Quick. Name a Christian character on TV.
Let’s see, there’s Angela Martin on The Office who is depicted (as one website suggests) “as a holier-than-thou crazy cat-lady of the office, Angela, only finds pleasure in books like The Purpose Driven Life and people like Harry Connick, Jr. ”
In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine worries that her boyfriend may be religious after finding Christian stations set on his rental car radio. The episode ends with her boyfriend confirming that he is religious and is not concerned that Elaine is not, because he is “not the one going to Hell.”
Then there is the great theologian Homer Simpson, who has described his religion as “you know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life. Uh, Christianity.”
Sometimes the examples of not-normal people are even more extreme watching the Christian television with preachers with funny hair, women with heavy eye shadow weeping, or people falling down in the aisles during a healing service while others scream in amazement. Andy Andrews jokes that many people don’t want to go to heaven because they think it will be too much like church.
I’ve heard some daffy things this week.
I’ve heard we should play less of a certain sound because it is too popular. Real answer—popular is good, not bad. Don’t run from things that aren’t chasing you.
I’ve heard we should take note of the styles of music our competitors play (like country and AC) when we choose which new songs to play. Real answer-listeners come to different formats for different reasons.
I heard someone play the violin this morning. I love the violin. I love the violin not for the reason most people do. I love the violin because my mom played the violin.
Donald Miller says, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is if they are showing you the way.”
Consider how much your station connects with the things your listener loves the most.
What ways does your station demonstrate that you love her family?
What ways does your station demonstrate that you love her community?
What ways does your station demonstrates that you love and encourage her faith?
Notice I didn’t say your faith, or your ownership’s faith. I said her faith. Successful stations meet their listeners where they are and then provide a context in which to move listeners into a deeper relationship so that the station accomplishes its purpose.
As I approach my 40th anniversary in radio I’ve been privileged to work with dozens and dozens of people much smarter and talented who have generously poured themselves into me.
This week’s programming tip is a result of taking those influences to discern the decision making dynamics at dozens of Contemporary Christian radio stations over the last decade.
I’ve worked with radio stations that have become award winning in the industry, and I’ve worked with stations that have been a short blip on the screen. (Anyone remember Shine 97.7 in Albuquerque? I didn’t think so).
This week’s tip isn’t about the music you play, the disc jockeys you hire, or how much marketing and research a station has. This tip is about how trust is developed, and its impact on a station’s progress.
There is a lot of discussion in our format about new music. In fact, the only music discussion in our format is about new music.
Online forums, trade magazines, charts, and record company promotion folk spent much time, space, and energy in dialogue about what new songs your station should be playing. The foundational problem with this dialogue is that “new music” isn’t really a category of music at all, although the very discussion assumes that it is.