It was one of those neighborhood association things and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to debate the great pothole scandal of 2019 (and get some chocolate chip cookies).

I looked around the room and didn’t recognize one person. No one introduced themselves. After an awkward few minutes it dawned on me that I was in the wrong place. And worse, they had no cookies.

How do you make someone feel welcome?

That’s easy if you’re inviting new neighbors. You prepare low risk munchies, (the anchovy and liver dip will have to wait till you know them better), you get name tags for the guests, and you make sure to introduce everyone as they arrive. (“These are the Joneses. They live in the house on the corner with the overgrown shrubs.”)

In other words…

You want to make them feel welcome as quickly as possible.

While you’re reading these words on your computer screen, real people are tuning to your station for the first very time. In a format of unfamiliar music, where new listeners don’t know the difference between MercyMe and “Mercy, Mercy Me” by Marvin Gaye, this is the biggest obstacle for growth.

And then we compound the problem.

I recently heard a morning show interview Danny Gokey. That’s all well and good if you know who he is.

I heard a concert spot for “for KING & COUNTRY” that stated, “They’ll be playing all their hits and lots of new songs, too.” That’s all well and good if you’re ALREADY a fan.

If I’m a new listener you’ve just made me feel like an outsider. (BTW, that’s not a slam on the remarkable talent of these artists, it’s a slam on how we make them known).

“…If the journey begins with the assumption that everybody here knows what we are doing, you will eventually have an audience of people who already know what you are doing… Who shows up for Third Day concerts? Primarily people who know and are expecting Third Day music.

Where you consistently begin and what you consistently assume determine who consistently shows up. Why? Because your assumptions create the common ground for the journey.”

Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend

My friend Brant Hansen has created an online/onair “Guide for New Listeners” including stuff like…

Everyone is welcome. That means everybody. Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-people, atheist, agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, young, old, hip, not-hip, married, single, divorced, pro-choice, pro-life, white/black/Hispanic/Pacific Islander/whatever, artists, jocks, loners, depressed, Joel Osteen fans, John Piper fans, tall, short, thin, thick… freaks of all kinds: You are welcome here.”

Northpoint in Atlanta’s website says, “Let us know how many and when and we will have seats reserved for you.” (Big idea for your station, don’t’cha think?)

It’s simple. Your station will not grow without attracting new listeners.

And new listeners won’t hang around unless we create common ground, do specific things to make them feel welcome, and talk about the music and artists as though they are meeting their new neighbors.

Every station wants to grow, but few are willing to get out of their comfort zone and talk in a way that resonates with the new kids on the block.

And don’t forget the chocolate chip cookies.