U.S. Public Schools Embrace Focus on Family Initiatives in 2016

Colorado Springs, Colo.- Focus on the Family helped bring hope to public schools students in 2016 through two programs: one designed to give Christian students a voice, and another that helped combat family brokenness.

“Today’s culture has tried to push God, and the values and principles found in His Word, from the public square,” said Focus on the Family President Jim Daly. “But that results in confusion and pain. Children and their families are eager for proven marriage and parenting help – and that’s exactly what Focus has provided to millions of families in 2016.”

Religious liberty matters, from kindergarten to college 

More than 356,000 students participated in Focus’ third annual “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” a student-led, nationwide free-speech event that more than doubled in participation over the previous year. The initiative helped give a voice to Christian students who often times feel a censorship of sorts when it comes to them talking about and expressing their faith.

Not only has the event grown exponentially since 8,000 students participated during its 2014 debut, but social media and national, state, and local media outlets have taken notice. The event’s official hashtag, #BringYourBible, garnered nearly 47 million impressions. 

The event received a boost from the award-winning Christian band The Newsboys, which joined the movement to help raise awareness among students – and to offer a giveaway for a free trip for four to hear the band live in concert in Dallas.     

Equipping parents in at-risk communities 

Many of the nation’s schools serve children who most cope with poverty, gang violence, and other hardships.  Focus on the Family is helping these vulnerable communities through Raising Highly Capable Kids, an evidence-based, bilingual program specifically developed to build stronger families.

Since its 2010 launch, more than 10,000 families in 60 communities have participated in Raising Highly Capable Kids, which teaches parents the “40 Developmental Assets” that help decrease the odds kids will engage in destructive behaviors – and increases their likelihood of success. 

A strength of the 13-week curriculum is that it is implemented by local communities. Because the program is values-based and not religious, public schools can host the classes, local churches can partner with schools in their neighborhoods, and area businesses can lend their support. This helps create a much-needed support systems for parents – many who might be new to this country. 

Parents who graduate from the program report dramatic improvements in their parenting skills and relationships with their children and spouses.

Helping parents, from Pokémon to potty training  

When parents had questions about Pokémon Go, this year’s mobile game sensation, they came to Focus on the Family. The ministry provided moms and dads with free resources to help them understand the nation’s obsession, including blogs, videos, a downloadable guide, and an article series exploring the spiritual side of the game. All together, more than 120,000 people benefitted from a Pokémon-related Focus resource, and Focus’ media discernment website, Plugged In, grew by 40 percent.

Focus also helped parents instill faith-based values in their children through the award-winning magazines Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.  The Evangelical Press Association honored the two publications with awards, giving Clubhouse Jr. an award of merit and naming Clubhouse as the top children’s magazine in Christian publishing for its content and impact. For example, during this year’s summer challenge, Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. combined to raise nearly $30,000 to help Middle East refugee children attend school.

Children also made a difference through Focus’ Odyssey Adventure Club, which gives fans access to every episode of the “Adventures in Odyssey” radio drama since 1987. OAC partnered with key groups like World Vision, Open Doors, AWANA to help raise funds for needy communities, an effort that helped more than 16,000 families.

Focus’ parenting efforts are led by licensed clinical social worker Danny Huerta, who was named vice president over the department this year. Huerta directly engaged parents on timely topics like racism, marijuana, and back to school concerns through Periscope and other social media, and was prominently featured in a Washington Post piece on “threeangers.”  

Focus helped save an average of 355 marriages every day during 2016

Healthy families start with strong marriages, which is one reason why Focus on the Family provides resources and counseling to couples in need – even those on the brink of divorce through its marriage retreat center.

Rebranded in March, the location is now known as the “Focus on the Family Retreat Center,” and the marriage intensives are now called “Hope Restored: A Marriage Intensive Experience.” This name better reflects what they do – offering healing and restoring hope for couples facing extreme crisis in their marriage. This year, 588 couples were served in the intensive program. More than 80 percent of participating couples who participate in Hope Restored are still together after five years.

Focus’ marriage team, led by Dr. Greg Smalley, helped churches across the nation strengthen marriages in their congregations through the “Day of Honoring Marriage” event, which was celebrated by 4,200 participating churches, and the “Date Night Challenge,” comedy edition.

Focus’ Boundless outreach, which helps singles live with intentionality and marry well, celebrated the second anniversary of its radio program. “The Boundless Show” now airs on more than 300 radio stations nationwide, while the podcast version of the show garners around 100,000 listeners weekly. Boundless’ award-winning content was recognized by the Evangelical Press Association this year, while host Lisa Anderson was recognized as one of the “Most Inspiring Women of 2016” by Christian lifestyle magazine Life: Beautiful.  

Reaching 6.3 million radio listeners a week with Bible-based help  

Focus’ main studio where its award-winning flagship radio program is recorded received a complete technological update in 2016, with the addition of more visual and digital capabilities, six new cameras and new lighting. 

More than 6.3 million people listen to Focus’ daily broadcast every week. The year’s top programs touched on a variety of topics, including homosexuality (“Accepting My True Identity in Christ” with Rosaria Butterfield); dating (“The Search for a Godly Spouse” with Alistair Begg); marriage (“Discovering Your Love Style,” with Milan and Kay Yerkovich; “God’s Blueprint for a Healthy Marriage,” with Timothy and Kathy Keller) and cultural engagement (“Learning from History’s Great Men and Women,” with Eric Metaxas).

Other notable guests included Al and Lisa Robertson from “Duck Dynasty,” Pastor Andy Stanley, author and apologist Lee Strobel, comedian Tim Hawkins, and author Gary Chapman.

Focus provides on-the-ground help at Guantanamo 

Focus’ Dr. Harry Pearson, a licensed clinical counselor, traveled to Cuba to provide education and support to the U.S. Navy’s chaplain corps stationed in the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Pearson, who has extensive experience in military family life counseling, shared on topics like self-care, parenting, divorce and remarriage with ministers who, Pearson said, often “become depleted and experience burnout from compassion fatigue.” 

In 2016, Focus’ new director of counseling, Geremy Keeton, oversaw his team’s handling of more than 40,000 calls on topics including grief, sexual abuse, marriage crisis, and addictions. Keeton also spearheaded efforts to launch Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network, a new online resource that helped people in need find a Focus-vetted Christian counselor.

Focus also helped 200 volunteers reach over 970,000 hurting people with biblical truth and encouragement thanks through its Online Mentor Program.

Encouraging responsible citizenship through education 

Focus’ public policy team helped empower Christians in their role as voters and citizens through various efforts. The biggest was its Commit 2 Vote special election website featuring voter registration information, reasons to vote, and resources for training up the next generation of citizens. Over 65,000 visitors came to the site for answers to questions like, “Am I registered?” and “What if I don’t like either candidate?” 

The policy team also created free resource to help Christians understand and think through a variety of cultural issues, including homosexuality, marijuana and religious freedom on college campuses

Focus’ global efforts help bring more than 1,500 people to Christ

Focus on the Family’s 12 international offices are collectively responsible for touching more than 4.4 million lives, strengthening nearly 700 marriages, and leading 1,515 people to a decision to follow Jesus this year.

Focus’s newest international office in Mongolia celebrated its first anniversary in 2016.  

Reaching on-the-go families with digital resources 

While Focus is best-known for its radio programming, the ministry also has a large online presence that continues to expand.

For example, Focus launched a new online store this year, which offers resources on marriage, parenting, dating, culture and faith topics that have been reviewed and approved by Focus on the Family experts to ensure they are biblically sound.

In addition to the online store, new digital resources include a Ready to Wed app for Android, and That the World May Know app for IOS.

Focus on the Family’s presence on social media grew to over 5.7 million followers this year through the presence it and its associated brands maintain on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others platforms. 

Faith and family resources to enrich the Christian walk

It was a big year for Focus on the Family-branded content. The ministry released five new resources, including two new books in the popular “Kingdom” series with Pastor Tony Evans, “Kingdom Marriage and “Kingdom Citizen.

Another Focus partnership that is adding resources to a long list of content is Ray Vander Laan’s “The Mission of Jesus,” which marks the 14th volume in the acclaimed That The World May Know series. The resource is available in DVD, curriculum and downloadable formats. 

Focus on the Family experts also released bestselling books in 2016, including President Jim Daly with “Marriage Done Right; marriage experts Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley with, “Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage; and communications vice president and adoptive dad Paul Batura with “Chosen for Greatness: How Adoption Changes the World.”

Speaking truth through news media              

Focus’ family experts are sought-after by mainstream and Christian media outlets alike for the perspective they provide on family and cultural issues. For example, this year Focus President Jim Daly penned opinion pieces for The New York Times in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre; Christianity Today on the trial of pro-life activist David Daleiden; and Fox News on Bring Your Bible to School Day. He also spoke with Alan Colmes on his new book, “Marriage Done Right.” 

MTV ran an interview with Plugged In’s Adam Holz, “Watching 'Saw' for Jesus,” which explored the unconventional ways Holz lives out his faith. Holz also penned an opinion piece for the Washington Times answering the question “What Do Christians Want From Christian Movies?”

Jeff Johnston with Focus’ policy team spoke with Mashable after the terror attack at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, saying, “People are made in God’s image, and worthy of respect.” 

Finally, two good contributions on the topic of adoption came from Kelly Rosati in Good Housekeeping and Paul Batura, who asked “Does Outcry Over Al Trautwig’s Comments Actually Hurt the Adoption Movement?” in Breitbart during the aftermath of the sports commentator’s remarks about the parents of American gymnast Simone Biles. 

Pro-life efforts help women affected by Louisiana flooding disaster

When Louisiana was hit hard with flooding this year, pregnancy-care clinic Caring to Love Ministries in Baton Rouge was devastated with $400,000 in damage. In response, Focus on the Family’s community engagement team replaced all of the clinic’s booklets and DVDs, and donated a mobile ultrasound unit for Caring to Love to use until their building was rebuilt. 

Providing practical help is only one of the ways Focus’ Option Ultrasound Program helps save lives. This year the initiative, which provides grants that cover up to 80 percent of the cost for ultrasound machines or sonogram training to qualifying pregnancy medical clinics, helped save more than 27,000 babies from abortion. OUP has helped save a total of 370,000 preborn babies since it launched in 2004.

Focus’ care for children extends beyond the preborn and to the more than 100,000 legal orphans in the United States foster care system who are waiting for adoptive families. The ministry hosted four Wait No More conferences in 2016 that brought together state and local child welfare officials, child placement agencies, churches and ministries to educate families about adoption from foster care. A partnership at the Nevada event even allowed attendees to get their fingerprints taken at no extra cost, a benefit that helped facilitate families moving forward to adopt waiting children. As of date, over 3,300 families have initiated the process of adoption thanks to Wait No More.

Focus on the Family also hosted (along with Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) the Evangelicals for Life conference in January at the March for Life pro-life event. More than 400 attendees, as well as 8,000 live streamers in more than 64 countries, participated in the inaugural event.

Looking ahead to 2017

Focus will kick off 2017 with the second Evangelicals for Life conference, featuring speakers like Jim Daly, Kelly Rosati, Russell Moore, Eugene Cho, and Matt Chandler, among others.

Next year also marks Focus’ 40th anniversary of providing Bible-based help, programming and counseling to families in need. The ministry will celebrate the milestone with the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Cruise to the Bahamas in November 2017. The celebration will take place aboard the Disney Dream, where families will spend four nights sailing in the Caribbean with stops in Nassau, Bahamas, and Disney Castaway Cay, a private island reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests. 

Also commemorating a big achievement in 2017 is Adventures in Odyssey, which will mark 30 years of serving children through audio drama. AIO will mark the occasion in part by releasing a Bible next year. Clubhouse magazine will also be celebrating its 30th “birthday” next year.

With so many milestones coming up in 2017, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly wants to make it very clear who will be receiving all the glory:

“The staff and I are looking forward to commemorating Focus’ 40th anniversary next year, as well as other milestones,” said Daly. “But we won’t be celebrating our work or efforts – we’ll be celebrating Him: God and His faithfulness and grace.

“How grateful and humbled we are that God has chosen to use Focus to minister to millions of families. I’m thankful to be part of it – and I know I speak for the staff when I say we’re looking forward to continuing to serve God and families in 2017.”

For media inquiries or to coordinate interviews, please contact Ashley Mazelin through email at Ashley.Mazelin@fotf.org or at 719-531-3386.

About Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family, which reaches about 238 million people in 130 countries, is a global faith-based ministry that helps families thrive. We provide help and resources for strengthening believers in their faith and sharing the gospel; building resilient marriages that reflect God’s design; equipping parents to raise their children with a thriving faith; advocating for the preborn, orphaned and life at every stage; and engaging the culture through a biblical worldview. Visit Focus at FocusontheFamily.com or on Facebook and Twitter.