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James Dobson Family Institute Names New President; Dobson Serves in Reduced Role

The voice of James Dobson, the influential pro-family Christian broadcaster and political activist, is appearing less frequently on the daily radio program of his ministry, the James Dobson Family Institute (JDFI). For months, programs have been hosted primarily by Dobson’s co-host, Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Dobson is also expressing his political passions less often in his ministry’s “Weekly Dobson Policy Center Updates.” Over the last six months, most updates have been written by Gary Bauer, a longtime ally who serves as senior vice president of Public Policy.

Dobson was the author of “An Important Election Message From Dr. James Dobson” from the ministry’s October newsletter, which warned: Do you see what is at stake? If we fail to act now, everything we know to be beautiful and righteous in this nation will crumble and fade away.”

But since then, he’s published nothing more about the upcoming midterm elections, an unprecedented silence in more than four decades of conservative activism.

On Nov. 3, JDFI named Joe Waresak, the ministry’s chief operating officer for the past five years, as the ministry’s new president. Waresak joined JDFI in 2013.

“This move…allows me to focus my full attention on addressing the urgent ministry matters that are impacting our faith, families and our nation,” said Dobson in the announcement.

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“James Dobson will remain actively involved in the ministry efforts of JDFI, and will continue to oversee and host the Family Talk broadcast,” said the announcement, which added that other ministry leaders would take up additional activities.

“JDFI’s Senior Vice President, Gary Bauer, and the Honorable Michele Bachmann, a JDFI board member, will also take on more active roles in contributing to the key ministry areas of policy, culture, and government affairs,” said the announcement.

In response to a phone call and email by MinistryWatch requesting further clarification, JDFI said it “has no further information regarding this appointment at the current time.”

Dobson, 87, first took to the airwaves on March 15, 1977, the year he founded Focus on the Family. His “Focus on the Family” radio show began as a 25-minute weekly show that aired on around three dozen stations. In 1981, it expanded to a 30-minute daily show that reached up to five million people, making Dobson the most prominent voice in Christian broadcasting. The show was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Dobson left Focus in 2010 to found Family Talk, which was later renamed JDFI.

In recent years, Dobson has experienced speech difficulties that have hindered his formerly smooth radio delivery, which he honed by watching videotaped episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

And in May, Shirley Dobson, his wife of 62 years and the chairperson for the National Day of Prayer from 1991-2016, broke her hip in a fall at the couple’s home.

“My precious wife, Shirley, tripped over a rug in our kitchen…and fell hard,” wrote Dobson in a June 3 email. “She broke her right hip and fractured her femur, requiring major surgery two days later. That is a very painful and consequential injury, as I’m sure you know. I have been by her bedside ever since.” She was hospitalized before receiving treatment in a rehab facility.

JDFI said little about Waresak’s background, other than that he “served for two decades in both business and ministry leadership roles.”

Waresak has self-published two books, and it appears he is the same Joseph T. Waresak who in 2004 filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against insurance company State Farm claiming that religious discrimination had led to his demotion in 2003. The complaint was dismissed in 2005 because Waresak failed to file it within the 300-day filing window.

JDFI had income of $10.7 million in 2021, up from $8.7 million in 2020. It spent $6,898,501, or 64% of income, on programs, and 16% on overhead and fundraising.

In 2016, Dobson partnered with Liberty University to create the Liberty University James C. Dobson Center for Child Development, Marriage, and Family Studies, which offers online master’s degrees and undergraduate minors.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.