Focus on the Family taking steps for life after Dobson

first_imgThat kind of peer-to-peer connection is central to Focus on the Family’s efforts to reach a younger audience. An example is a Webzine called that invites young adults ages 18 to 34 to talk to each other in moderated forums about everything from dating and courtship to the ethics of playing online poker. “This generation, Gen Y and even Gen X, they are skeptical,” said Motte Brown, 39, who oversees the Boundless `zine as family formation ministry manager. “They’ve been marketed to their entire lives, so they look to their peers and they reject anything with an authoritarian tone. They are looking for truth, but look to their peers for that.” Brown acknowledges that hunger poses a challenge for an institution founded on one man’s vision. Young adults on the online forums revere Dobson, he said, but also want to hear each other’s voices. The ministry also is customizing content to adapt to an on-demand world, said Glenn Williams, 44, a senior vice president. Dobson’s radio show is now available through podcast, audio-stream and video-stream. The ministry’s movie reviews, one of its most popular products, can be delivered by text message. An initiative called “My Family” allows Web site visitors to customize their home pages. The flagship Focus on the Family magazine was too general for the times, so now five versions based on different life-stages are published. “Focus for a long time took a shotgun approach: Let’s throw out a topic today and talk about it, and if it touches someone’s heart, we’ll respond,” Daly said. “Now, people are just too busy. They say, `I don’t have time to find it. I need you to feed it with me … That’s a huge change between the leadership (at Focus on the Family).”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“With (Dobson’s) interest in public policy, we have quite a strong bicep in that arena,” Daly said. But, he adds, “94 percent of our budget goes to marriage and parenting, the bread and butter stuff. We don’t have to reduce the muscle in the public policy area. We just need to start doing curls in the other area in the public square.” Dobson stepped down as Focus on the Family president in 2003 but remains the board chairman and the ministry’s public voice on its flagship radio broadcast. While Dobson has not hinted at retirement, the board has been plotting succession for years. Passing up a better-paying corporate job at a paper company, Daly joined Focus on the Family in the late 1980s and rose through the ranks. Daly is not heir apparent to the radio show because, he acknowledges, that isn’t his strength. He views himself as an administrator and delegator. Daly’s public profile is growing, however, illustrated by the release of his first book, “Finding Home,” in which he describes growing up in foster care after the deaths of his alcoholic parents and the joys of raising his own kids. The message: Parents can consider Daly a peer rather than an authority figure in the mold of Dobson, a child psychologist. COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – James Dobson has become synonymous with the empire that is Focus on the Family. Tourists clamor for photos of the group’s founder when he’s not taping a radio show, talking about the presidential race on a TV news show or writing another child-rearing book. Some staff confess to asking “What Would Dr. Dobson Do?” when faced with a dilemma. But out of public view, a new generation of executives is laying the groundwork for sustaining the conservative Christian group as a cultural and political force once the 71-year-old Dobson has left the scene. And most of their efforts are concentrated not in the political realm, but in finding new ways to deliver marriage and parenting advice to a younger generation of families, many of whom distrust institutions or dislike evangelical engagement in politics. Consider Jim Daly, the group’s 46-year-old president and chief executive officer. He shares Dobson’s conservative evangelical beliefs about marriage and the culture wars. But Daly is more likely to talk or blog about his troubled childhood or the challenges of raising his own kids, ages 5 and 7, than stage voter-registration rallies. last_img