At CBA 2004, Christian Book Previews' Pam Glass met with Pat Ennis to discuss Designing a Lifestyle That Pleases God.
CBP: How would you say this book is different from other books on the market that deal with similar issues?
PAT: Probably the primary difference is that it is a combination of theological principles from the Word of God, and that’s why we start with the eleven principles in chapter one, but it takes us the next step further to application. I have found in my years of developing the college curriculum, because I started when you could go into a Christian bookstore and there was half a shelf, with everything from dating to courtship and marriage to having your family, that now there are so many books, but many of them make a woman theologically sound but practically inept. So basically this is a snapshot of our curriculum at the Master’s College, and we’ve tried to give the spiritual foundation first, but to teach a woman how to manage her home, how to plan her meals, how to do the financial component. And of course the final chapter, not to hide your lamp under a bushel, but to get involved in ministry, fulfilling the Titus 2 principle that says the younger women are to learn from the older women. If you go down that list, they are all interactive types of skills that you learn as you work together. So that’s my real heart, to make it very practical, but to put it all through the grid of Scripture.
CBP: The thing that I really enjoyed about the book, and the thing I noticed about halfway through, is that the principles in the book are really for anyone. A guy could pick up this book and read it just as easily as a woman.
PAT: They’re life principles. We’re all, as believers, called to embrace virtue, to be trustworthy, to be prudent in our speech and to minister to others. So you’re 100% correct.
CBP: Another thing I appreciated was the tone. So many books, after you read them, you feel like crawling under a rock. You think, “There’s no way I can do this!”
PAT: We do; we see Christian women who have got it all in order, and you look at their lives and say, “If that’s what it takes to implement the biblical principles, I don’t know if that’s for me.” And those are God’s special instructions for all women.
CBP: Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get interested in Home Economics?
PAT: I always wanted to be a teacher from the time I was a little girl. My friends would go through the beautician, and the nurse and all that, and I kept saying, “I want to be a teacher.” And when I got into seventh grade, my seventh grade Home Ec. teacher just flipped the switch and I knew then that that was what I wanted to do. I had many people who tried to discourage me: “But Pat, you’ve got a good mind. You could be more than that.” But I had a mom who taught me all those things at home, so when I went to college I learned all the scientific principles that backed up what she did with nutrition. I learned management principles in theory from what she had done in the home. So I had seen a good role model at home. But that was just what I wanted to do. Home Economics is a very demanding course of study; you know we have that reputation of “stitching and stewing.” It’s nutrition, it’s management, it’s finance. You know, you can go through the Home Ec program and not really bother with the cooking kind of stuff. (Our staff) will tell you we don’t teach cooking, we teach principles of management. But I love doing that. And so I went through college, I majored in Home Ec, and then was teaching in the San Diego Unified School District and attended Scott Memorial Baptist Church, Tim LaHaye was pastor, and he started Christian Heritage College, and I had no aspirations of ever teaching at the college level. I really just wanted to teach long enough so that if I ever needed to support myself after I had a family I had something strong to fall back on. But that was not what the Lord had for me. He wanted me to use those skills in single ministry, and so I really did that. So when he approached me about starting Home Ec at Christian Heritage College I basically said “Thanks, but no thanks.” And he told me he’d pray for me. So I knew my days in public school were numbered! But what he wanted was for there to be curriculum, and there was no college at that point that had anything that was close. So it was all original research, and basically what you see in this book and in the second book is years and years of teaching and practice. And I think that is probably why we don’t have as much of the hammerhead approach, because we’ve had to work our students through it. You know, we see the body language when we present a lecture and it’s coming across to harsh, or it’s coming across that it’s so legalistic that nobody is excited about embracing those principles. And so we’ve had that advantage, to try it out on our students first and see how they respond to it and then we are able to refine things. And so that’s how I got started.
CBP: Are there many public high schools that are teaching Home Economics now?
PAT: Well, the pendulum is swinging back. And the reason that it’s swinging back is because, first of all, there are few moms that are at home. And Home Ec is one of the few disciplines that is a preventative discipline rather than crisis intervention. And so, we teach finance before the student gets in debt. We teach child development before the child has to go to a counselor. We teach nutrition before there are bad habits that need to be corrected. And so, what school districts are now saying is that we’ve got all of these young people that have these credit cards, are already credit indebted well before they have a real job. They have poor eating habits, they have poor management skills, and so let’s get Home Ec back. But it’s not always called Home Economics; sometimes it’s Family and Consumer Science. Or sometimes it will be under the Sociology department, you’ve got Marriage and the Family, Child Development, Life Skills, something like that. Ours is just more thinly veiled. You know it’s funny, people have said to us, “Why have you kept Home Ec?” First of all, if you study our literature, the literature says that as long as home is the nurturing place of society, that’s as long as “home” will stand first in our title. So as a profession, we have sent a pretty strong message to the world in general. But the second reason is purely pragmatic. If you say “Human Ecology”, if you say “Family and Consumer Science” or any of those other things, you go through the description and finally someone says, “Oh! Home Ec! Why didn’t you say so at the start?”
CBP: What are you working on next?
PAT: Actually, the companion volume, Designing A Lifestyle That Pleases God (came out) in August. And then it’s been one of those things that each time we’ve had a working title, that when we got close to finishing designing we realized we couldn’t put all the hospitality material in that; so the next big step we are working on is a hospitality book, and we’ve called it, as a working title, Loving Friends, Loving Strangers. We’ve titled each chapter “Hospitality Is. . .” For example, the first chapter is “Hospitality and Character.” And there’s “Hospitality and Others” and “Hospitality and Evangelism.” And what we did is to survey our students that graduated from both The Master’s College and Christian Heritage College because these are women now that, my first graduates from Christian Heritage were in 1976, and so these are women now that have practiced the principles that are in Becoming and Designing for a number of years. And so we said, “O.K., how have you used the hospitality component and what suggestions would you give to our readers?” And, for example, the one, “Hospitality and Evangelism”, I have a number of students that are on the mission field, and so two of them, one in Turkey and one in Bolivia, they both use teas as a way of outreach and evangelism. So that’s the next project that Lisa and I are doing. (Pat is also working on two devotionals.)