Every Christian radio station worth its salt knows about
their target listener. They know what she drives, where she lives, whom she
congregates with, how many kids she has and most have even given her a name
like Becky or Susie or Claire.
Research has shown that most Adult Contemporary Christian
listeners are women aged 25 to 54. They control more than half of their family
spending, spend much of their time with their children and are looking for things
to feed their offspring culturally that are safe or non-threatening. Those
listeners tend to spend a lot of time with fellow churchgoers and their
families. They tend to drive mini-vans or SUVs, have on average just over two
children and work at least a part-time job outside the home.
But what about him? What is he all about? We tend not to see
the man in this situation. After all, most men tend to listen less and less to
music as they grow older. They tend to want to hear talk that is relevant to
them. But we leave him out of the equation when we are trained in the ways of
well-rated Christian radio. Often, he is seen as someone that might not be
reached anyway, or as one that will generally listen to what his wife and her
kids want to hear.
But is that true? Is he one that just follows what the
others he is concerned about want to do? Is his agenda to just get along? What
is the relevance of his role in this equation? Where does he fit in, if at all?
I mean we must concentrate on our P1s, must we not? Are they not our core
What if I had capitalized all the “Him”s in this article?
What if Whom we were speaking of was not Becky’s husband, but Jesus Himself?
Now, what is His relevance? “Oh sure”, most of us say, “He’s the focus of it
all. He’s who we do this for.” But do our actions bear this out? We tend to not
want to “preach” to the listener, since she says this turns her off. We don’t
want to offend the core audience by becoming “churchy”. But is there much
distance between what the listener says she will reject and what will impact
In my travels, I often hear personalities talking to “Becky”. I listened to one of my favorite personalities one day describing why breast self-examination was so vital to his female listeners’ health. I could not help but wonder why he did not defer to either his female co-host or to listeners sharing experiences in this area. I also wanted to know where the healing grace and power of Jesus was.
Look, everybody knows that the music we play is where the
message is. We’ve been saying that for years as we try to build ratings and get
away from the on-air personality that thinks it’s his or her job to let
everybody know all about Jesus every time they open the mike. But if it is so
true that the message is in the music, why have personalities at all? Why not
just play tunes, liners and spots? Perhaps the reason we don’t do this is that
our experience and plain common sense tell us that people relate to people.
Isn’t that why God sent His son?
Man had corrupted God’s message. Jesus was sent to re-state
the message of love and grace and make the ultimate sacrifice. He spent His
time with people and illustrated things by way of scripture and parable. If we
take this as a template of things to do for our Christian radio stations, we
must do several things:
1) Make sure that Jesus is included in everything. The reason that Jesus was so
successful in reaching people was both the power of the Holy Spirit and His
ability to reach people where they were. Right now, some of you are saying,
“well, the Holy Spirit reaches them with the music and with our ability to know
the lifestyle we can reach them where they are.” To that I say, “bunk”. I think
we often mask the work of the Holy Spirit by relegating Him to some sort of unacknowledged
co-conspirator in our work. Our role must be to lead people into an initial or
deeper walk with God. If our role is just to supply a safe place for people to
listen, then we are fulfilling only a fraction of our purpose.
2) Make sure the staff is growing toward God. Your role as a leader in your station
requires you to make sure that all staff members are growing everyday in their
relationship to Christ. Who is accountable to whom? Again, we seem to give lip
service to growing in our walk, but my experience is that listeners are drawn
to those that not only understands where that listener may be in her walk, but
where they are as a personality and how he or she continues to grow in Christ.
It has been over five years since I have had a regular on-air shift, yet people
still ask me about my wife, Renné, who was quite ill at the time. We shared our
struggles and told of the wrestling we were doing as we moved through this
period. She is now healed and the reminder of God’s faithfulness is palpable to
those who know of the past.
3) Make sure your core listeners understand what you are doing. Most of this is done
through research these days. Call-outs, surveys, e-mail. But let me ask you
this: how many layers already separate us from our core? First, there is the
layer of the radio itself. They listen, but we rarely see them. Oh sure, we
“see” them at the store and a church all the time, but how often do you ask
your greatest critic out to lunch or answered a critical e-mail? I once had a
fellow who hated the changes he heard on the radio station, but after a few
e-mails and times on the phone, he became a big supporter and understood my
reasoning. Another layer is that unapproachable layer of our position. I know
how much time is consumed dealing with personnel issues and budgets and
meetings. But are you aware that your core listener, Becky herself, could care
less. She is interested in Becky. You should be too. And not just on a
macro-level, but on the level of getting to know a few dozen of your core listeners.
This cannot be done with a music research team or an auditorium test, it must
be done by genuinely reaching out and meeting with some people.
Bottom line is this: Jesus met people where they were, but
He loved them too much to leave them there. We can be the greatest-rated
station in the history of CCM, but if we do not take our listeners where God
wants them…into a deeper walk…we will be in the final account useless. Our
usefulness, our power comes from combining the work that we know to do as radio
professionals with the work only the Holy Spirit can do.