Back to God Hour Cancels “Primary Focus,” Relocates Director

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The Back to God Hour’s six-year foray into documentary-style television ended in December when the board of the Christian Reformed Church’s media ministry decided to cease production of new programs for “Primary Focus.”

Nominated for two Emmy Awards in 2005, the series initially aired in 1999 and now appears on more than 100 stations, including many PBS stations in the United States. However, production of the program was costly, and the Back to God Hour was unsuccessful in obtaining external revenue through grants or partnerships.

At last year’s meeting, the board wrestled with the high production costs of “Primary Focus,” deciding to cancel the program if outside funding couldn’t be secured. “That additional funding wasn’t forthcoming,” said Rev. Robert Heerspink, chair of the Back to God Hour board and interim co-director.

The program’s demise does not signal a dwindling commitment to North American ministry, Heerspink said. “This ministry continues to go forward through our radio programs, including the popular ‘Kids Corner.’” Previously produced “Primary Focus” episodes will continue to air where markets are available.

At the same meeting, the board decided to relocate the office of the organization’s director from Palos Heights, Ill., to the denominational building in Grand Rapids, Mich.—a move Heerspink said is designed to increase collaboration between the broadcast ministry and other denominational agencies.

“The Back to God Hour has sometimes felt disconnected with other agencies, which even weekly trips to Grand Rapids by the previous director have not been able to overcome,” he said. “The new alignment will allow for better interaction between the broadcast ministry and other Christian Reformed agencies.”

Rev. Jerry Dykstra, director of denominational ministries for the CRC, says that while the denominational leadership is pleased with the decision, it wasn’t one driven by them. “It was not denominationally driven, but neither was it initiated in isolation from the denomination,” said Dykstra. “The Back to God Hour board had been considering this move for some time and—with the search for a new director underway—decided this would be a good time to do so.” Dykstra also said the Back to God Hour has no plans to relocate any other Palos Heights-based positions.

About the Author

Rachel Boehm Van Harmelen is a writer and consultant specializing in communications for nonprofit organizations. She and her husband, Peter, have four children and live in Fall River, Nova Scotia, where they attend All Nations Christian Reformed Church