Kjell Magne Bondevik was born on 3 September 1947 in the rural community of Molde. His early life shaped his appreciation for the value of family and the rural way of life. He attended the Free Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo and became an ordained Lutheran minister in 1979. He married Bjørg Rasmussen in 1970; the couple has two sons and one daughter. He has been a political figure in Norway since the 1970s, serving as minister of Foreign Affairs, minister of Church and Education and deputy prime minister. He does not drink alcohol, and is an avid soccer fan. He supports strong families, including the necessity of an increased and more active role to be played by men in the raising of children and in the determination of sex roles. He holds three honorary doctorates.
In the summer of 1998 while serving as prime minister, Bondevik suffered what he characterized as a "depressive reaction" to the stresses and demands of running a country, and took three and one-half weeks off to retire to a country cabin for rest and meditation. Culture Minister Anne Enger Lahnstein filled his position while he was absent. Opinion polls showed that 85% of Norwegians approved of his having been so open about his condition; he was regarded as something of a "hero" for his honesty and courage when he returned to work. He said he hoped to start a debate "on the boundaries between what is public and what is private."