I arrived at Easter Sunday church during a torrential Florida downpour. Streets were flooding and the church parking lot looked like it could host a water ski tournament.
As I jumped out of my car and headed for the church building I was greeted by a friendly young man in rain gear carrying an umbrella. He greeted me with a paradoxical sunny disposition and walked me from my car to the covered walk way. He then ran off to greet the next apprehensive still-dry visitor.
No “we’re glad you’re here” speech from the pulpit that morning would have conveyed that sentiment as much as the man with the umbrella in the parking lot. That church that day demonstrated with actions far more effectively than any words that I was welcome there.
There is no format I’ve ever done that is more difficult to program to reach large numbers of people, must less be top rated in the market. To be successful we have to navigate the most controversial subject ever known – religion – yet still be relevant and meaningful within the context of the squeaky clean radio.
No matter what your station does someone will have a problem with it. You know this to be true based upon opinions among your own staff.
One of the major challenges in growing the Contemporary Christian format is that there are no natural on ramps. People are either “on the highway” and know the music, or off the highway and don’t know Big Daddy Weave from Hercules and the Chicken Fat People.
Many stations compound the problem without even realizing it by programming to only those who already love the music as much as the staff.
To grow your radio station you must run out to the new listener with an umbrella and say, “Welcome!” Meet them in their muddy parking lot, understand their need, and show them in ways they understand how your station meets their need.
Only when they are nice and dry inside do you even think about preaching to them. Or better yet instead of preaching maybe you’ll simply have a conversation as though you’ve been friends for years.
John Maxwell said, “People will not always remember what you said. They will not always remember what you did. But they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Unless you’re willing to make the effort to run through the pouring rain with an umbrella to make them feel welcome you will never get the chance to speak into their lives.