Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos’ Evangelical Portal. His “Life in the Marketplace of Ideas” column is published every Monday. I was recently privileged to sit down with Dr. Dalrymple and it’s my privilege to share excerpts from our exchange:
In what way does your biography shape the work you do today?
Well, there’s an interesting contrast here. Dr. Dobson came from a stable, nurturing home, a home more typical of his generation. I think my own experiences are more reflective of today’s families, families that are often so very fragmented and dysfunctional. I had what you might call a typical dysfunctional two-parent family: a single-parent mother, a stepfather, foster care after my mother passed away; then I lived briefly again with my biological father before he died too, and finally I lived with my older siblings.
From where I stand today, when I look back upon that journey, the path that I had to walk, I can see how it makes sense. The Lord was planting this from the beginning. It feels like this: You know what it’s like to live in broken families—now go and do what you can to bring healing. Now it’s an honor in every way to build upon the foundation Dr. Dobson laid, to apply my own experiences and pain to my everyday work life.
How has your experience with the foster care system shaped your ministry with Focus on the Family?
We started the Wait No More program a couple years ago, motivated by a vision to do more to help children in foster care. That’s born directly out of those experiences I had as a little boy living in foster care. It’s important for all of us as Christians to remember the biblical injunction to care for the widow and the orphan. In many cases, these people feel deeply alone. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the church to step up and be a mentor, be a friend, be a mom and dad.
Wait No More started when someone informed me that there were 850 children waiting for families in the foster care system in Colorado. With three- or four-thousand churches in the state, we could make a real difference. So, to the credit of countless pastors on the Front Range, we got together and talked about what we could do.
Over the last two to three years, 500 out of those 850 kids have been placed into permanent homes with mothers and fathers. To me, that’s one of the most gratifying things we’ve done here at Focus. We’ve had great success in other states as well. When we host a Wait No More conference, generally about 800 to 1000 families will show up, and about 42 percent of them will start the adoption process. It’s fantastic.
Are you seeking to chart a different course for Focus than your predecessor?
They’re not so different. Last year, for instance, our counseling care specialists conducted 66,000 counseling sessions. Those things are the heartbeat, the nuts and bolts, of Focus on the Family. We’ve sought to invest more in the area of orthopraxy—the doing of the Word—but that’s not so much a change as an application and amplification of the good things that were already being done for marriage, for parenting, for engaging the culture, and for speaking out for the people who do not have a voice in our society.