Focus on the Family is Giving Up on Reaching Out to Millennials

In July of 2011, the new head of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly, caused a bit of a stir in the evangelical Christian world when he answered a question about gay marriage in an interview this way:

[Question] We’re winning the younger generation on abortion, at least in theory. What about same-sex marriage?

[Answer] We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age — demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that. I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.

“We’ve probably lost that.”

Wow. Admitting defeat when it came to the issue of gay marriage. I mean, he was right, even though he later backtracked and then re-backtracked. (It was also a shocker to hear a Focus on the Family honcho finally say something true about gay marriage.)

Anyway, now Daly looks to be making good on that statement. Yesterday, he announced FotF was letting go of Esther Fleece, whose job it was to reach out to Millennials:

… after much prayer and discussion among the executive team, the difficult decision has been made to eliminate the position of assistant to the president for millennial relations at the end of [FY2012].

The FotF spin here is that they have “made great strides” in reaching their “strategic goals” but it’s hard to see how they’ve come out victorious no matter how you look at it. 70% of people 18-34 support gay marriage despite everything evangelicals have done to prevent that. 46% of people 18-34 consider themselves “pro-choice” (compared to 44% “pro-life”). And more millennials than ever before are doubting the existence of God.

Focus on the Family might as well hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner at their headquarters.

I’ve said this before, but I’d love to see FotF admit that they’ve lost the culture war battle with the younger generations. I’d love for them to focus more on getting kids adopted, which they’ve started to do under Daly. He won’t admit outright that FotF has lost anything, but the longer they hang on to outdated, abhorrent ideas, the faster they’re closing in on irrelevance (and new members). It can’t happen quickly enough.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    I don’t see how allowing gay people the same rights as everyone else will somehow not allow families to thrive. It’s very sad that any group with “family” in their name is synonymous with “hate group” (because it’s true).

  • GabyYYZ

    Don’t Believe Him!!!!

  • nakedanthropologist

    This seems a little optimistic to me. Sure, they may be lessening some of their marketing resources on the millenials/gay marriage – but that’s just one group for right now. They will probably never apologize for all the damage they’ve done to lgbt families; and they’ll probably keep spreading their hate speech and bigotry to other demographics. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, although I know better than to get my hopes up.

  • jdm8

    I’m surprised they’re giving up that group like that. I would guess that it’s a business decision, they’re not getting enough donations from that demographic to pay for the “outreach” to them, so they won’t target them anymore. Cut your losses, declare victory and go home.

  • A3Kr0n

    The gay marriage thing was defeated? Please amend the Wisconsin Constitution please!

    Marriage. SECTION 13. [As created Nov. 2006] Only a marriage
    between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized
    as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially
    similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals
    shall not be valid or recognized in this state. [2003 J.R. 29, 2005
    J.R. 30, vote Nov. 2006]

  • TheExpatriate700

    Although I would not be quick to proclaim the death of Focus on the Family, they do tacitly admit something I’ve been arguing for a while. Gay marriage is only a matter of time and demographics. When one generation passes away, another will begin to take its place. For example, although it is not frequently acknowledged, part of the reason that President Obama got into the White House is that the World War II generation, the last generation to have had an active hand in segregation, has begun to die out. Similarly, gays will gain full rights when the baby boomers start keeling.

  • Kacy

    I feel bad to see anyone lose their job, but perhaps this will free up Esther Fleece to come join us Millennial “Al Dracula” worshipers.

  • Andrew Bernhardt

     It’s a well known fact that if gay marriage were legalized, all of us heterosexual men would convert to homosexuality immediately and spend the rest our lives “chasin’ the sausage” and forego making babies with ladies.  I thought this was common knowledge.  No?

  • Richard Wade

    Jim Daly said,

    I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.

    I think a Venn diagram of the culture and Focus on the Family would be two circles the relative sizes and the relative positions of the Sun and Pluto.

  • dorothy30

     i agree with your point, but i’m in my 50′s so i’m a baby boomer. all of my family and friends support lgbt rights and marriage. maybe that’s more common in canada (gay marriage has been legal here for about 5 years, and last i checked, we were still on the map), but i think it’s the generation ahead of mine that is mainly opposed. i don’t think of myself as old yet…..

  • Coyotenose

     Not until Obama also starts forcing all men to shave their chests and get implants. I’m not THAT easy.

  • Coyotenose

     It is absolutely bizarre that all anti-gay marriage arguments require religionists to completely ignore the existence of Canada, isn’t it?

  • oli kenton

    Ditto economics and Sweden/Norway/Denmark. All socialist countries, all doing really well economically and all thoroughly lovely places.

  • cipher

    The same people ignore Western Europe when trying to argue that a secular society is more crime-ridden. Fundies excel at ignoring inconvenient reality. It’s the only thing at which they do excel.

  • smrnda

    Though they are losing the culture war, I think a bigger reason for the decline of Focus on the Family is that their main product, advice on how to make marriage work, is defective. Their advice in that area is just to follow “Biblical” standards on sexuality and adhere to gender stereotypes, and that will guarantee you a happy and healthy marriage. Young people are a bit too sensible to take an organization with advice like that seriously. 

  • Ibis3

     11 years since the first legal same sex marriage in Ontario, 7 years for full legality across the country.

  • Sdd757

    Another reason FOF has a problem is men are getting sick and tired of hearing that the problem is all them. All you read and hear from them is based on the women’s view. Men need to do this and that to fix it… It’s like watching the Lifetime channel.

  • Robster

    Does this now mean that millenials are no longer considered “family”? Poor things, no family to love ‘em and no FOF to meet their special spiritual (?) needs. Jees, I’m envious.