“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
Just reading that sentence brings to mind the catchy melody of the perennial children’s TV classic “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” That show ran for thirty years on PBS and gave us the incomparable legend that was Fred Rogers, now on display anew in a movie starring Tom Hanks which opens wide this week.
As I watched the movie (which I strongly recommend) it occurred to me how much alike this children’s show and your radio station are, or at least how much alike they should be.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was full of positive, life-affirming values. Its central message was that you are loved exactly as you are. Fred Rogers spent his TV career explaining to kids the world and their places in it. His homespun advice, dramatically and entertainingly presented in pint-size form, will be familiar to any broadcaster who lives by values like “positive” and “encouraging.”
“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Rogers said. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
But here’s what wasn’t obvious during that daily dose of uplift: There was no label for God, no quotations from the Bible, no references to Jesus. Virtually none whatsoever. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood never described itself as a “Christian show,” but at its heart it was MORE than a Christian “show” – it propagated a Christian message.
Indeed, Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian pastor who renewed his ordination year after year. He described his particular ministry as the “broadcasting of grace throughout the land.” Before each broadcast, he would recite to himself this prayer: “Let some word that is heard be thine.”
Rogers intentionally wanted to keep his show inclusive and welcoming to all, including those who might be turned off by abject religious references. “You don’t need to speak overtly about religion in order to get a message across,” he said.
Dwell on that for a moment: “You don’t need to speak overtly about religion in order to get a message across.”
As the writer’s maxim goes, “show, don’t tell.”
That’s what Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was famous for, and that’s what made it not only famous but legendary.
This is a fact still lost on too many stations in the Christian music format. Stations that go out of their way to preach and teach rather than helping listeners discover the values of Christ for themselves, with the station’s help. This makes the content MORE inclusive.
It’s lost on stations which which place religion before message, when message must always precede religion. After all, before there was Christianity, there was a Christian message.
So as we gather round the dinner table in this week’s annual celebration of thanks with friends and family, remember that showing, not telling, can take your message farther. Inclusivity is what magnifies your reach, your cume, and your impact.
And remember this final nugget from Fred: “Love is like infinity: You can’t have more or less infinity, and you can’t compare two things to see if they’re ‘equally infinite.’ Infinity just is, and…love is, too.”
Mark Ramsey is president of Mark Ramsey Media, strategic research provider to many Christian music stations including K-LOVE, AIR1, KLTY/Dallas, WPOZ/Orlando, KTIS/Minneapolis, and many others. More information about his services is at http://mrmchristian.com. Sign up for FAITHBRIGHT, his weekly email of smart and actionable ideas for Christian broadcasters here: https://goo.gl/2hJMCG. Reach him at 858-485-6372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.