In radio days of yore, when 30-minute
interviews were common and elaborately produced intros were not, I
interviewed Chuck Snyder. His newest book at the time was
ďIncompatibility: Grounds For a Great MarriageĒ.
He told me that if two people were
exactly the same then one wasnít needed. In marriage, he suggested,
incompatibility was the very thing that added something special to
the mix. It was the sharp edge that brought about change and growth
to both husband and wife. It seemed that if two were exactly alike
then boredom would be the likely result.
While his advice was specific to
marriage on that Friday afternoon conversation I have always seen a
tremendous parallel with radio.
Ten years ago I was the director of a
media ministry in the Midwest. When I started working for this
organization we were the only Christian radio voice in the region.
Everybody seemed to love us and we were pleased with how things were
going. Then came a national translator, followed closely by two
more. Three more would show up.
There was something for everyone -
hymns, rock, pop, praise & worship, and talk. Suddenly all those
people who said they loved us had new bumper stickers on their
vehicles, were speaking out in Bible studies about the importance of
a new translator to the region, and many simply lost touch with us.
Let me be clear, I am not speaking
out in opposition to translators or station growth, but at the time
I was very concerned. The ministry I worked for seemed to be
destined for mothballs, but it continued to grow. How? By being
Our collective message of a Redeemer
was the same; quality radio techniques were the same, and our
message of hope was the same. So what was incompatible?
We dared to be intentional about not
duplicating what already existed. Instead of trying to go head to
head with what listeners were hearing from a translator we
identified our unique attributes and accentuated them. We carved out
a playlist that was not in direct competition with other worthwhile
ministries. When we did this we found our list of supporters began
I appreciate the value of research,
but you can overthink the data you collect. I often wonder if too
much research stifles the heart of a ministry. Please donít think
Iím anti-information, but I do believe that the best radio Iíve been
a part of has been in those moments when gut instinct trumped
conventional wisdom. Call it intuition, leading of the Holy Spirit
or something else, but the end result is a sense of incompatibility
that leads to new growth.
We are peculiar people living in
peculiar times. Some Christian stations might connect with listeners
via moments of emotion and compassion. Others might work toward this
goal with prizes, polls and morning zoo banter. Still others just
let the music and programs do the talking.
I challenge you to find the very
things that make your station unique and become boldly incompatible.
Not everyone will receive the message of Godís love in the same way.
Present the same good news, but use your own fingerprint.
If you are exactly like another
station in your market then perhaps one of you isnít as necessary as
you might think, and because it costs less for a translator than a
local station then there might be reason to carefully consider your
response. I understand that in the case of national translators this
may mean you feel as if they are taking something away from your
ministry that you had first. I have felt the same way. However, if
our core mission is to reach out then we may need to revise the way
we accomplish this goal. Consider it an opportunity for God to
accomplish His purpose in a new way through your ministry. Lead the
charge in a new direction.
And just like marriage you may find
that when you arenít exactly like everyone else you can actually
work with them to create something wonderful in your region. That
doesnít mean itís easy. It doesnít mean your emotions wonít run away
some times. It doesnít even mean that fairness will be part of the
equation. The only thing you can change is how you respond.
If you try to keep up with what
someone else is doing well it is possible listeners may feel you are
seeking to copy the other station or worse yet ruin that stationís
Your difference makes a difference.
Hascall is station manager for KHYM and moderator of the Fellowship
of Christian Broadcasters email and Facebook forum. Winner of
multiple broadcasting awards including a Gold Addy, Telly Finalist
for documentary work as well as multiple state awards.