During the 1980s and 1990s, millions of couples found help and hope for their marriages and families. Hundreds of thousands found saving faith in Jesus Christ, thanks to God's favor and faithfulness.
During the 1980s and 1990s, millions of couples found help and hope for their marriages and families. Hundreds of thousands found saving faith in Jesus Christ, thanks to God's favor and faithfulness.
Bob: There is something that all cultures / all civilizations throughout history have generally had in common—that is family. Here’s Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: In our rotunda, which is a gathering area as you walk in the building, here at FamilyLife, there is a quote by Bill Bright—it says, “If we reach the family, we reach the world.” The reason is—the smallest unit of every nation is the family. I think it’s why we’ve been so effective in reaching other nations. When families get into trouble, where do they look for help? The Bible has the solutions.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We are going to look back a few years today to the decade when FamilyLife started to explode globally.
We’ll hear some great stories about how God has used this ministry all around the globe.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to talk about who is abusing technology in your marriage today. [Laughter] Actually, that’s not what we’re going to talk about, but it was what we were talking about just before we came on the air.
Barbara: It was; wasn’t it? Yes, it was. [Laughter]
Dennis: Can this marriage be saved?—mainly the host—we’re speaking of the host’s marriage at this point.
We’re talking about the history of FamilyLife and how this outfit got started in spite of. And I’m reading this passage at the beginning of every broadcast—just wanting to make sure you, the listener, know why this ministry exists: Ephesians, Chapter 3, verse 20: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
“Amen.” And Amen!
Bob: Amen. Well, and part of the reason we are recounting the history of FamilyLife is because, this week, our staff is gathering for a 40th anniversary celebration. This is our 40th anniversary year—it was 1976 when FamilyLife got started. We’ve been recounting that history and, really, been talking about what was—for this first decade of this ministry—it was all that we did / it was the Weekend to Remember® getaway. It was, then, called the FamilyLife Conference.
When you started the conference, there was a predetermined audience—if you were engaged and on staff with Campus Crusade®, you had to attend one of these conferences. So, you weren’t really looking to expand your attendees at all—
Bob: —back in the early days.
Dennis: Not at all.
Bob: You knew who was coming, and that was fine.
Dennis: Yes. And they were required to come. So, it was great.
You didn’t have to market it—you just said: “Yes; you’ve got to come before you get married. So, you better get your act together and get to this conference.”
And it’s cool, Bob—this day / Wednesday, we will have more people in the room from more than a couple of dozen countries. There’ll be over a thousand people in the room than we had all of the first two years.
Bob: So, as we’re celebrating today, we have a bigger crowd than you had in the first two years—
Bob: —coming to the Weekend to Remember getaway.
Dennis: Yes. I mean, what God has done is really remarkable. I’ll tell you what it is—it’s that God is the One who thought up marriage and family, and He cares about it. That this ministry still exists—in spite of the attacks that have come against marriage and family / and that we’re still floating after a recession and all that’s come at us—it’s a statement, in my opinion, that God cares about marriages and families and wants to see more families succeed in marriage as He designed it.
Bob: Where was that tipping point when there started to be more married people coming than engaged people and more people from outside of Cru® than from inside of Cru?
Dennis: It was quick. The first two or three years, it was all engaged people. Then, they started getting married and coming back. Then, they started bringing their pastor, their brothers, sisters, parents, etc., etc. And I would say, by 1980/’81, there were more married people than there were engaged couples or those contemplating engagement. Word travelled fast that it was a great marriage preparation conference.
And by the way, I’d say it’s still the very best wedding gift you can give an engaged couple prior to their marriage. Get to this conference and get the blueprints together, as a [future] husband and wife, before you start building. If you build off the same set of blueprints for the next 20 years, you’re going to be in a whole lot better shape than starting out with two different sets of blueprints.
It’s surprising to a lot of people the number of folks who come to a Weekend to Remember and who meet Christ for the first time there. I think most of our listeners expect that people who are coming to a Weekend to Remember getaway are people who are going to church and people who already know Christ, but we’ll see three to five percent of the audience,—
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: —today, who come to faith in Christ at a Weekend to Remember. In fact, you had a conversation with someone from the Billy Graham Association; and they said, “That’s about the same number we get at our crusades.”
Dennis: They said about three to five percent is what they get at a Billy Graham Crusade. So, I think what’s happened over the years is—there’s been literally over a hundred thousand people who have come to faith at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—coming to the conference, hoping to find help for their marriage but finding the true help for their life, Jesus Christ.
Bob: Barbara, Dennis mentioned this event that happened in 1986 at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas, which I think, at that point, was the largest getaway by far that the ministry had ever had; right?
Barbara: Yes; it was the biggest.
Bob: You didn’t go to all of the FamilyLife Conferences then—
Bob: —but you came to this one. You told me you’d just given birth a few months ago.
Barbara: That’s right; yes. The conference was in March, and we had had our sixth child on January 5. So, she was just barely three months old—or not quite three months old—and I was still nursing her. We packed her up; and we took our oldest, who was ten. She came, and she babysat in the hotel room while I went down and did my sessions / had participated. Then, I’d go back up and feed the baby and go back downstairs and hang out some more.
Barbara: So, it was an interesting adventure, but I’m really glad I got to be there to be a part of it because it was historic and was amazing to see the size of the crowd, ten years later.
Bob: Three thousand people—
—most of your conferences in those days were—what?—five or six hundred?
Dennis: Yes; seven hundred to a thousand. I mean, there were conferences over a thousand people; but certainly, not that many. So, when it completely blew it out, that was just, again, a sense of—you know what?—in the words of C.S. Lewis: “Aslan is on the move, and Narnia is thawing.”
Bob: “There’s something here.”
Dennis: Yes. The Christian community is recognizing marriage and family are where faith starts—I mean, it’s how the Bible starts / it’s where the Bible ends. So, you had a sense that this is where God wanted to be at work.
Frankly, Bob, I look at things today—it’s true today. I was just at a Weekend to Remember in Indianapolis. The conference ended with some sharing at the end—eleven hundred people in attendance. A guy stood up and said:
“My wife and I prayed together, last night, for the first time. We prayed the prayer of salvation together—both of us.” They both received Christ, as a couple. I think there were eight couples at that event that did the same thing. So, you know, it’s still working and still relevant because it’s based upon the best-selling book in all of history—the Bible. It’s practical / it’s relevant. It creates hope and help for people, and it works—bottom line.
Bob: I’m glad you brought up best-selling books because that’s what I wanted to go to next. It was about that time that you wrote a best-selling book. It didn’t sell as well as the Bible, but it wound up selling a bunch of copies. Where did the impetus come from to write Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem?
Dennis: My eighth grade English teacher, who gave me my only spanking that I ever received in public education—in front of the whole class, by the way. Eighth grade—now, think about it—she’d probably be in prison today for something like that.
Bob: No, once they saw the evidence and saw that you deserved it. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m convinced when—I think she was probably dead by then—but she had to do a 360 in the grave when she heard about my name being on a book because my grammar, as Barbara knows—Barbara took several years of education training just to prepare me to be able to speak, and write, and do radio—helping me with my grammar.
But finally, I did write a book—and one minor correction, by the way, Bob—it was not me writing the book. It was Barbara and I writing the book in the midst of six kids, ten and under.
Bob: So, Barbara, where did the idea to write this book come from; do you remember?
Barbara: I don’t remember, honestly, where the idea for the book came from. I’m sure we’d been talking about the topic. I know we talked about things that we had learned / how we encouraged one another because Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem is all about:
“How do I encourage and build up my husband?” and “How does he encourage and build up me?” So, I assume we must have had lots of conversations about it.
I don’t remember how the decision was made; but I remember that, when we decided to write the book, we got two computers and set them up in one room of our house—it was his office—we kind of shifted things around so we could put two computer screens there. We hired this young woman to take care of our kids. I would get up in the morning and we would feed our kids; then, we would both go into that office and close the door. We sat there and wrote that book for week after week after week—we did that. I don’t know how long it took us to write it; but we sat there, each at our own computer screen—and wrote that book together, and edited it, and sent it off, and all of that. So, that was quite an experience.
Dennis: We were at home writing the book when the Challenger took off and blew up. So, that whole timeframe is really kind of frozen in our memories—that we were able to actually write the book, get it published, and then, somebody wanted it.
Focus on the Family® was a big part of that story. We went on Focus on the Family, and the book went crazy. They ended up selling like 70,000 copies of that book.
Bob: Wow. Getting it published—that’s no small feat. I mean, you didn’t start off with a contract from a publisher who wanted you to write a book. You started off writing a book, and then, took it around to publishers.
Dennis: Yes. Quite to the contrary, my first effort to get published was met with a big, “NO!” from a publisher. I don’t blame them—I mean, yes—I was not a polished writer, and we’d not done anything like that together. So, a publisher did take a risk; and frankly, it was a miracle. It really did do much better than any of us expected.
Bob: That was the first of what has become now—do you know the number—30/40?
Dennis: It’s over three dozen. I really don’t know—
Barbara: I don’t know either.
Dennis: —authored or coauthored—
—it’s really not that important—but just a thrill to have been able to touch as many people’s lives. I’ve got a copy, Bob, of most of our books in foreign languages. That’s really a fun shelf in my bookcase that kind of declares the international language of family and how people need help everywhere around the world.
Bob: Barbara, the two of you made a decision when you wrote that first book that—I don’t know if you recognized, at that point, what the implication of that decision would be—but you decided that any royalties that would come off the publication of that or future books would go directly to FamilyLife. Rather than you receiving them as authors, you were contributing that to the ministry. Do you remember the conversation around that?
Barbara: I don’t remember that conversation at all, but it wasn’t a real hard decision. I think, if it had been a hard decision, I would have remembered it; but I’m sure that Dennis suggested it, and I said, “That’s fine with me.” Because I didn’t understand how much money that would be / I didn’t have any concept for what kind of income that could have provided, I was pretty comfortable with the way we lived and with being on support all those years.
God had faithfully supplied for us. So, I’m sure I just said, “Sure, that’s fine with me.”
Dennis: Yes; and it’s interesting, Bob, the context of that. In the mid- to late-‘80s, there were a number of leaders in the Christian community that blew up either around unethical behavior—relationships with the opposite sex / got caught in wrong behavior. I just remember talking to Barbara, just saying: “You know, if FamilyLife is going to move forward, we’ve got to give people every reason to trust us as a ministry—both in what we’re offering in terms of conferences, books, etc., but also in terms of supporting the ministry financially. If we support it, financially, with our book royalties and don’t take anything from speaking at the events that we have, then, that kind of lets them know:
“’You know what? We’re in this with you. We’re donors too.’”
We had no idea that we would be able to give the amount of money we’ve given to FamilyLife, but it’s a great privilege to be able to do it because we’ve invested heavily and so have a lot of other people.
Bob: You say the amount of money—it’s been over three million dollars?
Dennis: Right. Our kids used to look at the—
Barbara: Yes; they didn’t think it was such a great idea—
Barbara: —when they were teenagers and wanted the latest car and they were driving clunkers. [Laughter]
Dennis: No, they’d look at a royalty check and they’d say, “That’s a Hummer.” That used to be a car, by the way—[Laughter]—it’s kind of gone out of style now. Anyway, they saw it all, but I have to believe they also saw we were investing in Kingdom endeavors / what God’s doing, and that’s what’s imperishable.
Bob: The publishing of that book led to a video series by the same name that was shown in churches all around the country—the two of you speaking on Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem.
Dennis: And I had the prettiest eyes of any male speaker you’ve ever seen on that video series. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you want to explain that?
Dennis: We just had a makeup artist who put a lot of paint on the barn. I don’t know how to describe it—[Laughter]—they just put a lot of paint on the barn. My eyes were beautiful—I’m just telling you—[Laughter]—funny.
Bob: You also developed, during that period of time, a series of Bible studies that still today—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: —are being used by couples. In fact, I just took couples from our church—young couples—through the Building Your Marriage to Last small group series. Originally, it was called Homebuilders®. Today, it’s The Art of Marriage® Connect series. But this was an idea of giving folks something transferable that they could take and do ministry with.
Dennis: There are a handful of times that Barbara and I look back on, and we go: “You know what? God wanted to do something there.”
Homebuilders’ small group study was one of them. They told us: “People don’t want small groups. They’re too busy.” This was before the digital age.
Dennis: This was 1986. We developed this, and it has now sold over—I don’t know—3.2 million copies, and that’s just English. It’s been translated into 49 languages and dialects around the world. We have no idea how many people have been through it, but it’s the best-selling small group material for marriages and families of any in the world.
And I think it’s cool because some of those groups—we get pictures, today, of groups that started 25 years ago—they are still going today. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to happen—be accountable, look at the Scriptures, apply it, talk about it, go through difficulty together, suffer together, and cheer each other on in the battle.
Bob: We’ve been asking folks this week if you have memories of or if you were a part of what FamilyLife was doing in the ‘80s—either at events, or through the Homebuilders studies, or maybe, you went through the Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem video series. [Laughter] Go to our website and share some of your stories with us.
This was before I was involved with FamilyLife; but I was in San Antonio, and I got sent the prototype for the Homebuilders first study. I was asked to take a group through it and report back. So, we did it with our small group from church. I remember looking at it; and it was the first time I thought, “Okay, marriage is supposed to be about something bigger than just my happiness.”
Bob: That was an epiphany for me, ten years into my marriage.
Dennis: Yes; we’ve got somebody outside in the control room who is one of the geniuses behind the Homebuilders Couple Series.
Bob: The grandfather of the Homebuilders series.
Dennis: He really is / he really is—Dave Boehi. Dave and Mary joined FamilyLife way back in the ‘80s.
Dave, were you involved in the early editing of the Homebuilders Couples Series?
Dave: Not the first three studies.
Dennis: He came onboard later, but he helped expand it to more than a dozen titles. Dave and his wife have been great warriors in the battle for the family—a gifted writer/editor. And he’s had to dip my body in mercurochrome many times to prevent infection—
Bob: —from all the cuts?
Dennis: —from all the cuts he made on all my writing—[Laughter]—but he’s still remained a great friend and a great ally in the battle for the family.
Bob: It was near the end of the ‘80’s / the beginning of the ‘90s when you started to sense that God wanted to do something even bigger through this ministry—that the needs of the marriage and family were increasing. What we were doing at FamilyLife was significant, but there were a whole lot of unreached people.
Dennis: Yes. I love this story because a guy who worked at FamilyLife at that time—
—his name was Dave Daggett—demonstrated our marketing expertise for expanding FamilyLife globally. He would sit at a desk, and he would pick up the phone and say, “Hello, this is FamilyLife.” He said: “That’s how we market it. We just answer the phone.” And we did—that’s true.
Family is an international language. As Barbara and I have talked, it seemed like, truly, a crime for people to have to call America to ask for help to a problem that, more than likely, our country caused in their country through Western values. I do remember many times apologizing to some of these countries—that they called us—because our values got exported, and they weren’t good values.
They were calling us to help undo some of the divorce culture as it had spread around the world. The ‘90s were known as the global expansion for FamilyLife all over the world.
By the time, the ‘90s and the early 2000s were over, we were in more than a hundred countries around the world. And in many cases, people were translating our conferences, our Homebuilders Couples Series, our books and resources in their language and making an impact there because families were in trouble.
Bob: Well, and what helped us there was the fact that we were a part of Cru® because Cru is global / Cru already had staff in countries all around the world. They recognized the needs of marriage and family in their communities. So, they were getting in touch with us. We were partnering with them, and things were getting translated / things were getting exported. I remember going to Sydney, Australia, to train speakers for the Pacific Rim so that they could do Weekend to Remember getaways—
Dennis: I’d forgotten about that.
Bob: —throughout that part of the country.
Bob: We were getting pulled on by Cru staff from around the world—
Dennis: And still are, by the way.
Bob: —because they said, “This is a great way for us to share the gospel with people and, also, disciple people in what it means to live a Christ-centered life.”
Dennis: And not far from here—Bob, you know—in our rotunda, which is a gathering area as you walk in the building, here at FamilyLife, there is a quote by Bill Bright, the Founder and President of Cru, who has since gone on to heaven—it says, “If we reach the family, we reach the world.” The reason is—the smallest unit of every nation is a family. I think it’s why we’ve been so effective in reaching other nations.
When families get into trouble, it’s a spiritual problem. Where do they look for help? The Bible has the solutions, and we’ve helped train lots of international staff be able to take that message to the people of their country.
Bob: Well, and in recent days, we’ve had resources like The Art of Marriage®—
—has been translated into Spanish / it’s been subtitled in Mandarin. We’ve had lots of countries come to us and say, “Can you make your resources available to impact our culture?”
And I think we just need to say here, Dennis, a big “Thank you,” to the listeners who have helped make, not only this daily radio program possible, but all that we do at FamilyLife possible. We’re listener-supported. As we are celebrating our 40th anniversary, as a ministry, this week, we’re indebted to listeners who have partnered with us to make this radio program possible / to make our website possible.
I’m thinking of the new mobile app we’ve developed for both iOS and Android—that we’ve got thousands of people who have started to download from their app store. It’s available for free. It makes it possible for people, all around the world, to hear FamilyLife Today easily/conveniently on their own schedule.
Whenever their drive-time is—they can tune into FamilyLife Today very easily.
All of these resources / all that we do, here at FamilyLife, is made possible because of listeners, who have said, “We believe in what you are doing.” We, again, want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have partnered with us over the years—and “Thank you,” to those of you who, this week, have been contacting us and making an anniversary donation to the ministry. We’ve heard from a number of you, and it’s been very encouraging.
You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or if you’d like, you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. And just let me say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you are able to do in support of this ministry in helping us celebrate our 40th anniversary.
And we hope you can join us again tomorrow when we’re going to go back to the very beginning of FamilyLife Today—November 9, 1992—that was the first day we were heard on a network of 22 radio stations. We’ll talk more about the first days of this radio program tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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