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. Throughout this series, our aim is to explore the unique challenges and opportunities faced by these leaders as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of media and technology, all 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 Ty McFarland, Director of Programming and Content, KCMS/KWPZ at CRISTA Media.
Ty McFarland is a highly accomplished and dedicated professional in the field of media and broadcasting. As the Director of Programming and Content at KCMS/KWPZ, a division of CRISTA Media, Ty has played a pivotal role in shaping the success and growth of the organization. With an extensive background in radio, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his position. Ty’s strategic vision and innovative ideas have led to the development of engaging and impactful programming that resonates with listeners. His commitment to excellence and his ability to connect with audiences have made him a respected figure in the industry. Ty McFarland’s passion for creating compelling content and his unwavering dedication to his craft continue to make a significant impact on the success of KCMS/KWPZ and CRISTA Media as a whole.
Q: As a leader in Christian Media, why do you do what you do?
I only get one opportunity to make an impact in this life. And I know that I could’ve ended up doing a lot of things with my life. But when I see how God uses Christian media, I say “yes” again to my career path, every time. What could be better than leading people to Jesus through Media?
Q: What are your thoughts on AI and how it might impact Christian Media?
Technology is pretty neutral. We can use it for good or for evil.
We’re in the early days with AI. We’ve been through this before, just in the last generation. The internet. The cell phone. Remember the Metaverse? Last week’s fad. I’ll bet there are going to be some amazingly good things that come from AI, though. I’m looking forward to seeing how things take shape.
The Church always uses every tool available for the purpose of spreading the gospel, so – what’s the best way for us to use AI in Christian Media ministries?
Can AI make us more efficient at Operations? Definitely, yes. Should we use AI as a Media personality or Creative Talent? … at some point, we’ll need to ask our listeners and viewers.
Computers are not human beings. They are just tools. Broadcast and Podcast media build genuine, intimate, authentic, human relationships, through sound and images. Does AI build real relationships or does it simulate them? Can AI build relationships that are genuine, intimate, authentic, and human? Even if AI could build a real relationship with your listener or viewer, why would you choose AI to do that (rather than a skilled communicator filled with the Holy Spirit)? If the core value proposition of your organization came down to something that fundamentally only a human could do, why would you knowingly choose something that is not human, to do it? Why would that be your first choice? What exactly is the core value proposition of your organization?
God spoke through donkeys and a burning bush, and a guy who ate bugs and honey, and He used a baby to save the world, so I have no doubt at all that God can use AI. He can even reach people and speak through AI. We may not even know how AI actually works, but God does. And, I have no doubt that some of us will try out AI “personalities” at our Media organizations. The question is … if you run a Christian media ministry, that builds relationships for the purpose of the gospel, why would AI be your first choice? I can do a lot of things. Should I? There’s a good article I read this week in Fast Company talking about the fact that creative storytelling, for example, relies on elements that AI simply isn’t good at. Humans routinely fill in missing details and gaps all the time. AI keeps needing larger and larger datasets to train on. So at this stage – Humans 1, AI 0.
One caveat. AI is drawing a stark line between those Media personalities who bring their whole human selves to work, who actively prep, and who pour their heart and soul and creative excellence into their work, and those who don’t. Those who are working hard to connect in a relationship that’s both human and spiritual and those who are phoning it in.
Actually, not just for Media Talent. This is for me. For us. Anyone who does innately human work that we never used to think could be automated through AI—we’re all going to have to re-evaluate. AI can do advanced widget work better than we can. So, if you’re only doing widget work, and you’re not doing the hard work of being a full human being with your work, reflecting the image of God through your creativity, empathy, spark, sense of humor, and engaging spiritually in your work, etc., then yes, AI will probably figure out how to do your job soon. But, I also have yet to meet an AI that has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, has been forgiven of its sins, is now a new creation in Christ, and faces challenges in its life, by relying on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for Christian Media in the next 5 years?
The tipping point in the cultural shift away from faith that we’re starting to see now. But where there’s challenge, there’s opportunity.
Q: What advice do you have for mid-level leaders who desire to grow to Senior Leadership roles in a Media Company?
Learn culture, learn strategy, and learn how to think critically. Grow your faith so that you will follow Jesus faithfully when He leads you to do big things.
Most Christian media companies seem pretty top-down, command-and-control. A few have Senior Leaders who know how to unleash the best in their people and who don’t just talk about the importance of spiritual leadership, they actually walk it out. That’s awesome. Go work for them. They’ll show you how to be a Senior Leader.
Q: As a leader of a Christian Media organization, how would you define success: 1. as a leader 2. for your organization
Leaders have a responsibility to think of others first. Put yourself second.
Q: What should the #1 priority be for Christian leaders in media?
Lead spiritually first. Jesus first, then your work.
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