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Feature Interview

Ben Holsen Interview

Ben Holsen
Program Director
Faith Radio
St Paul, MN

 

Career capsule: A career in radio began when I was 3. I used to sit on my Dad’s lap and segue commercials and change carts while he was on the air at KIOV/Sioux Falls. I grew up in a radio station. Spent as many hours as possible in High School working at KELO-F-A, KTWB, KRRO and KWSN/Sioux Falls. Went to College at the University of Minnesota and worked at KS95 and AM 1500 KSTP/Minneapolis digging for opportunity and experience. Served at KQRS, KXXR and Love 105/105 The Ticket/Minneapolis first as Production Director and then co-hosted Morning and Afternoon shows. Hosted Mornings at Go 96.3/Minneapolis. Every single professional goal I worked for happened. But, it was all empty. I prayed every day that “God be a lamp to my feet and light for my path. That I could someday use the gifts and talents and experiences He’d given me to glorify Him.” Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be serving as Program Director for Faith Radio. But, God works in mysterious ways and here I am. Learning, humbly.

 

Ben, tell us what’s new at Faith Radio… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?

There’s a lot going on but here are the two biggest.

Faith Radio’s mission is to lead people to Christ and nurture believers in their spiritual growth and we work hard to find new ways to be as effective and efficient as possible. That starts with being what Northwestern Media Talent Coach Lisa Williams passionately advocates for in being Topical, Relevant, Compelling and Brand Reinforcing with everything that comes into contact with the audience. That coincides with what research says the Faith Radio audience wants: To grow in their faith, worship God, understand The Bible better and be encouraged. It’s not always easy to do but we advocate the urgency and cheer on the growth of impact and lives changed.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:16-19 (CEV) Suppose some strangers are in your worship service, when you are praising God with your spirit. If they don’t understand you, how will they know to say, “Amen”? You may be worshipping God in a wonderful way, but no one else will be helped. I thank God that I speak unknown languages more than any of you. But words that make sense can help the church. That’s why in church I had rather speak five words that make sense than to speak ten thousand words in a language that others don’t.

Station Manager Karisa Rogers has the vision for being “All-In on Digital” this year. God has grown Faith Radio podcasts to reach 170 countries in the world with 500k downloads a month. This year, we’re working on adding a video element to our shows while also hosting more daily content on YouTube.

 

How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?

Still trying to figure this one out but it’s imperative. I have an amazing wife and a spectacular 3-year old daughter that I cherish. Grateful! It feels weird but I get to the office early and try to shutdown at 4:30 every afternoon no matter what so that I can be present with them in the evening before bed. There simply isn’t enough time in the day but I trust God will have plenty for us to do tomorrow and some things can wait. When I first started at Faith Radio, then Station Manager Neil Stavem gave me the Mark Buchanan book called “God Walk.” Mark says that God is slow but constant. His speed is 3mph.

I find myself trying to go 90mph.

Slow. Patience. Presence. Rest. Margin.

 

Overall, what is the best programing advice you’ve been given? The worst?

The Best: Know who you’re talking to and give them what they want.

 

What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?

There is a loneliness epidemic. It’s imperative that Christian radio continues to shine a bright light of hope and be encouraging because people are facing some really hard things. What they see on the news, experience in their relationships and hear about culture is heavy. But, Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind.

 

What are your thoughts on AI in Christian Radio?

We were having a conversation about this in the lunchroom just yesterday and I don’t know enough about it to give an expert opinion. The argument for it was that it could help Christian radio produce more content, quicker for the digital playground. It has drafted press releases and given ideas for messaging as we play with it. However, the bottom line as that people were created in God’s image and AI will never replace the plan or purpose God has for His people.  

 

Where will new up and coming Christian Radio air talent come from?

We are blessed at Northwestern Media to have a thriving media department downstairs that is growing some of the most amazing radio missionaries. These young adults are so talented and passionate about Jesus and their whole mission is to get on the radio. If one of them applies for your open position, hire them! Also, talent will come from many different places. KTIS just hired a woman named Monica who is a mom, social media influencer and Seminary graduate. They noticed her Instagram posts and started a relationship. God has always provided and He will continue to. You just have to look and be open to thinking outside the box.

 

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Radio?

Fewer people are listening to the radio which makes it imperative to do Christian radio well. We mention here that this isn’t your radio station. This isn’t my radio station. It isn’t our bosses radio station. This isn’t the University of Northwestern’s radio station. This is God’s radio station. God’s radio station is supported by God’s people. They sacrifice so we can be here. Let’s make it count.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

This is going to be a gush factory because I am so blessed by the most amazing people that encourage constantly, hold me accountable and positively challenge every day. In Mark Miller’s book, “Smart Leadership” he suggested having a personal Board of Directors. Here’s who sits on mine:

Dad: He has been in radio longer than I’ve been alive. He’s served in commercial and Christian radio. His heart is pure and his experience vast. It’s an absolute honor to be his son.

Dave St. John: Dave met me for coffee every month for 5 years before we worked together. He loves and leads so selflessly but with an urgency and passion. He pushes me into uncomfortable situations on purpose for the good.

Lisa Williams: The amount she gives does not equal what she gets back but that doesn’t stop her from giving more. She’s so hungry, humble and smart.

Jason Sharp: His vision is clear. He empowers his people. He encourages us. It doesn’t matter your job title or who you are, he treats you the same. He also has high standards and accountability.

Dan Craig: When I asked Dan to mentor me, he opened up his entire life. He sends my daughter gifts. He answers every question no matter the time or day. He might be the most thoughtful person I have ever met.  

Chuck Finney: He’s fantastic with data, facts, relationships and implementaion. He’s helped us process and navigate so many situations. My favorite line from him is, “It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity.”

Thank you to the following NWM leaders that have a tremendous amount of influence: Jeff Rupp, Joe Buchanan, Jeff Scott, Niki Corbin, Suzanne Happs, Matt Deane, Jenn Pooler, Paul Perrault, David Christian, Andy Youso, Brad Peterson, Chris Scotland and Eric Nichols.

Last but not least, Neil Stavem and Karisa Rogers. The two Station Managers I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving under. Their selflessness, thoughtfulness and leadership have been a gift and it is with pure joy that I get to continue to learn from them every day.  

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