When Christians Compete: Q&A
Last week, Ted at HisAir was kind enough to post an article I wrote called “When Christians Compete.” Response to that article has been overwhelming. I want to take an opportunity to answer some questions and respond to some comments.
Q: Do you think a market should only have one Christian station?
A: From a business perspective, the market will determine how many Christian stations it can bear. There are only so many listeners and donors within a specific market. When multiple stations have the same coverage area, someone will eventually get squeezed. That’s just the reality of a capitalist market. When launching a new signal in a market that has a legacy station, you must determine how much market share you can gain and what support you’ll receive. From that, you make the call if it’s enough to sustain the ministry.
Q: Is there a way to cap the number of Christian stations a market has?
A: I’m not sure how to accomplish that. I don’t think the industry should come together and say, “This market gets this many stations, and that market gets this many.” Again, I think the cap will be determined by what the market can bear. It may take time, but the market will figure it out.
Q: Why do you think this is such a tough topic for people to discuss?
A: Because it’s full of emotion. We all love our ministries. Every ministry leader believes they have a vision from God as to what is to be accomplished. That makes all this deeply personal. When a competitor launches a signal in a market where we already exist, it can feel like an affront to what we’ve been called to do. Let me give an example; I recently listened to a fundraiser for a signal expansion. This ministry is launching a new signal where two other stations already exist. The on-air host said, “Give now and help us reach an area that is under-served with the gospel.” Ministry leaders who already have a thriving radio ministry heard the host say that. How do you think it hit the hearts of those who already serve there to hear someone say, “the area is under-served with the gospel?” It’s that kind of stuff that makes it hard for leaders of various ministries to have real conversations and form partnerships. It undercuts trust.
Q: When a ministry is going to launch a new signal in a market where a legacy station already exists, does the ministry launching the new signal at least owe a phone call or a visit to the legacy station?
A: Why would they?
Q: To explain their mission and vision and perhaps even build a better working relationship. Thoughts?
A: I understand the intent behind the question. The idea being that we’re all Christians, and everyone should get along and not be upset or concerned when a competitor comes to town. Allow me to answer the question this way, if you want to call or have a coffee – do it. If you don’t, then don’t. Scripture doesn’t mandate that we do either. There’s Christian freedom in that area. When PAR launched our Joy FM format (Southern Gospel) in Maryland and Delaware, I called Bill Sammons at The Bridge. I let him know what our plans were and so on. Bill was appreciative of the call. He even said he’d help get the word out about the station. I’m thankful for Bill’s example and kindness.
Q: Your answer to that question was guarded. What am I picking up on? There’s something underneath that seems to frustrate you.
A: Let’s use some candor. I believe in competition. I encourage other stations across America to expand and grow their ministries. PAR is expanding. Other ministries launch signals on top of us. Here’s the rub…there’s this drumbeat of “unity.” The mantra that we’re all on the same team. People email or text and say, “Don’t forget, we’re all on team Jesus.” Again, I get it. But when a competitor launches a signal on top of us…or possibly four signals on top of us…that doesn’t feel very unifying. That’s me being gut raw honest. I’m sure when we launch a signal in a market where someone else is, it doesn’t feel very unifying to them. For me, everyone is competing against each other and trying to win market share, but then we’re told to be “unified”…that falls flat to me. It seems “plastic.” And that could be my own heart, where I need to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. Want some more raw honesty? Kind of hard for me to be unified with some who have a goal of putting other ministries out of business. Again, I may have said too much, and I need to grow in grace. I fully own that about myself.
Q: What would you say is the cure to toxic leadership?
A: Candor. At PAR, we have Amnesty Sessions. We’ve done these for years. I do these monthly with my direct reports, and then I do them quarterly in the field, visiting various stations and departments. During these sessions, I gather the team, and we have an honest discussion. During that Amnesty session, they can say whatever they want, and they can’t get fired. I ask questions like, “When you go home in the evening, what are those things you complain about? What is it about your work that frustrates you? What decisions have I made that have aggravated you? Is there something I’m doing that needs to improve? How can I serve better? What information do you need? How can we make this place better?” Those are real questions I ask. And they work. Let’s be real; you must have trust built between you and the team. But we’ve built that trust. Have those sessions made PAR a better place? Yes. Have they made me a better leader? Yes. Is it a reminder that Brian Sanders isn’t all that? Oh yes. I’m here to serve them; they’re not here to serve me. Candor and trust will cure toxic leadership if the leader listens and learns.
Q: Who or what is Christian radio’s true competitor?
A: Anything or anyone that distracts you from listening. I read the other day that the CEO of Netflix announced that their biggest competitor is sleep. He wants their content to be so good that you’ll skip sleep to watch. May our content be so good that people will ignore a distraction to keep listening.
Q: Since last week’s article was published, you and your wife got some news. Do you mind sharing that?
A: Very kind of you to ask. Last Monday, my wife had a mammogram, a 3D mammogram, and an ultrasound. The doctor told Kayla that there is an “area of concern” and that the “cells are not normal.” She has a biopsy on June 1st. So now we wait. Pray for her, please. Pray that all would be well. Pray that I would love and serve her well during this season. I can be rather impatient, and that isn’t what is needed right now. But I’m praying it’s nothing to worry about. I simply ask you to pray. She’s my rock and world. Thanks for asking.
Brian Sanders is Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio and author of Leadership Endurance, An Amazon #1 best seller. He makes his home in Christiansburg, VA with his wife, Kayla. For more on Brian, to purchase his book, or to consider him as speaker/trainer for your next virtual event, please visit www.briansandersauthor.com