Victoria Osteen and her husband Joel Osteen are the popular pastors at the Lakewood Church in Houston Texas. Today the church is the largest of its kind, with more than 50,000 attendees each week, and over 13 million people who watch the television show broadcast on cable several times a week. The television show reaches over 100 nations and the popularity is due in part to the personalities of both Victoria and Joel. Victoria Osteen was not always a popular public figure like she is today. In fact, her story begins way back when she was a shy little girl growing up in Alabama.
The Early Years for Victoria Osteen
Victoria Osteen was born Victoria Iloff to Georgine Iloff and Donald Iloff on March 28, 1961. Victoria was raised near the Marshall Space Flight Center, where her father was a mathematician with General Electric and was a vital part of the GE Saturn rocket project. When she was only two years old, her family moved to Houston where her father began working with NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Administration). At two years old, Victoria grew up near the Manned Spacecraft Center, which today is known better by the name Johnson Space Center. As Victoria got accustomed to the Houston area, her family would take her to the Church of Christ, which at the time was basically a Protestant church. Victoria’s mother would teach children at the church Sunday school, while her dad served double duty as the deacon. She was born with a contagious energy that she kept hidden when she was still in grade school and is a huge part of who she has become today.
Growing Up in the Houston Area
It took a while for Victoria to gain the confidence you see today. She was not very outgoing during her grade school years. In fact, she didn’t really want to talk to any of the other kids in her classroom. If she could get her mother to do the talking, she would simply fade into the background and enjoy letting her mother grab the limelight. While her father was working for NASA, it was Victoria’s mother who encouraged her at the age of 13 to come out of her shell and start working at the family jewelry business. Victoria however, was terrified with interacting with customers and preferred to let her mother handle dealing with the people who came into the store. It was around this time that she learned a very valuable lesson in the power of encouragement, as her mother slowly pushed Victoria to come out of her shell and to gain the confidence you see in her today. Victoria Osteen believes that the encouragement of her mother shaped who she is, and speaking about victory combined with faith, shapes and defines the children who will take over the world in the future.
Gaining the Confidence to Be Herself
Victoria Osteen talks about how she went from shy child to confident women in part due to the daily powerful positive encouragement of her mother. Victoria believes that whether parents cheer on their kids to become confident readers, powerful speakers, strong workers, or dedicated citizens, positivity from parents will drive home the message and mold these children into beacons of light for others to take the lead and follow. Back when Victoria was a teenager, she would worry constantly about all the ways that she was going to embarrass herself each day. While Victoria was focused on the 101 ways she was going to fall on her face each day, her mother gently pushed her from the nest and assured her each step of the way that she would never fall too far. With a strong support system in place from her parents, she began to not only realize they would always be there, she found she could get through even the most challenging situations and learn from them. As difficult as those times were for her, she came through with flying colors and today encourages other parents and of course herself, to pass on the same lessons to the children of today.
Victoria and Her Time at School
Victoria Osteen made it through most of her teenage years with the prodding and gentle nudging of her parents, and eventually would sign up at the University of Houston majoring in psychology. During her time in school, she still was working at the family jewelry store part time. It was one of these days while working at the jewelry store that a chance meeting would change her life forever. One day in 1985 while she was behind the counter working, Joel Osteen walked into the shop to get a new battery for his watch. Joel recalls that he was immediately taken by Victoria and knew at that moment the two were destined to be together. The two began dating shortly after, and only two years later they became married. When the two were first married, Joel was not the evangelist that you see today. In fact, you would not even know he was in the business of the church because he was working behind the scenes for his father at the time and preferred to be out of the spotlight. Like Victoria, Joel was not eager to be out in front talking to anyone, preferring to take care of issues safely out of the watch of the public.
The Early Years of Marriage
During the first eight years that Joel and Victoria were married, they made their money by investing in real estate and renovating those properties. Back in those days the prices to get into properties was reasonable, and the work to fix them up was more a labor of love. During those early years of marriage, the business of renovating homes allowed the two to travel the world and grow their relationship. It was the combination of everything that better prepared the couple to become full-time parents. It appeared after the birth of their first child that things would be rather comfortable for the family as money was not an issue and their family support was strong. The two were planning on growing the family and staying in the Texas area to provide the nurture and love they both received growing up from their parents. Joel was still working on the production of his father’s weekly television broadcasts, enjoying his role behind the scenes as patronage began to grow and the church began to expand. It was only a small glimpse of the things that were to come for both Joel and Victoria Osteen.
Dramatic Changes for Victoria Osteen
Things for the Osteen family were seemingly perfect in the 1990’s. They were raising a growing family and were making enough money to be able to live a lifestyle they both loved. Everything that they were raised on and all the life experiences they both had up until this point were not enough to prepare them for the huge change that was about to befall them in 1999. In early 1999, Joel’s father, John Osteen had asked him again to take the reigns and give a sermon at the church where they both worked. Joel was adamant about staying out of the spotlight and simply would not accept the invitation to do anything involving public speaking. However, when his father became gravely ill, Joel took the nudge from above and prepared to give a sermon for his sick father. Victoria and Joel practiced that speech for a week, and Joel would call his father several times to make certain he was doing it correctly. He was a huge hit. The church, his family, friends, and followers, all loved his performance and encouraged him to do more. That year Joel’s father passed away. At that time, Victoria and Joel had a 4-year-old son and a new 3 month old little girl. Victoria began to shift her focus in life towards literacy for children, committing to getting books into the hands of as many children as possible, while Joel focused on becoming the inspirational Pastor we all know and love today.
The Change in Her Seasons
Victoria and Joel were headed into a new direction as the winds of a new season were upon them. Joel was now the pastor at the Lakewood Church, and Victoria was dedicating her time to being a mother, author, and starting an orphanage in Africa. The publisher of her books donates brand new books to children around the world who are in need. Victoria hosts reading events around the Houston area and even travels frequently to the Round the Clock Nursery located in New York City. It was during this time that Victoria Osteen realized that as a woman, she had the most power to influence children by reading to them and promoting literacy around the world. She understood that if a child is not already reading by the time they are in the fourth grade, they face a more challenging road ahead that often leads to juvenile delinquency. As a woman and a parent, Victoria talks about a responsibility to children for educating them beyond the school system. Victoria had written her book called “Love Your Life” in 2008, but began to shift her focus and publish books specifically for children.
Children’s Books and Connecting with Kids
Victoria again was changing with the seasons in her life, now focusing her writing directly to the audience she wanted to benefit most from reading. In 2009 she wrote Unexpected Treasures, and Victoria explains the book was more than just words on paper. She wanted it to be a complete adventure for the child. Her books were full of touch and feel sections, flaps that opened and revealed things for the kids, more of an interactive adventure in a book rather than simply ink on paper. The interaction combined with the positive message within, allows parents to share this bonding experience with their kids while helping the children on the road to literacy. Now parents, babysitters, grandparents, and teachers, can interact with children in a fun way that creates both a happy heart and inspired life.
Balancing Family and the Church
Victoria Osteen is not one to simply sit on her hands as her husband Joel grows in popularity year to year. She has become a huge part of many benefits and programs over the years. She holds a charity fashion event at the Lakewood Church each year hosted by Dillards department store, and sells tickets for the show for $20. All proceeds from the show go to putting more new books right into the hands of the children that need them the most. Although she occasionally guest speaks at the church, runs several charitable events each year, and writes books, she does make time for her family to travel and play together. Her son Jonathan plays in her band and her daughter Alexandra sings at the close of every Night of Hope event. Victoria has home schooled both children and tried to keep them out of the spot light when she in on the pulpit.
Victoria and Her Busy Schedule
While you would think writing books, raising a family, speaking at the church, and hosting numerous charity events would keep Victoria busy, she continues to push herself for the benefit of others. In 2003 she founded the Women’s Ministry at Lakewood Church, and serves as the co-pastor. She takes part in the hour-long broadcast of Day Star Television Network though a live internet feed. She has a regular spot on the popular Houston radio station 89.3 KSBJ. Victoria supports a shelter for battered women called The Bridge, as well as a charitable organization called Feed the Children. She is a vital part, along with her husband with the Generation Hope Project, an organization that travels to cities and provides a multiple day service to those in the area. She had a five-year agreement with Schuster to publish 13 children’s books.
Today, Victoria Osteen motivates people around the world to learn more about literacy through her speaking engagements and the release of her new books. She can be seen every Sunday in the front row listening to her husbands sermons, and is constantly bringing awareness to the power of volunteering to help those less fortunate. Victoria Osteen has come a long way from that shy little girl in Alabama.