Pearl has a Bachelor of Science from Victory University (formerly Mid-South Bible College). He worked with Union Mission in Memphis, Tennessee for 25 years.
No Greater Joy (NGJ) is Pearl's 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization brings in between $1.5 and $1.7 million a year through product sales and donations. The Pearls state that they do not receive royalties from the sales, and that the profits are used for ministry purposes.
Pearl has sold or donated over 1.5 million copies of his books, CDs, DVDs, and other materials.
To Train Up a Child was published by Michael and Debi Pearl in 1994. Michael Pearl claims that it has sold more than 670,000 copies, although Nielsen BookScan records only 9,579 sales since 2001.
The book advises parents to use objects like a quarter-inch plumbing tube to spank children and "break their will". It also mentions withholding food and putting children under a cold garden hose.
The content of Pearl's book has been cited as advocating child abuse and its teachings were linked to the deaths of Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Grace-Rose Williams. In all three cases the parents were homeschooling their children and are believed to have read Pearl's book. Michael Ramsey, a Butte County, California District Attorney who prosecuted the Schatz case, investigated the Pearls' teachings and called To Train Up A Child, "an extraordinarily dangerous book for those who take it literally." "It's truly an evil book," he said. Dr. Frances Chalmers, the pediatrician who examined Hana's death, said “My fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse.”
The parents of Hana Grace-Rose Williams, Larry and Carri Williams, were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 28 and 37 years in jail, respectively.
On his website, Pearl issued his official responses to the controversy over To Train Up a Child and the deaths of Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz. The responses list quotes from Pearl’s book that warn against abuse. In an article published after Lydia's death, Pearl explained, "I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly-spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love." Pearl has also spoken to the media about the controversy, stating that the 15-inch plastic tubing he recommends in the book is “too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone.” Pearl stated of the death of Hana Williams, “What her parents (allegedly) did is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of No Greater Joy Ministries and what is taught in the book.”
The Seattle Times noted that there is no mention in To Train Up a Child of the discipline used on Hana Williams except for spanking, although "spanking is clearly the heart of the book." The New York Times suggests that the Williamses’ other discipline tactics involve Pearl’s book taken to extremes, such as Pearl’s advice that “a little fasting is good training.” A witness in the trial reported that the Williamses followed the book's recommendations "to use a switch, cold baths, withhold food and force children outside in cold weather as punishment," all of which were used on Hana before her death.
Pearl has stated, "The book repeatedly warns parents against abuse and emphasizes the parents' responsibility to love and properly care for their children, which includes training them for success.".
Other publications released by Michael Pearl and No Greater Joy Ministries include:No Greater Joy magazine
Training Children to be Strong in Spirit
Good and Evil
Created to Be His Help Meet
Good and Evil won the Independent Publishers' IPPY Award Bronze Medal in the Graphic Novel/Drama category in 2009, and was a 2009 ForeWord Book Award finalist.
Michael Pearl married Debi in 1971. As of February 2012, the Pearls have five children and eighteen grandchildren. Their daughter Shoshanna Easling has said she had a wonderful childhood and that her parents never spoke to her in anger. Another daughter, Rebekah Pearl Anast, has said, "I think that the fact that all five of us are very happy, balanced people with great marriages and happy kids is evidence that my parents did the right thing."