Welcome to our Faith in the Media interview series on Christian Media Leadership. Here, we have the privilege of delving into the minds and experiences of influential leaders in the field of Christian media. Our aim is to explore the unique challenges and opportunities they face as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of media and technology while remaining steadfast in their Christian values. Join us as we gain insights, wisdom, and inspiration from these remarkable individuals who are making a profound impact in spreading the message of faith through various forms of media. In today’s installment, we have the pleasure of checking in with Matt Austin, the General Manager and Vice President of Operations at KCBI 90.9 FM in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Matt Austin is an accomplished leader in the field of Christian media, currently serving as the General Manager and Vice President of Operations at KCBI 90.9 FM in Dallas-Fort Worth. With a passion for using media as a powerful tool for spreading the message of faith, Matt has dedicated his career to making a positive impact in the lives of others. Throughout his professional journey, he has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and a deep understanding of the ever-evolving landscape of media and technology. Matt’s commitment to staying true to Christian values while navigating the challenges of the industry has earned him respect and admiration from his peers. With his extensive experience and expertise, he continues to inspire and empower others to make a difference through the medium of Christian media.
Elaine Welcome, our SVP of Christian Media, recently sat down with him.
Q: As a leader in Christian Media, why do you do what you do?
I moved from general market radio to Christian radio in 1997 when I saw its’ potential reach. I believe radio is the most effective way to reach the masses for Christ, and I love the impact we see every day at KCBI. What keeps me going is the opportunity to find new ways to reach and serve our community while working with a world-class team.
Q: What are your thoughts on AI and how it might impact Christian Media?
AI is like the early years of the internet. Some then were saying we should avoid using the internet, and some say that about AI today. But, just like the internet, it can be used for good and for evil. But we must embrace AI for good purposes. AI will help us be more efficient at our work and has great power in helping people understand faith issues.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for Christian Media in the next 5 years?
This question dovetails with the last. We will have to ‘teach’ AI applications to ‘get it right’ when it comes to faith and the Bible. Setting the guardrails will be challenging. I also see growing digital products, primarily our live streams, while protecting the broadcast station presents challenges. Radio continues to show amazing resilience, but growing digital products must be a priority. How best to deploy resources to build digital while maintaining the radio product will require great skill. And fundraising is always hard, but especially so in this inflationary cycle. We have to find new and engaging ways to cultivate new donors and stretch existing supporters.
Q: What advice do you have for mid-level leaders who desire to grow to Senior Leadership roles in a Media Company?
Become a student of leadership. Read authors like Patrick Lencioni, Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, and others, plus seek wise counsel from other ministry leaders who have shown solid leadership skills. I highly recommend finding a mentor. Servant leadership, trust, and accountability aren’t easy. But they’re vital. And then recognize that culture trumps strategy. We have to be sure everyone on the team has the skills but is also radically passionate about the mission.
Q: As a leader of a Christian Media organization, how would you define success: 1. as a leader 2. for your organization
As a leader, success happens when my team thrives in excellence with a wide latitude of autonomy. When everyone understands where we’re going and is in alignment, they don’t need tight management. If they need me less as time goes by in the details, then I’ve succeeded. But the team also must embrace a results-based culture. Ministry work can easily become about process and results, then can be viewed as less important. We measure lots of things because if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. It’s important to lead the team in setting goals and then support the team by helping them reach the goals.
Organizationally, fulfilling the mission and vision cast by the board in impact and results in the lives of our listeners, and reaching more people over time, while keeping the organization solvent and thriving financially would be a good measure of success. We don’t do this for money, but when well-funded we can then focus our attention on the mission and dream big.
Q: What should the #1 priority be for Christian leaders in media?
Lean into God and His unique plan for your ministry. If we miss that, nothing else really matters.
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