I’ve been working at Focus on the Family since March of 1989. At the time I joined the staff, there were some 600+ employees. In order to meet the needs, challenges, and opportunities facing families around the world, we’ve grown to more than 1,200 dedicated team members. As Dr. Dobson has said numerous times, he never dreamed thirty years ago that his weekly 15-minute radio broadcast entitled, Let’s Get Acquainted would have flourished in such extraordinary ways today.
Indeed, Focus on the Family has experienced God’s hand of blessing since our inception. In order to be faithful stewards of the resources He has brought us, last week we had to make some belt-tightening adjustments to our budget. I thought my blog readers would appreciate an insider’s look at what I shared with the staff and close friends of the ministry this week. As you read, join us in prayer for those families who are affected by these cuts, and pray that the Lord of the harvest will provide for their every need in the days ahead.
Here’s the Letter:
Many of you have contacted us with questions and concerns about the implications of the nation’s economic conditions on Focus on the Family’s programs and staff, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your compassion and your prayers. The reality of our situation is that, after months of prayer, diligently seeking the Lord’s will, we have accepted a budget for our 2009 fiscal year that is $22 million less than what we would have carried over from 2008. In addition to several personal meetings, I recently sent an all staff memo, explaining the foundations for this decision. I would like to share the essence of that communication with you, as an extended member of the family.
In order to meet our Board-approved budget for 2009, we have taken a strategic look at every program and activity in the ministry, and made some difficult decisions to help us better focus on our core mission and foundational principles, and steward the resources given sacrificially to us, particularly in the trying financial times in which we’re now living. We realize that the results of these decisions include the reduction or elimination of some very good programs, and, most painfully, some positions held by valued team members.
Change is never easy, particularly when it requires saying “goodbye” to those in our ministry family. Their service and the dedication of their gifts and hearts to serve the Lord in this place is recognized and deeply appreciated, and we are all grieving together and praying for the Lord’s wisdom, discernment, and provision in the days ahead.
We firmly believe the Lord is preparing Focus on the Family for the “thickets of the Jordan” (Jeremiah 12:5), requiring discipline to obediently follow where He is leading. We have applied discipline to the planning process, and, as a result, several programs are being eliminated or significantly modified, and resources have been reallocated from some areas of the ministry to better support others.
Underlying these decisions, the executive leadership team is absolutely united in our resolve to continue the ministry’s long-standing tradition of meeting people at their point of need with biblically-based content and answers that speak God’s truth and love into their lives. We will not compromise our passion to help whoever contacts us with the content they need; we will continue to adjust how we deliver that content in a personal and meaningful way, based on the resources the Lord provides.
We are continuing programs that support the core of our mission, which is marriage, parenting and defense of the family, and eliminating or reducing some distribution channels and outreach efforts, redirecting content to better help couples produce God-honoring marriages and God-honoring children within healthy, thriving families. In no way are these decisions a reflection of the value of the efforts themselves; we acknowledge the hard work and dedication that has been poured into the outstanding content that has been produced, making this process even more difficult.
I want to recognize that behind each of these programs and changes are people, some of whom have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us for many years, and all of whom have come to Focus on the Family with a passion for the Lord and a desire to serve Him. We honor these people, who have co-labored with us for a time and will continue to serve the Lord in the places He has prepared for them, by showing respect for their service here and protecting their dignity in their leaving.
To be specific, 149 staffed positions were eliminated, in addition to 53 unfilled open positions. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to help in the transition process, and I ask you to join with me in praying for these friends as they seek the Lord’s guiding Hand and His protective care during this time.
I also want you to know that the question of timing is one with which we have grappled, both with the Board and within the executive leadership team; in other words, why make these changes now? The fact is that, a month-and-a-half into our new fiscal year, contributions are already significantly behind last year at this time. Given the economy and hardship our donors are facing, if we don’t make changes now, we could carry an even greater deficit into the new year. Please hear my heart: making these decisions now, or even making them at all, is not what we want to do, and it is not easy. Our assurance is in knowing that we have followed biblical direction and godly council in asking the Lord for wisdom.
I know we are not the only ones feeling the weight of a significant burden; in fact, I have met with many donors who are also struggling and sharing their heartaches in the midst of reducing their businesses and letting staff go. They express their appreciation that we recognize their pain as well, and are taking steps to look inward and make some hard strategic decisions, rather than simply asking for more resources and placing an even greater burden on them.
We know that our financial needs are firmly in the Lord’s Hands, and we trust in His provision. Over the last 32 years, our obligation has been to faithfully steward what He provides, and we believe we have chosen a course of action that does that and reflects our commitment to the Board’s fundraising guidelines.
We are certainly living in interesting times that could cause us to throw our hands up in despair, but we continue to move forward in the hope of the Gospel, expecting that in this world, we will have trouble. We do not despair; in fact, we take heart because Christ has overcome the world. We may take the time to mourn through the night, but we must then wake with the Morning Star, whose mercies are new for each of us every day.
Remember that the reason we labor and persevere is because our hope and faith are in the One who calls us to stand. He has called Focus on the Family to continue to stand, armed with His Word, truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation, with a mission to nurture and defend His institution of the family. I’m standing with the strength only He can provide, and I hope you will continue to stand with me, as we pray for healing and the courage to take the challenge He has placed before us. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Lord and your hearts for His ministry.