Avoiding Secret Language

One time a new air talent came into my office, closed the door behind her, and awkwardly hemmed and hawed a bit before saying, “I need to ask an embarrassing question.” It was obvious by her overall demeanor that she really WAS struggling with whatever was on her mind, and really didn’t want to bring it up… which just built the curiosity and anticipation for me. Eventually she asked it – “Can you explain to me what VBS means?”

See, our station was doing a summer vacation bible school tour to area churches, and the live liner called it a “VBS tour”, but being fairly new in her faith journey, the talent didn’t know what the initials stood for, or what vacation bible school really even was, for that matter. As a pro radio personality, she was a top-notch communicator, but as a fairly new believer now working on one of the premier Christian radio stations in the country, she felt embarrassed by not knowing how to speak and understand “Christian-ese”. Had I pressed her in that moment, I imagine that she would have described her feelings as “inadequate” or “unqualified.”

When we allow insider, church-y language to flow from the radio speakers to be heard by listeners who are either new to faith or still exploring their faith, we may in fact be raising up feelings in them such as, “I’m unqualified to listen to this station”, or “the people who listen to this station are smarter than me or better Christians than me”.  At the very least, we’re sending the message to them that “you’re not like us”.

Before every break, get into the habit of reminding yourself of the person listening who doesn’t have a relationship with God yet…choose your words to make sure we’re not unintentionally leaving anyone behind. Think about any words or phrases that you might use that may not be easily understood, and change them. (The same thing goes for anything you post online, on socials, or in promos.)

Here’s just a few examples –

  • “Vacation Bible School” is better as “kids camp at church”
  • “Share your testimony” becomes “share your story”
  • “Fellowship” could be “spending time together” or “hanging out”
  • “Having a quiet time” is “a few minutes alone – just you and God”
  • “Anointed” – “God-given ability”

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and you and your team will be able to come up with many more. Developing this discipline will grow your audience and fan base faster, as more listeners are able to say, “this station gets me!”.

 

Matt Stockman
Director of Programming, Star 99.1

Matt Stockman is 35-year veteran to radio, graduating from Illinois State University and starting his career at WBNQ radio in Bloomington, IL in the 1980s. His involvement in Christian radio began with a season at WJRX/ Chattanooga in the early 1990s, and has included launching WBDX/Chattanooga, Spirit FM/Lynchburg, 101.1 The One/Nashville, and 10 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association at WMIT/Asheville. In 2012, after a short-term missionary assignment serving Christian radio stations in Europe, Stockman joined CRISTA Media (KCMS/Seattle, KFMK/Austin, KWPZ/Bellingham, KCIS/Seattle) as Director of Programming. 

From 2017 to 2019, he served as the Program Director for the K-LOVE Radio Network. Currently, Stockman serves as the Director of Programming at STAR 99.1/NJ-NY, and is a frequent contributor to efforts that raise the standard of excellence in Christian broadcasting.

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