One of the leading causes of fatal car accidents in our country is distracted driving. Taking your eyes off where you are going on the road to text a friend, make a cell phone call, or even pick up something from the floor are all considered distractions and may lead to serious consequences. All of these activities aren’t bad in themselves, but when they keep you from where you are going they can be disastrous.
At our Christian radio stations, we face distractions that may keep us from accomplishing our mission. Some are obvious, but some are more subtle. However, they all may take us off course. Commonly known as mission drift, here are some things to watch out for to make sure your ministry stays on track.
- The corporate mentality becomes the dominant thought pattern
I remember years ago attending a corporate seminar where they told us – when you swim with sharks, you don’t bleed. If you do, the other sharks will eat you. That’s how the corporate world is – competitive, bottom-line oriented, next man up mentality. As an organization that wants to grow, it’s natural to think that at the board or top leadership level you need experienced corporate people. These are the people who think “big picture” and are comfortable dealing with “tens of millions of dollars” and not chasing after hundreds of dollars. They come into the organization, but unfortunately bring that mindset with them. In the TV show, The Apprentice, one of the opening lines to the show each week was “It’s not personal – it’s business.” Unfortunately, Christian ministry whether it’s a commercial station or non-commercial station is personal, because ministry is highly relational. Jesus didn’t say, “Peter you messed up – you are out of here. It’s time for the next disciple up.” In a corporate mentality everyone can be replaced – even the leader. People become a commodity towards a bottom-line result rather than handling a person with love, care and respect. So how do you prevent it? Have a balanced board and leaders that are highly task-oriented but who are highly relational and value people.
- It’s all about the listener becomes the end all for all decisions.
Christian radio needs to have a target. I lead a station where one of our staff years ago came up with the concept of Becky – so I understand. A station needs a target audience to grow. But if you focus just on the target, you can get distracted and go off your mission. Your mission isn’t to solely please Becky. It’s a higher purpose than that. It’s to take Becky to Jesus and offer her the hope He gives. It’s to uplift, encourage, and unite. If it’s all about her, then in becomes lifestyle radio as opposed to life-changing radio. Don’t make her the focus – make Him your focus.
- Hiring consultants who aren’t aligned with your mission.
I love consultants and “I are one.” So let me be careful here. There are two areas in our industry where we commonly bring in consultants – programming and fundraising. These are probably the two most important areas in your radio station. Before you bring them on, make sure they are in alignment with your mission, vision and core values. I can say that normally as a General Manager, I didn’t think much about this. I just saw it as one of my leaders needed to have another pro on board. But consultants can have more influence on your programming and fundraising than any other voice inside the radio station. Interview them. Find out examples of what they have done and why. If you are hiring someone in development, ask them about their fundraising principles and make sure they align with yours. If in programming, ask them about their philosophy of ministry. Talk with them about their Christian walk and learn how they see radio as a tool of ministry. The more you can learn up front the less issues you will have later on.
- Hiring people out of desperation.
It’s hard finding good people today. It’s even harder finding good mature Christian people. What that means is, finding a person who is really good at the skill you need may not be a real strong Christian. In the long run, this can be very costly. I have heard many stories from people who hired immature Christians because “there wasn’t anyone else out there” which opened up the door for poor behavior, HR challenges and even legal disputes later. The old cliché is still true – Slow to hire and quick to fire. Take your time in the hiring process and don’t minimize the importance of mature faith when hiring someone.
- Forgetting “It’s all about Jesus.”
When it comes down to it, all of us can agree on this, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about growing the cume, bringing in more money, how many stations we have, or how nice our equipment is – it really is all about Jesus. Many of us got into this business because we wanted to impact a lot of people for Him. As time goes on, we can lose sight of that and other things (distractions) replace that initial passion. We get concerned with board issues, or an HR problem with a staff member or something else. Instead, we should model a passion for Jesus. Include Him in all your work being done. Invite Him into staff conflict. And value the person in the process. When we do that, people will see our lives are really all about Him.
Tim McDermott has been in Christian radio for 40 years and loves to help Christian radio stations grow. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit his website timmcdermottconsulting.com