You don’t have to look far to see our culture has a crisis of disconnection. We are faux-connected to thousands of other people via our computers and phones. The problem with this is it’s not the same as real-life connection. And it’s a soul-crushing addiction.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety…the opposite of addiction is connection,” writes Johann Hari, in his book, Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. Hari studied drug addiction around the world and summarized the underlying source of the epidemic:
“Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy we will bond with the people around us. But when we can’t because we’re traumatized, isolated or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. It might be checking our smartphones constantly. It might be pornography. It might be gambling, etc. but we will bond with something because that is our human nature. The path out of unhealthy bonding is to form healthy bonds – to be connected to people who you want to be present with. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We all feel it.”
Enter Christian radio.
For years, the radio cliché was “content is king”. Then, shortly after the smartphone revolution, Jacobs Media challenged us to include, “distribution is queen”.
Makes total sense. Have the best content and make it easy for people to listen. Sounds simple. But also needlessly vague. What is the standard of measurement for “best content”? Who determines this? Which distribution channels? There are now millions.
Perhaps a better mantra that would serve Christian radio is CONNECTION IS KING.
Connection is much easier to define. When you make a connection, you are joining together two things. When people tune into Christian radio, they are seeking two things: connection to God and connection to other people.
Local Christian radio is uniquely suited to be conduits to both.
No one gets this better than Bill Sammons, President of 88.7 The Bridge in Delaware.
In 2010, when was Bill was starting a new Christian radio station, he literally decided to call it “The Bridge” to highlight their purpose of being a bridge to connect people. Similar to a WiFi hotspot, the closer you are to the source, the stronger the connection.
The Bridge recently launched a “Local Matters” billboard campaign.
When I asked Bill about how he stayed competitive as a local station, he cited two factors: excellence and continually being a connection-point in the community. He also offered a warning, “local doesn’t override excellence”. In fact, when the Bridge was just getting started, they utilized Christian FM syndication services on the air to devote their limited resources to being in the community. Now, 10 years in, The Bridge team remains deeply connected in their community and has added and developed their own air talent.
Another group that gets the importance of making local connections are the Positive Alternative Radio stations of WPER, Spirit FM, WCQR, Walk FM, and Joy FM. The five unique local brands have been designed to serve each individual community. Sure, it would be more efficient (read: easier) to have all five stations carry the same brand and programming. However, as their Executive Vice President Brian Sanders has been known to say, “Easy Never Changed the World.” The local stations are on a mission to create and deliver experiences that connect people to Jesus Christ. They do this best by having teams in each community serving the local needs.
There are so many positive examples of local Christian radio serving as conduits for God’s love in their communities with excellence and intentionally. One recent event really stands out to illustrate this well. WBGL in Champaign, IL hosted a sold-out Soul Identity Women’s Conference, which was described as “a day of worship, connection with diverse women, and soul care. Together we can re-discover the attributes of our God-given identity and gain empowering Biblical wisdom for everyday life.”
If you work for a local Christian radio station and feel overwhelmed by the multiple hats you have to wear or by your limited resources compared to others, remember the mission is not to beat another radio station. The mission is to help disconnected and addicted people get reconnected to God and other people in their community.
This post originally appeared as an article on AllAccess.com.