so that I could engage in campus mission full time. We never really gave it much thought at the time…because campus mission was all we knew.

    When we moved away from HQ, our children were 8, 6 and 18 months. Suddenly, I became a full time mother. By God’s grace, I got to know my kids so much more and be their primary care giver. Today, I am so thankful that this happened. I still feel pangs of regret that I was not present enough when my older kids were young (between birth – 5 years.)

    One thing I will also mention from our UBF experience is how families are often separated on Sunday. For the sake of campus mission, children were not included in the Sunday worship service, instead we paid a baby sitter during the time that we went to church. Classes and worship were held for children on Saturday. However, after we moved and began attending a local church, I came to appreciate that we worship all together as a family –all ages. There are nurseries for young babies, and classes for younger kids, but everyone comes to church as a family and we go home all together as a family. It is so encouraging and edifying for me now. Today, I could not imagine taking my kids to a baby sitter across town, while my husband and I went to church…not even for the sake of mission.

    • Thanks Samantha. I understand the nanny part of your life. When I was working my first and second job here I felt like the nanny knew my daughter better than me. These days it is much better, but still there are moments when the time apart is reflected in how we are bonding.

  12. I’d like to give my answer to a few of gc’s questions. These are merely my experiences/opinions.

    In UBF when are you ready to have kids?

    My parents encouraged me to wait at least a year in order to properly get to know my wife before the stress of pregnancy and children was added. I couldn’t emphasize how important that advice was. Especially considering that we had physically met all of four time before marriage.

    I’ll answer more questions in the coming days.

  13. Is it humanly possible to carry out each ‘role’ and ‘hat’ effectively? – See more at:

    Perhaps it depends on the type of family and type of job one has. If someone has a standard 9-5 job, I’m sure that it leaves them enough time to be a good parent and still spare time to serve campus ministry effectively. But many people in UBF have more challenging or less formally-scheduled jobs, like nursing, or are graduate students or academics. I have three young children while doing my PhD. 50-60 hrs per week is really the minimum time necessary to keep up with the expectations of my research. There are lots of shepherds like this. In this kind of environment, it was very challenging to meet the expectations of UBF of 5-10 Bible studies per week plus multiple meetings. Something had to give, and it invariably was time with my kids and wife.

  14. “Whose parents assist in raising the children?”

    That assumes that parents are nearby. As GC knows, there are many families whose parents and relatives are not nearby to help. Considering that in many families in UBF, one spouse is an immigrant or lives far from the university city, that really complicates things. The easy solution is to travel home periodically. But we were strongly discouraged (i.e. prevented) from traveling for longer than a few days so as to not miss a Friday meeting and absolutely not a Sunday service. Our parents visited us periodically, but as much as that helped, it also added additional responsibilities and stress. The result is that both the couple, the kids, and the grandparents get cheated out of satisfying relationships.

    As I’ve said in several previous posts, its the non-UBF parents and relatives who get shafted the most in UBF. I see lots of pictures on facebook of proud senior missionaries and shepherds with their grandchildren. But local shepherds don’t get the same freedoms for visiting family. For these kinds of things, I really had a hard time not resenting the 2nd-gens whose parents were in UBF. It seemed like they avoided so much heartache in these sorts of matters.

  15. Could it mean prescribed abstinence as directed by the chapter director or shepherd? – See more at:

    When I was newly married, I mentioned once to my shepherd that I was struggling with fatigue. I was still an undergraduate, working on my fourth and most demanding year in my engineering degree, plus the typical UBF schedule of activities. His solution? “Meet your wife physically no more than once per week, then you’ll have enough energy.” I was very embarrassed!

    • I could anticipate such a judgment from an elder. No questions asked just blind advice. I have never received any counsel on this, but I will say that when both my wife and I have been exhausted because of our daily duties it actually prevents any desire and contact. Frankly, we are too tired anyway.

      I am sorry to mention something else Joshua. But, I also thought it bold of him to refer to your frequent sinus trouble as a sin problem. Couldn’t it be more related to frequent fatigue and over work?

    • Ha ha, I forgot about that one. Yes, everything was a sin problem. I remember one time he said that Billy Graham developed Parkinsons disease because of some hidden sin problem.