Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of Focus on the Family is its interactive and personal nature. What began in 1977 as a ministry based on mass communication (primarily radio) quickly evolved into a complex organization that is highly sensitive to the needs of those who respond to us. We refer often to an imaginary sign that might well hang above the front door, saying, “We Care About Your Family in This Place.” It is true. Every person who writes, calls, e-mails or faxes us can expect to receive a personalized letter or telephone call representing our best efforts at providing whatever was requested or needed. This is the primary reason there are more than 1,250 people working at in Colorado Springs and why our financial resources are always stretched to the limit.
Said another way, we are engaged in two very distinct functions here at Focus on the Family. The first is a high-profile ministry for which we are best known. It involves the production of radio, television, films, books, magazines, audio- and videotape, etc. The second ministry, however, is largely invisible except to those with whom we correspond privately. It is a one-on-one interaction that involves the giving of advice, information, counsel, materials, referrals, prayer support and whatever else might be needed by our friends. We sincerely weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Perhaps your family has been among the recipients of that compassion and assistance.
Focus on the Family, then, is not designed to be a monologue in the tradition of most radio or television teaching ministries. It is a “conversation” between us and millions of families in the 78 countries where we are seen or heard. Reports are prepared for me every few days that contain actual paragraphs from the letters sent to the caring professionals in our Correspondence or Counseling Departments. The purpose is to keep me informed about what people are saying and how the culture is changing. Much of this mail comes from people who are responding to a point I’ve made on the radio or something they’ve read in one of my books.
Let me share one of those letters sent by a teenage girl who wrote in response to a recommendation I made in The New Dare to Discipline. I had mentioned in that book that Shirley and I gave our daughter a small gold key when she turned 13 years of age. It was attached to a chain-to-be-worn around her neck-and represented the key to her heart. She made a vow to give that key to one man only–the one who would share her love through the remainder of her life. I suggested that parents might consider giving a similar key or a ring to their sons and daughters in early adolescence. It would then serve as a tangible reminder of the precious
gift of abstinence until marriage and then lifelong fidelity to his or her mate. 1 I still believe that is a very good idea.
The young lady who wrote the letter referred to above, whom I’ll call Karen, had received such a symbolic gift from her parents. She wrote to thank me for suggesting the idea to them. Her letter was very meaningful to me. This is what she said:
Dear Dr. Dobson:
I am writing to share with you a most blessed experience. On my fifteenth birthday my parents gave me a surprise birthday party in which my ring would be presented. When my father put the ring on my finger I stood there looking at unsaved relatives and my peers. Suddenly I realized this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. Saying a quick prayer I said the following: “It is a great honor for me to
wear this ring, because it symbolizes the commitment I am making to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future husband and my future children to remain physically and sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. I know it won’t be easy, but as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, things will be easier. Temptations may and will come, but my heart’s prayer is that God will give me the courage and strength to stand my ground. And finally, may I always have the desire
to serve, honor and please the Lord today and forevermore.” . . . The people’s response was positively incredible. God had used my sincere statement to move even the most hardened of hearts. The purpose of my letter is to encourage you when you are in the valley or maybe even feel like quitting (like we all do sometimes); remember me and this letter; remember that because you have been faithful to the call, God has blessed you by helping you reach millions like me around the world.
This sweet letter from Karen was encouraging to me and to the staff at Focus on the Family. That’s why it is now included in my newest book, Solid Answers, which is a 575 page resource containing 495 questions and answers dealing with almost every area of family life. Before sitting down to write it, a team of
conducted an extensive review of several hundred thousand letters sent to Focus through the years, including the one written by Karen. From that vast resource, I then selected the issues and situations most commonly raised that I thought families would find helpful and interesting. Solid Answers is the result of that two-year effort, which is finally off the presses and in stock at Focus on the Family.
Since this is the time of year when we especially need the support of our friends, I thought the availability of my new book might encourage some of you to write and hopefully include a contribution to the work of the ministry. Solid Answers might make a good Christmas gift to a loved one or family member. As always, I’ve waived royalties so that Focus can receive maximum benefit from books that are requested from the ministry. That’s about as close as I will get to fund raising, except to say that we definitely need a financial boost here at the end of the year.
To give you the flavor of what I’ve written, I’ve included a few questions and answers from Solid Answers. They are as follows:
1. Our family physician wants to examine my 13-year~old son without my being m the room. That’s OK with me, but I expect him to tell me what my boy says and what his medical condition is. [bat’s where we disagree. He says he must keep their conversation confidential. Am I right to expect to be informed and involved?
Teenagers are typically sensitive and modest about their bodies–especially when their parents are around so I can understand the need for privacy during a physical exam. The larger issue here, however, is the physician’s accountability to you as the mother, and at this point, I agree entirely with the position you have taken. Other parents have expressed similar concerns to me.
I’m reminded of a mother who told me that she took her 14~year-old daughter to their pediatrician for a routine physical exam. She was aware that her daughter was beginning to develop physically and might be sensitive to her being in toe examining room with her. She offered to remain in the waiting room, but toe girl objected.
“I don’t want to go in there by myself,” she said. “Please come with me.” After arguing with her daughter for a moment, the mother agreed to accompany her to the examining room.
When the exam was over, the doctor turned to the mother and criticized her for intruding. He said in front of the girl, “You know, you really had no business being in the examining room. It is time I related directly to your daughter. You should not even be aware of the care that I give her or the medication I prescribe. Nor should you know the thing.