It’s tough being “in the business” and “in the
ministry” at the same time. So many of my clients are under strong
financial pressure and pressure to reach a wider audience. Combine
that dichotomy with the necessity of seeking God’s direction on
everything, and I think Christian Radio may be one of the most
difficult areas to be leading. However, the key here is that God has
a say. He is able to do more than we ask or imagine, so when I talk
with my clients, I normally ask them to think way outside the box
regarding ministry and broadcasting. If you put God first (there’s a
tough one!), He will help you focus on the direction to go that will
lead to more financial and audience success.
2. Overall, how is Christian radio
different today, from 5 years ago?
It might be easier to ask how it’s the same.
That would be a short answer. I think the leading stations have
finally learned the “secret” of how to get cume, attain ratings and
build TSL. As I mentioned earlier, this is a large part of the
equation for Christian radio, and it’s something that we just didn’t
“get” five years ago. We are also well researched for the most part.
Since there have been some major successes in Christian radio as far
as ratings go, more stations have more tied up in their capital,
whether financial or spiritual. That requires a pretty clear vision
of the future from the leadership.
3. What do you think are the main
characteristics of today’s Christian radio PD?
I will answer by telling what I have looked
for and continue to seek in PDs. I think that this person serves a
role that requires strong spiritual values. I don’t mean legalism or
rules (yecch), but an understanding of what it means to seek God.
Second, that person must understand, elucidate and inform the vision
of the station. I have found the discussions I have had with PDs
like Dean O’Neal, Chuck Finney, Mike Novak, Tate Luck, Dave St.
John, Jon Hull, Therese Romano and others rarely go to how to
program. They focus on the vision of their leadership and on the
needs of their listeners.
That said, they also seek to grow the next
generation of Christian radio leaders. That was why I so enjoyed
working with people like Dwayne Harrison and Gary Thompson. They
understood that part. Legacy is who you have worked with, not who is
there now. What seeds are you planting for the future of the
4. What criteria do you require for a
song to be played on your station?
May I answer as a listener? I want to hear
songs that move me, that connect and that hold spiritual truth. They
have to sound good, too. I have noticed that the best songs seem to
be those with which we can sing along. In the privacy of one’s own
car, of course!
5. What kind of promotions work best for
I agree with my friends Tate Luck and Dave St.
John that promotions for Christian radio are most successful when
they are helping people focus on others. A station that is truly
great will be humble about itself and will help their listeners
serve others. Sure, most people want to win something, but if you
want to really grow and demonstrate the love of Christ, an outward
focus is vital.
6. How do you think Christian Record
labels can better serve Christian radio?
Being one that has rarely dealt with labels, I
will leave that to my PD friends to answer.
7. In your opinion what are the biggest
obstacles facing Christian radio today?
Lack of vision and lack of focus. Although
those seem to be the same, they are vastly different. Vision
determines what you focus on. It is my experience that opportunity
frequently sidetracks vision. Vision is what keeps you on track.
Vision directs every facet of a station. Opportunities will come
along that look good, feel good and may seem good for the future of
the station, but if a diversion from the vision is the result, it is
a mistake to pursue it. For instance, many stations have taken the
opportunity to build networks of translators and other full-power
stations. Now, if that is the vision given by God, follow it. But I
suspect that many times growing a network is based on opportunity.
In Henry Blackaby’s “Spiritual Leadership”, he talks about the
pursuit of vision. His point is that if you can do it by yourself,
it’s not God’s vision. A God-sized vision requires two things: God
and you. He needs us and wants us to be a part of great things, but
we are un-equipped to carry out a God-sized vision without Him.
8. What do you believe is the primary
role of the Christian radio air personality?
One of my mentors in this business, Steve
Butler, reminded me when I had my first morning show that every time
I cracked the mic, I had a bigger audience than the biggest
congregation in town. The personality’s job is to pray, prepare,
plan, and proceed to build community, entertain and encourage
listeners toward a further commitment to Christ. Obviously, this is
more than just putting liners into words that “Becky” can relate to,
although that’s part of it, too. They must understand the world in
which we…Becky and the personality…live. The Christian radio
listener is not immune or impervious to things going on about them.
They look to personalities like us to let them know how we process
events and react to the world around us. One mistake I hear some
personalities make is talking about something that might be of
interest to “Becky”, but is of no interest to them. While we can ’t
always be interested in everything our listeners are interested in,
we can usually find someone who is. Let that person speak for
“Becky”. Your core listener can tell the difference of when you are
talking “with” her and when you are talking “at” her.
9. What (if any) Christian radio
stations do you consider as innovators today?
All the stations I am about to mention are on
the ball with the format. The River in Columbus, The Fish in
Atlanta, New Life 91.9 in Charlotte and Star 99.1 in New York City
(among many others) are right on the game with how to sound. They
are standard-bearers. The question though is about innovation, and
that’s a whole different animal. “The General” Jim Hoge and crew at
Z88.3 in Orlando are innovative in their use of technology and
extra-curricular activities to reach mid-Florida. For instance, did
you know that WPOZ is the Primary EAS station for central Florida?
And they do their own streaming and web hosting. I am amazed at what
Tim McDermott and Jon Hull do in reaching Houston with KSBJ. They
are innovative in their use of promotions, and I think Tim really
“gets” how to build influence. Chuck Finney is one person that I
know that is always looking for an answer to the question, “what can
we do better?” Although KLTY has been on-air for many years, it
never sounds stale when I am in the Metroplex. Dick Whitworth and
Dave St. John work for a station that is part of the Northwestern
University radio network. I am amazed at how KNWI in Des Moines
sounds. Frankly, I think they may be lining out the future of the
rest of the network. Finally, when I am in Philadelphia or Delaware,
I enjoy listening to The Reach FM network. Formatically, they are
better every time I hear them and they sound like they are having
fun. I believe they may be what some of the rest of us sound like in
a few years.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in
I think we will probably have to redefine
ourselves. There has been an argument for several years over what
Christian radio is supposed to be. Are we seeker-friendly or are we
for the body? I could write a book! I think we are made for the
body. Remember, well-done Christian radio will reach and influence
those that are pre-Christian. However, I think our prime listening
core is Christians. Here’s where it gets tricky. I don’t believe we
are called only to comfort the body or only to challenge the body.
And I really don’t think we are called to politically influence the
body. We are called to strengthen the body. I told the staff at WAKW
this summer, “there is nothing on earth God cares less about than
Christian radio.” Let that sink in for a minute. Ready for another
truth? There is nothing he cares more about, either. Christian radio
is a tool for Him to use to reach people. That is all, and we must
make sure that we are reaching and influencing people. Notice I didn’t
say “the most people” I just said people. Ratings and cume and TSL
are important to us. Spins and rotation and artist separation are
important to us. Income and donations and spot load are important to
us. Although God is aware of those things because they matter to us,
I imagine that His main concern is on people. So, our focus as
Christians must be people. When we forget that our job is to
strengthen the body by helping it grow and develop, we have lost our