By Katie Ginn

In 2023, the average American household included 1.94 children under the age of 18, according to These days, anything more than three kids is considered ambitious. But when Tim and Jenn Chen tell the story of how they first met, it makes sense that they are now the proud parents of not three, not four, but five precious children.

“I was an intern for the children’s ministry at First Baptist Jackson (FBJ),” Jenn recalls. “Tim’s mom wanted to come (to FBJ) for a conference with a Chinese church there, and Tim’s brother was 5 at the time, so Tim came with (them) – because it’s kind of a long drive from Starkville.”

During the conference, Jenn was trying to take care of several non-English-speaking kids in the childcare area. 

“And Tim was like, ‘There’s just a bunch of women at this conference, and it’d be more fun to hang out with the kids,’ so he helped me. And he’s bilingual, so he was able to talk to (the children),” she says. (Tim, who was born in Taiwan, laughingly notes that his Chinese language skills are “like a first grader.”)

“We just had a lot of fun and laughed together. We took all the kids to the gym and played basketball.”

Bonding over caring for multiple children with a language barrier? Yeah, these two could have a big family one day. 

Marriage, kids, and dance parties

Tim and Jenn’s meet-cute happened before the advent of social media, so they shared their AOL messenger info (and eventually their phone numbers). 

Jenn attended Mississippi College and Tim was at Mississippi State, but anytime she had a cross-country meet in Starkville, Tim would cheer her on. Anytime he came to the Jackson area, they’d hang out over coffee. They became good friends. 

Then Jenn moved to Pennsylvania for an internship with an international student ministry called Prism, and Tim started med school in Jackson at The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).

“(The) first semester was brutal … And right after I got done with that, I just figured I should text her, because it had been awhile,” Tim says. 

“We both had this feeling: Oh, I really miss this person. This person is really special,” Jenn says. 

After she moved back to metro Jackson that summer, they realized their friendship could easily become something more. With one caveat: “The idea of just casually dating wasn’t that fun,” Tim says.

They’d both dated before, and both were exhausted by the whole process – especially the breakups. “If we were going to date, we were going to do it with the purpose of marriage,” he says. 

When they realized they might be each other’s “one,” they were almost too scared to find out. “At this point we could stop and just be really good friends,” Jenn says. “If you (date and) break up, you’re usually not friends anymore.”

But after talking with other friends and family, “the Lord just gave us such a blessing and an amen,” she says. 

They got engaged in September and married in December. They took advantage of Tim’s long Christmas break to visit his parents, who had since moved back to Taiwan (the family had moved to America when Tim was a year old). They had a second wedding in Taiwan. 

After moving to North Carolina for Tim’s residency, the Chens joined a church where there were “a lot of couples with a bunch of kids,” Tim says. “The view there was, children really are a blessing.”

After he and Jenn started having kids, “Each year, we’d say, ‘We’re not having another child, we’re so exhausted,’ and then they’d turn two, and we’d be like, ‘It’s not that bad,’” he recalls.

“(Or we’d say) we miss the baby phase!” Jenn says.

“But after five (kids), I think it became about logistics,” Tim says, joking that he might have to buy a bus soon.

The Chen kids range from 2 to 12 years old; they’re active and partially homeschooled. The Chens are part of St. Augustine, a classical Christian school in Ridgeland with a hybrid model: Students spend part of their week in the classroom and part of it being taught by parents (aka Jenn) at home. 

“Some days are really bad – like the Monday after Thanksgiving, we’re homeschooling, and I’m texting Tim multiple times a day, going, ‘I can’t do this, this is so hard!’” she says. 

In those moments, she’s learned to take a breather in her room and have the oldest child watch the youngest. Otherwise, she’s likely to “get frustrated and yell, or maybe cry,” she says. 

“But other days are really fun and sweet. And just watching them grow up and learn things and take responsibility and help each other, and learn about God – Josh loves the ‘Praise the Lord’ song (by Micah Tyler).

“One thing I learned from (Tim) is to turn on Christian music. It’s kind of an escape for everyone,” Jenn says. “(Sometimes) I’ll just tell the kids, ‘We’re going to have a dance party!’”

Jenn also gets a break when she goes to her daughter Lily’s gymnastics meets – alone – and Tim watches the boys at home. Other times, Jenn indulges in a long hot shower after the little people have gone to bed. 

Tim’s alone time also happens while the kids are in bed, but in the mornings. That’s when he works out and spends time in scripture and prayer. 

“It is amazing when you miss those times (with God) … Even if the situations are fine, you feel very dry and empty,” he says. “(So) I’m trying to make it as consistent as possible.”

When asked about date nights, Jenn giggles. “We don’t really get to do date night very much,” she says. However, Tim’s parents usually visit for a few months in the summer and will watch the kids while he and Jenn go out. And a couple from the Chens’ church will babysit sometimes.

Otherwise, “if we can get the kids to bed and we can just be together without the kids,” that’s a success, Tim says. Jenn adds that they do plenty of “date nights in.”

Whether they’re cleaning the house together, crashing on the couch after a long day – or just giving each other a big hug during a magazine photo shoot – they have learned to cherish every moment.

‘Wow, I need a lot of work’

Tim says every now and then, he and Jenn wonder if they made the right choice to have a large family. “But on the flip side … God uses (our kids) to teach us who we are,” he says. 

“I used to think I was patient, easygoing. You get married, and you’re like, ‘OK, I’m not as easygoing as I thought.’ Then you have kids, and it’s like, ‘I didn’t realize I could get that upset. … I need to go pray. Wow, I need a lot of work.’”

Those moments also help the Chens show grace to their kids, Jenn says. 

“Our oldest got saved this summer, but most of them aren’t saved,” she points out. “So we have to remind ourselves … they’re not going to be perfect. We’re not perfect, and we’re saved.”

That being said, she and Tim’s priority is to see that their children become Christ followers.

“When we first had kids, it was kind of for us,” she says. “Then you kind of realize, the world situation is not that great. And the Lord really (wants) ones who love Him to counter all the darkness.” 

During the COVID pandemic, the Chens learned “it’s not Sunday school’s job to make your children believers,” Tim says. That was especially true in the days of worshiping via Facebook Live in the living room, but it’s still true today. 

“(At) Passover (in the book of Exodus), it was the parents’ job to teach the children what was going on. That night during the Passover was probably when God had the closest thing to what He was looking for: families by families by families, all serving Him,” Tim says. 

“When we had that revelation, that’s when we realized, it’s our responsibility – it’s actually our privilege – to get to preach the gospel to our children.”

It’s also their privilege to just hang out with their kids. Tim loves taking them to the park, where they chase each other and climb all over everything. Jenn enjoys taking them for walks to look at the ducks in their neighborhood. But her favorite thing to do with them is reading before bed. 

“It’s hard to have one-on-one time with them when you have so many, but they go to bed at different times because they’re different ages,” she says. “So (Tim and I will) tag-team it throughout the night.”

As 2024 begins, Tim is probably doing what he does every new year: seeking the Lord in order to lead the family well. 

“It’s a time for me to see what direction our family is going. Is our family still well pleasing to God? And if we are, then hallelujah … If not, it’s a time to prayerfully be before God and see what we need to do differently,” he says.

“And me and Jenn will talk about it. Whether it’s, is this the right school for the kids? Do we need to put this one in daycare? (But) the big thing is, are we going in the direction God wants?”

For married couples who are thinking of having a large family, the Chens have two pieces of advice: Don’t overthink it – “If you’re before the Lord and that’s what He’s put on your heart, then He will supply the grace,” Tim says – and depend on God.

The latter might come more easily than you think. 

“With each (child), He gives you a little more of Himself … but you’re always kind of stretched,” Jenn says. “It makes you depend on Him.”

Fitness tips for busy parents

“The days of going to the gym are not as feasible (when you have five kids),” Tim says, but he still tries to be active most mornings. He makes it to the gym for strength training but does boot camp and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts at home. At the BlueHealth Baptist clinic in Madison, where he works as medical director, he walks a lot on the outdoor track.

“I always push exercise (to my patients),” he says. “So I have to be doing it too. The biggest thing I’ve learned with working out is consistency.”

For Jenn, who cares for 2-year-old Josh even when the older kids are at school, working out can be more of a challenge. “We’ll probably put Josh in some kind of mommy’s morning out this year,” she says.

However, “There’s actually a couple of programs on YouTube (that you can do with your kids). There’s one called (P.E. with) Mr. G … Josh and I did one, and the next day my abs were hurting. They’re actually good workouts. You do a lot of lunges and squats and fun, interactive games.”

Jenn also finds ways to be active during everyday activities, such as doing leg lifts while cooking. 

Finally, she shares a crucial tip for parents who might only get a 10-minute break at a time: 

“Tim says 10 minutes, three times a day, is just as good as doing a 30-minute workout (all at once). If you can do a HIIT workout for 10 minutes … usually by that point, you haven’t done enough to really need a shower.” Then you can move on with your day and “take another HIIT” the next time you have 10 minutes.