Joel and Victoria Osteen of Lakewood Church – one of the largest churches in the nation – emphasize the importance of family in their newly released books. While Pastor Joel shares his family's traditions during the Christmas season in his book The Christmas Spirit: Memories of Family, Friends, and Faith, Victoria's new book Gifts from the Heart is a children's book meant to encourage parents and children to spend time together.
The Osteens were in New York on Tuesday for a book signing and sat down for an interview with The Christian Post. The renowned couple talked about the importance of balancing ministry and family and of having strong faith even when "it's not a perfect Christmas." Pastor Joel also commented on stewardship in light of the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy.
CP: Can you please tell us about your books?
Joel: I wrote this book, it's called the Christmas Spirit and it's about how important it is to make good memories in Christmas time and just to spend time with your family and friends and so it had a lot of personal stories, how I grew up. When I wrote it and I went back as I remembered the great childhood that I had and just brings, just warms your hearts, my encouragement is for everybody to make good memories during Christmas.
Victoria: This is my second book of a series of picture books, it has to do with family as well it's kind of along the same lines so parents and children can sit down and communicate with to one another. The book is about a brother and sister who go on different journeys and this particular journey is to a medieval city and town and find some children who need their help. And one of the things that they are looking for is that they want to go to a birthday party for a king and they don't really have any money to buy the king a birthday present so they all get together and create a talent show and they begin to use what's in the inside of them and that was the greatest gift of all, the king loved it, he comes outside and he joins in with the kids.
CP: In your book, you have a lot of family traditions. What are some of the traditions you keep with your own family right now?
Joel: I think the biggest one is that especially around Christmas time is just spending time together, everyone just getting together, not so much the gifts or the food but laughing together, talking together, having fun with the children, it's the strong sense of family is the tradition that we carry on.
Victoria: We try to bring our cousins or relatives or anyone that lives around and we like to get all of us together and that's more fun so that's what I hope our children remember just a bunch of fun with their cousins and all the family.
CP: How do you keep a balance between the ministries and your families?
Joel: One thing we are real good at it's just setting priorities and boundaries and realizing what we can do and what we can't do, you know with a big church you can't do everything everybody wants you to do so we just make time for our children, they come on the road when we travel and so it's just something that we decided early when we started the ministries just to raise our children to not be so busy, stressed and always doing for others. My father talked about how your first mission field is your own family so we try to invest in them, stay healthy, stay active together, we play together, we travel together we and that's the way we try to stay balanced.
Victoria: It's about choices and what we try to remember is that this particular season in our life we make the most of this season, there'll be other seasons and we'll be able to do different things and more things but this particular season is about family, and our children are still young and so we really just want to have the best season we can right now. So that's one way to keep yourself focus and grounded making the right choices.
CP: Last month, Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy following past due expenses in 2009. The news has caused the public to take a closer look at the sustainability of megachurches and whether being bigger is better. By many reports, Lakewood Church is considered the nation's largest megachurch. What kind of measures does Lakewood Church take to practice financial stewardship?
Joel: We have a board that helps us manage the finance plus we believe that starts with the own leaders heart, good stewardship and realize that some of the cases you mentioned that giving is going down, because there are good people but try to stay within our means to have good people that are experts in managing the finances and to just always walk in integrity. Our father started the ministry back in 1959 and we are 51 years-old now and we continue to not spend more than we take in, just be conservative all the while and doing our best to grow and reach more people and we have a good track record.
CP: Is there a way to keep a balance between making money and stay from the temptation of money, especially for Christians?
Joel: I think that money can't be the focus of your life, the Bible even says that even if you gain wealth don't let money be the center of your life. When your life is about helping others, being a blessing and fulfilling your destiny I think that many times that's when God does bless you and see the Bible talks about wealth honoring riches comes when you honor God so I think the key is where your focus is, like the scriptures say that it's the love of the money that messes people up.
CP: Right now, Christmas is only seen as a holiday and people don't focus on Jesus. It's sometimes just used as a marketing tool. Some people actually want to wipe out the Christmas and simply keep "happy holidays." Do you have any comments about that?
Joel: I just thing that it's strong and it's important that we recognize what the Christmas season is about, it's about the birth of our savior and there's a lot of pressure today to be politically correct but people are realizing too that you have to be open to express your faith what you want believe. We just talk to some other talk shows and you know what I find it important that when somebody wants to celebrate other different faiths that we all accept that but we are also able to say "merry Christmas it's the birth of our savior" and as Christians we are celebrating forgiveness, redemption and it's just important that we keep that message out there as Christians.
CP: In your book you mentioned that one Christmas was particularly hard for you because your mother was sick with cancer. Can you tell us about that moment and can you give advice to anyone who is going through something similar especially during Christmas time?
Joel: Well my mother in 1981 was diagnosed with terminal cancer and doctors just told her she had a few weeks to live. We were very devastated as a family, wasn't the Christmas we were expecting but you know in those difficult times, in the book I called it when it's not a perfect Christmas again you have to turn your faith toward the Lord and believe that he's got you in the palm of His hand. I realize too some people around Christmas time they don't have a lot of family they don't have good things happening I think it's important too that you get outside of yourself and help somebody out. Because if you just sit around and think "look how bad I have it I don't have a big family like Joel or I don't have this" it's just going to make you feel worse. If you go out and serve somebody else, go buy somebody else a gift, go feed somebody, go cheer somebody up. When you give up yourself that's when you will feel the true spirit of Christmas. And that's giving that's serving others and that's when you feel fulfilled.