Focus on the Family: Making a Difference Through Parents and Children
I sat down recently with Paul Batura, Vice President of Communications for Focus on the Family, to find what’s going on in families and culture from the perspective of one of the world’s leading family ministries. Focus is well-known for its daily radio broadcasts, hosted by its president, Jim Daly; but as you’ll see, there’s much more to the ministry than that.
The Stream: What is Focus on the Family’s mission?
Paul Batura: We have several interlocking missions. First, we’re here to provide biblically-based Christian resources to help husbands and wives strengthen their marriages and raise kids in a godly manner. We advocate for the 400,000 orphans now in foster care in America, 100,000 of whom are immediately adoptable, legally cleared and ready. We stand for life, against abortion. And we advocate for the culture, to defend the institutions that can strengthen our country.
We do these things through radio broadcasts, books, digital media, the Hope Restored marriage institute in Missouri (soon to be expanded to Atlanta), and through reaching out to churches.
We also supply ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers. Based on carefully collected, conservatively analyzed data, we know of at least 400,000 lives saved, after women saw their babies through those ultrasounds.
The Stream: Obviously you view this as extremely important …
Batura: It is. Scripture makes it clear: we’re called to care for the orphan. We’re called to live godly lives that demonstrates Christ’s love for the church and for others. Strong families are the best thing for this country and for this world. Start out with a weak family life and you’ll have other problems.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, was talking with a Supreme Court justice about poverty some time ago. He asked the justice, “Did it ever occur to you that the number one cause of poverty in America is divorce?” The justice said he had never considered that connection. People look everywhere trying to explain poverty, but the data show that the number one predictor of a strong steady income is a high school education, followed by marriage, followed by children.
It’s like the analogy of the stones in the jar. Get the big stones in first and there’s room for the gravel, then the sand, then the water. Faith in Jesus Christ, healthy marriages, and healthy kids are the “big stones.”
The Stream: What trends has Focus encountered over the forty years of its existence?
Batura: Overall, the culture is continuing to slide. Culture ebbs and flows, but when it goes down and comes back up, it never comes up as far as it was before.
There are signs that divorce rates are dropping, though the reasons for that are mixed.
Christians are doing relatively well. They do not divorce as often as other people, as many people erroneously think; at least not if they’re committed to scriptural fidelity and they’re involved in church regularly.
We’ve found that people who are engaged with Focus — those who listen to our broadcasts, receive our resources, and so on — have about a 10 to 15 percent divorce rate. That’s significantly better than average. It could be the result of our resources helping them, or it could be that people with stronger marriages to begin with are more likely to connect with us. Or it could be both. We’re all in this together. I encourage you; you encourage me.
The Stream: What concerns you most in today’s world?
Batura: First and foremost, we care about introducing people to the creator of the family itself, Jesus Christ. That’s the most important thing.
I worry about what this culture is doing to confuse children, specifically the sexual revolution.
We also care deeply about kids. Our orphan care ministry, “Wait No More,” is seeking answers for the 400,000 vulnerable kids being shuttled around in the foster care system. Statistically they’re at much higher risk for all kinds of negative outcomes than other kids. Our hearts are especially tender for those children.
I worry about what this culture is doing to confuse children, specifically the sexual revolution. I think what’s going on there should worry everyone. Kids are growing up involved in all kinds of wrong behavior, and thinking it’s just “normal.” But if you go against God’s design, things don’t go well.
We support what the church is doing, and I’m concerned over how few people are connecting with a church.
The Stream: What is your greatest hope?
Batura: That couples will stay married, and kids will enjoy the stability that’s found in the traditional home. That’s one of the best things we hope and work and pray toward. I hope and pray those 100,000 and more foster kids will find real, lasting homes. I hope more couples on the brink of divorce will find out about Hope Restored.
Overall there’s still real reason for optimism. We know how the story ends in Christ, and we know the message that makes the difference. We’re privileged to be able to share it.