Mennonite radio program exceeds goals
Shaping Families airs on 17 stations with 100,000 to 300,000 weekly listeners.by Melodie Davis of Third Way Media
A year ago, staff at Third Way Media were feverishly working to produce the first programs for the Shaping Families program, which launched Jan. 4.
Last fall, no stations were in line yet to air the program, no sponsors had signed on, there was no website, and no webmaster was on staff to create one.
Melodie Davis, left, producer for Shaping Families, and Burton Buller, host, record narration for an edition of the 15-minute weekly radio program. Photo by Wayne Gehman.
Third Way Media staff had discussed the possibility for years (beginning in 2005), with individuals, churches and radio stations. They were partially inspired by a significant donation earmarked for "family programming," which helped fund research and development of pilot programs. Through this research, a number of religious stations expressed strong interest in such a program.
However, until stations or sponsors signed on dotted lines, the questions loomed large, chief among them: If the Mennonite church again produced an ongoing regular radio program, (after a lapse of about 23 years) will they (listeners) come?
As of late August, Shaping Families is airing on 17 stations across the United States, exceeding initial goals set by staff of 10 stations by the end of 2010. When the Mennonite Hour program launched in 1952, it was on two stations by the end of its first year.
"A reasonable estimate of 100,000 to 300,000 listeners may hear the program on a weekly basis," says Sheri Hartzler, program manager and acting interim co-director.
But the biggest need was sponsors. Third Way Media applied for a startup grant including money for air time from their longtime TV production grant source, Odyssey Networks, for $43,000. Of that, $25,000 was allotted to go toward airtime the first year.
Staff have been working to arrange partnerships for local Mennonite churches, businesses, groups of churches and schools or agencies to take over costs of airtime.
Since January, Mennonite businesses, churches and organizations have become sponsors.
• Ed Roth, registered principal and branch manager for Raymond James Financial Services in Pettisville, Ohio, sponsors the program on WPOS in Holland, Ohio. His office is the sole sponsor of the 8:15 p.m. program on Saturdays.
• In Lewistown, Pa., four churches—Allensville, Barrville, Locust Grove and Maple Grove Mennonite—sponsor a release on Sundays at 9 a.m. on WMRF. They rotate sponsor tags.
• Lavina Miller with SpringHaven Counseling Center Rittman, Ohio, sponsors Shaping Families on WKLM in Millersburg, Ohio. They recently expanded their counseling network and added new locations and were eager for the exposure such sponsorship would provide.
• Dave Eshleman, owner of WBTX in Broadway, Va., has a nonprofit arm, SONshine Ministries, through which it raises funds to provide airtime for a variety of religious programs, including Shaping Families.
• Shaping Families is broadcast on WDAC station sponsored by Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite School and Philhaven.
And what about listeners? "We had our first request recently from a listener who asked for prayer for dealing with a granddaughter who was not being allowed contact with her grandmother," says Hartzler.
Another woman asked for help locating a Mennonite church or counselor for her drug-addicted adult child. One listener, Mary, wrote on the program’s Facebook page: "I listened to your program last Saturday night, and a lady was talking about her husband committing suicide. I have had a lot of problems myself with depression and suicidal tendencies, so the program really caught my attention."
Elaine Kauffman from First Mennonite Church of Mountain Lake, Minn., wrote in an e-mail: "A woman from another congregation stopped me on the street yesterday afternoon to say she had heard the program. The first one she heard was Aug. 15, which included testimonials about volunteering at the International Guest House, and that is something she would like to do some day [through SOOP]. She said she had to stop what she was doing and listen.'
Shaping Families is produced by Third Way Media as a department of Mennonite Mission Network.––Melodie Davis of Third Way Media
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