The Next Great Innovation in Christian Radio

is energizing. Invigorating. Sometimes even revolutionary.
innovation is often met with strong opposition and significant skepticism.
That’s why it takes the courage and fortitude of an individual or an
organization to bring about true innovation. One of my favorite examples of
this has to do with the birth of Christian radio.
Henry Parsons Crowell
Henry Parsons Crowell was the founder of Quaker Oats. He was a humble man with deep faith in
Jesus. He was also fabulously wealthy due to a keen business sense, brilliant
marketing mind and a fearlessly innovative spirit. A great little book called “Cereal
Tycoon” by Joe Musser
tells the dramatic and inspiring story of Henry
Crowell’s life.
Toward the
end of the book, Musser discusses in detail how Crowell was one of the
propelling forces behind Christians embracing radio as an effective tool for
the Gospel. Crowell discovered the power and popularity of radio through a
unique promotion he instituted at Quaker Oats in the 1920’s. In exchange for a
box top and a nominal fee, Quaker Oats would send its customers a small radio.
The promotion was an overwhelming success. As a result, Henry quickly recognized
that this new technology could provide a powerful means of sharing the truth of
Jesus Christ with the world.
As much as
we’d laugh at the idea now, many Christians at the time were dramatically
opposed to engaging in radio. Musser explains that Christians at the time
believed radio was dangerous and evil. Why? Because radio waves are sent
through the air, and the
devil is the prince of the power of the air
(p. 134). Sounds silly, huh? It
was a big deal then. In spite of the opposition, Crowell pressed forward.
Thanks in part to his courage, Christian radio stations can be found almost
everywhere in the United States today.
Christian radio has reached a crossroads. Millennials and Baby Boomers view faith
very differently. Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources,
clearly articulates that young people expect authenticity
and transparency
from their leaders. Since Christian radio has become the voice
of Christianity in America, it’s safe to assume that young people will expect that
the same qualities be exemplified in radio. And if they aren’t, Christian radio
will die a slow and painful death.
That’s why
the next great innovation in Christian radio must be in content.
Who will
have the courage to innovate the content
of Christian radio in a way that connects with the next generation? When will
authenticity, transparency and honesty pervade discussions? Homosexuality is a
sin and abortion is a horrific plague on our society, but when will those
issues be balanced with other issues that God cares about? When will injustice
be decried and justice
be hungered and thirsted for
on-air? When will Christian broadcasters exude
compassion for the poor,
the sick and those in prison
? When will radio be used as a unifier in the
church rather than a source of divisive partisan politics?
this type of innovation won’t be easy. Why? Because the primary donor base for
most Christian radio stations continues to be Baby Boomers. That means that
this new approach to content must be done carefully, strategically, and
So what’s
the best strategy for implementation of innovative content in Christian radio
today? The answer is simple: Podcast
exclusive programming
radio stations and radio networks need to quickly and boldly release podcast
programming that connects with the next generation. This expanding base of
podcast exclusive programming will become a breeding ground for future on-air
talent. It will be a safe environment for experimentation. Most importantly, it
will connect young people to the powerful medium of Christian radio. Eventually,
innovative podcast exclusive programming will make its way onto radio stations.
When that happens, the loyal listener base developed today will become the
donor base of tomorrow that’s needed to propel Christian radio into the future.
So what
should this sound like?
I’ve had the
privilege over the past few months of working with a team of creative and
talented individuals on a special project. Together, we’ve created a new
podcast that clearly and boldly exemplifies this next great innovation in
Christian radio programming. It will be released to the public via iTunes on
Wednesday, March 20th 2013. What’s it all about? For more
information and a sneak preview, check out my “podcast” tab above, or just click here.

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