The Battle for Today’s Youth


November 1996

Dear Friends.

As 1996 draws to a close, it seems appropriate that I dedicate one of my two remaining letters to the issue that matters most. Of all the things we are trying to accomplish with our 64 separate programs for
families, there is one objective that outranks every other purpose and motive. I’m speaking of our consuming passion to introduce today’s children and those in young adulthood to Jesus Christ and to help them deepen their walk with Him. This is the centerpiece of our Campaign for Righteousness–a new emphasis that has reenergized and redirected this ministry.

Today’s generation has been bombarded with more evil and more dangerous ideology than any comparable age group in the history of Western nations. Dogging the young like hungry wolves are those who would
exploit them for financial gain, including drug pushers, movie and television producers, sex abusers, abortion providers and rock music junkies. They are also pursued by those who would use them to
revolutionize the culture, including homosexual activists, New Age gurus, Planned Parenthood types and the more radical leaders of the National Education Association.

A classic example of this manipulation hit my desk a few days ago in the form of an article published in The Weekly Standard. It is entitled “Gay-Ed for Tots,” which describes a pro-homosexual curriculum for
kindergartners and first-graders in the San Francisco Unified School District. It is called “My Family,” and is promoted via the district’s Support Services for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth Department.’ This
is the convoluted world in which we are raising our children. Whereas the Supreme Court has ruled that the Ten Commandments can’t be posted in public schools, it is entirely legal to teach perverse lifestyles to
babies at taxpayers’ expense. No wonder so many of our kids are in such trouble.

The letters, e-mail and phone calls that come to us from children and teens reveal the enormous pressure they are under and the sad dilemmas they face. To read them would break your heart. Let me share a
representative letter that came to us a short time ago from a girl who will remain anonymous. This is what she wrote:

Dear Susie [editor of Brio magazine]:

I need help. I can’t handle this any longer.

Today, I had found a porno movie in my father’s room. He is a pastor. I
don’t know what to think or what to do. I was gonna just shrug it off
but how?

I also have a problem with guys. I don’t know how or what happens, but
I let them take advantage of me. I never go as far as actual sex but
still. I feel bad saying no. Sometimes I can’t even say it at all. I
usually go for pretty decent guys but it doesn’t matter . . . they’re
all the same. I’ve even tried going in “groups”; it doesn’t help . . .
we always end up alone. I do admit it’s all my fault. I don’t know what
to do. I’ve tried everything.

I just found out my friend was gay . . . Should I still be friends with
him? I mean he’s a nice guy . . . but aren’t we suppose to shun that

Sometimes I feel like dying. If someone does kill themselves, do they
go to hell for it? My friend hung himself. And my other friends want to
or tried to . . . would they go to hell? I heard you do. Is it true?
And how do I get suicidal thoughts out of my head?


What a tragedy that this young lady has already given up on life before it has really begun. “Laura” is being raised in a Christian home, apparently, yet she is caught in the web of a wicked culture from which she sees no escape. Millions of her contemporaries are just as lost. That is why at Focus on the Family, our most urgent mission is to reach out to young people with the Good News of the Gospel and the “safe haven” of a moral lifestyle.

To minister to this generation, it is necessary to understand their values, their beliefs, their concerns and their pressures. That’s why we have found the work of the Barna Research Group so helpful. They have conducted extensive surveys of young people who are sometimes called “Xers.” Barna’s recent findings are included in a new book, entitled Generation Next. I commend it to those of you who are working in any capacity with teens or young adults.

Here are some surprising excerpts that help us understand the kids to whom we will soon entrust the future of Western civilization! Barna reports:

“Consider the issue of truth. About three-quarters of all adults reject the notion that there are absolute moral truths. Most Americans believe that all truth is relative to the situation and the individuals involved. Similarly, at least three-quarters of our teens embrace the same position regarding moral truths. Not only do more than three out of four teenagers say there is no absolute moral truth, four out of five also claim that nobody can know for certain whether or not they actually know what truth is. This may also help to explain why a majority of teenagers (57 percent) say that lying is sometimes necessary–not merely convenient, common, understandable or acceptable, but necessary.”

“Because the Bible and most religious activities are foreign to them and seem irrelevant to what ‘real life’ is all about, they perceive two parallel worlds coexisting: the spiritual, impractical world that contains many pure and absolute (and impractical) dictums (such as truth, morality, love, faith), and the real world, the one they inhabit, which deals with the hard stuff of daily living. Truth may be a wonderful concept, but many teens don’t have sufficient interest in such an ‘impractical’ or unrealistic concept to explore it further.
Millions of those who do have the interest do not have the philosophical, intellectual and spiritual foundations to take such an exploration to the next level.”

Barna continues: “Teenagers are not flocking to Christian churches, but they are intensely interested in spiritual matters.” The parents of an increasing number of them have neither encouraged their spirituality or left a spiritual legacy for them to explore. Consequently, they are attracted to different faith systems. “Many teenagers,” Barna says, “believe that a major component of America’s illness is that we have lost our sense of the divine and the mystical. Millions of teenagers are seeking to incorporate their spiritual understanding into their daily existence, making faith more than a Sunday experience, but rather a life filter. Make no mistake about it though: ‘Spiritual’ is no longer synonymous with ‘Christian.'”

“Now, suicide is viewed as just one of the many viable choices available to a healthy, functional young person. Many kids view it not as a sign of weakness, but as a rational choice in which the alternatives are less attractive. Today, the decision to reject suicide is a conscious statement of priorities and values. In essence, this is the first generation of teenagers who are intentionally making a choice between life (a decision that was initially made for them) and death (a decision that they may control).”

Barna commented on adult expectations of teenagers and the subsequent result: “We expect them [teens] to develop a viable values system, even though schools are warned to avoid the communication of values,
churches have failed to teach a practical and coherent set of values, and parents continue to abdicate the responsibility for passing on a values system to their offspring. No wonder teenagers are baffled about
values: Few adults understand the debate, although they intuitively know that values are important!”

“Teenagers noted that they spend incredibly little time with their family during the week. It is becoming less common these days for a teenager to have time isolated for focused interaction with family members. Most of the time they spend with their family is what you might call ‘family and time’: family and TV, family and dinner, family and homework, etc. The lives of each family member are usually so jam-packed that the opportunity to spend time together doing unique activities–talking about life, visiting special places, playing games and sharing spiritual explorations–has to be scheduled in advance. Few do so.”

“Several years ago, we discovered that a majority of adults now define family to be any and all individuals whom they deeply care for or who deeply care about them. Not surprisingly, teenagers have now adopted
the same perspective. Almost two out of three teens currently believe that this nouveau definition of family is the most accurate.”

“This new definition of family is frightening. It renders the family a fluid and transitory aggregation, based upon the emotion of the moment and the most recent experiences individuals have had with each other.
Considering this view of family, the people who represent your family today may not be considered your family tomorrow by virtue of changes in emotion, experience, peer pressure or other whims.”

“We have also detected that one unfortunate outgrowth of the new family is that behaviors that have traditionally been discouraged–divorce, cohabitation, births without marriage, extramarital affairs, even
polygamy–become acceptable to some. Because the definition of a family permits anyone and everyone to share emotions, housing and intimate relationships, it becomes a ‘family on the fly’ existence in which
family, like everything else in our culture, exists only to gratify our immediate needs without regard for long-term consequences.”

“More than four out of five kids (82 percent) have had sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex by the age of 19. This means that prior to marriage, most young adults will have had sex with others, and
less than one-fifth of newlyweds will be virgins. Before they even graduate from high school, one-fifth of all students will have had at least four sex partners. One consequence of this promiscuity is that more than 1 million teenagers are likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease this year. If current trends continue, a majority of today’s high school students will live with a partner prior to getting married. In a large proportion of those situations, the cohabitants will not marry each other, although they will have sexual
relations with each other many times before dissolving the relationship. Sure, teens will age and marry, and most will have one or two children, but divorce will likely wreak havoc on many of the formal unions. We can expect to see millions of children born to single parents and others born to cohabiting parents.'”

It should be apparent from these disturbing revelations why we grieve for today’s young people. It also explains why increasing proportions of the Focus on the Family budget are invested in the effort to reach
these kids in the hopes that we might, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22, KJV).

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the programs and creative projects we’ve dedicated to this primary mission.. They in such as “Last Chance Detectives” and “Adventures in Odyssey,” the basketball camps for
inner-city kids and their single mothers or fathers, four magazines for the young–Brio, Breakaway, Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr.— the Institute for Family Studies in which 40 bright college students are currently enrolled, the parental guidance magazine, Plugged In, and many other targeted products. But with your indulgence, I’d like to tell you quickly about two new programs that are creating great excitement at Focus.

The first is a high-quality video presentation on the dangers of illicit drug usage. Government statistics reveal that there has been an alarming 106 percent increase in substance abuse among teenagers since
1992 and 33 percent between 1994 and 1995 alone. Use of LSD and other hallucinogens alone rose 55 percent in that one-year period. What terrible human suffering these numbers foretell–among those who are addicted and for the children they will begat! We simply must do what we can to keep youngsters from experimenting with marijuana and hard drugs, and to encourage those who are already hooked to seek help. That’s why we have produced a powerful new video for young people on the subject.

Featured in this video is Milton Creagh,,, a gifted communicator and educator. When Milton talks to kids (750,000 in the past year) about the troubles in their lives and the reasons they are vulnerable to drugs, many of them sit and cry. He is having an enormous impact in school assemblies and youth groups across North America, and now we have captured his message on tape. It is called “Masquerade.” Don’t fail to secure a copy for your church high school and middle school classes. If you have a child or young adult between 10 and 25, you’ll want him or her to hear Milton speak to this critical issue. “Masquerade” was a very expensive video to produce, but if it saves a single youngster from the ravages of drugs and alcohol, it was worth the investment.

By the way, it is our plan to air “Masquerade” on television stations across the United States. If you would like to help us get that done, we would appreciate your financial involvement.

The second new development for young people and their parents is called “The Life on the Edge [LOTE] Seminar.” It was inspired by my book and video series by the same title. The first of its kind was held in
Cincinnati on October 5. Some 3,200 teenagers and their parents spent a day listening to Joe White, Frank Peretti,, Tim Kimmel, Milton Creagh and the editors of our Brio and Breakaway publications, Susie
Shellenberger and Michael Ross. Rather than separating the generations, we designed this program for moms, dads and teens to experience together. From all reports we’ve received, the seminar was wonderfully successful. If resources permit, it is our plan to take this program (featuring a variety of speakers) to 50 or more cities in the next couple of years. Hopefully, LOTE (pronounced “Lotte”) will be coming to a location near you. If so, sign up early. We had to turn away hundreds in Cincinnati.

With God’s blessing and the support of our friends, Focus on the Family will continue to pour our creative energies and our resources into the salvation of today’s young people–and to their parents as well. There
is no higher calling to which we could aspire. As the United States and Canada sink into a moral quagmire, we will do all we can to teach the basics of the Christian faith to those who have not heard.

Thank you so much for helping to support this ministry in 1996. If you are able to make even a single contribution here at year-end, it will help keep us viable and prepared for the challenges ahead. We don’t
have all the answers to what plagues families at the end of the 20th century, but such as we have we will share with those who reach out for a word of encouragement and counsel.

Greetings to you and your family. You are appreciated!


James C. Dobson, Ph.D.