The Radio Ministry


Within the past few years evangelicals have become increasingly aware of the possibilities of using the medium of radio in the proclamation of the Gospel in this country as well as on the foreign fields. Even on the local level it has become common practice for many evangelical churches to include some type of radio work as part of their total ministry. Progressive churches such as these realize the benefits of such an endeavor. For example:

1. In one broadcast the radio ministry gets the gospel message to a greater number of non-Christian people than are reached in numerous church services.

2. The radio ministry establishes the testimony and reputation of the church in the minds of the residents and newcomers in a community.

3. The radio ministry provides a spiritual ministry to many Christian people confined to their homes.

4. The radio ministry gives opportunity for the church personnel to use and develop their talents by taking part in the broadcasts.

5. The radio ministry increases the missionary interest of the congregation.

Even Christian leaders who do not have regular church broadcasts are often called upon to participate in a radio service. It is the purpose of this chapter to give Christian leaders some basic suggestions for effective radio production, with special emphasis on the musical portion of a program. Discussion will include the two main types of religious radio programs: the church service broadcast and the studio program.


This type of broadcast requires less “programming” than does the studio broadcast. The church service broadcast begins with the assumption that there are already a number of listeners who have a sympathetic interest and are tuned in for the express purpose of sharing as participants in the service.

There are, however, several basic suggestions that a Christian leader should consider when making plans for a church service broadcast:

1. For the very best pick-up, expert advice should be obtained from an acoustical engineer, quite possibly the engineer from a local radio station, regarding microphone placements for the choir, congregational singing, instruments, etc.

2. Avoid dead spots or long delays in the service. Move quickly from one activity to another.

3. Use the organ to cover up crowd noises such as rising, sitting, etc.

4. Avoid singing directly into the microphone when leading congregational singing.

5. Give more life and enthusiasm to the music than that used for a normal service. Congregational singing can sound especially dull on the air when it is allowed to drag.

6. Have a special announcement or activity for the radio audience during the time of the regular church announcements or during the offertory.

7. Increase the interest of the radio audience by occasional remarks referring pointedly to the specific audience before you or the occasion which has brought them together.


The gospel broadcaster should begin with the assumption that a large portion of his audience will be not at all interested in the broadcast, or at best mildly apathetic to his efforts. It is for this reason that he must employ every legitimate device for achieving audience appeal.

One of the most basic underlying principles of any radio production is that the broadcaster must have an intense desire to make every second of the broadcast as attractive and meaningful as possible. Further, the gospel broadcaster must be able to see beyond the mere microphone and be able to visualize individuals within the audience listening to his message. He must be able to project himself by means of his imagination to the many diverse needs represented by this audience. He must sensitize himself to the general religious, intellectual and cultural backgrounds of his probable audience. With this insight and understanding he must prayerfully plan each broadcast so that the Holy Spirit through him makes for maximum spiritual effectiveness.

A church planning to embark upon a studio broadcast ministry to its local community should first consider the following factors:

1. The spiritual objectives for the broadcast.
2. The type of program that will best achieve these objectives.
3. The facilities available for the broadcast.
4. The musical talent available for the broadcast.
5. The personnel available for writing the script for the broadcast.
6. The personnel available for announcing and speaking.

A. The Spiritual Objectives for the Broadcast. A church planning to engage in a radio ministry should first of all have a clearly defined objective for such an endeavor. There should be an understanding by all concerned as to whether this is to be primarily a program for the non-Christians, a Bible study for Christians, a program of encouragement for shut-ins, a general devotional program, a program to attract people to the church services, etc. Not only should there be a basic underlying objective for the radio ministry, but there should also be a definite objective for each individual broadcast as well. Both the pastor and music director should know and agree upon the purpose and theme for each broadcast so that each of their ministries can complement the other to that end.

B. The Type of Program. Once the spiritual objective for a radio ministry has been determined, the local church must then decide on the type of program that will best achieve this purpose.

The church board with the pastor and music director, or per haps a special radio committee appointed by the board or elected by the congregation, should then come to a decision on such matters as:

1. The name and identifying theme for the program.
2. The general format of the program.
3. The length of the program.
4. The best time to broadcast the program.
5. The ratio in time of music to speaking.
6. Choice of a radio station whose listening audience is best suited to the objectives of the radio ministry.

C. The Facilities for the Broadcast. Many churches with a radio ministry find it more convenient to broadcast using their own facilities rather than to be dependent upon the use of the radio station studio. However, when a local church decides to use its own facilities, it must first consider the various physical requirements involved in broadcasting.

A proper room or auditorium is of utmost importance. It should be a room with the proper acoustical properties. It must be a room with sufficient space for a musical ensemble if this is to be used. For example, acoustical engineers generally recommend the ratio of 1,000 cubic feet of space for each musical unit. If an ensemble of eight voices with organ and piano is used, there should be a minimum of 10,000 cubic feet of space. An auditorium must also provide the proper balance in the reproduction of sound between bright, live sounds and acoustical properties that deaden sounds. Generally one must experiment a great deal with various microphone placements, use of such items as drapes, portable partitions, etc., to achieve the ideal balance.

Most church broadcasts today are tape recorded. This has numerous advantages over doing live performances. It takes the pressure off the performers since mistakes can easily be erased and corrected, tapes can be spliced or cut to perfect the timing of the program, and programs can be repeated when necessary. However, recording for a radio broadcast requires the use of a fine recorder. A regular home-type recorder is not adequate for radio use. Before buying a portable recorder for its radio ministry, a church should check carefully with the radio station personnel to obtain their advice on the make and type of machine that proves the most satisfactory. The cost of such a machine will generally run from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00. There is also the matter of a good microphone. Most experienced gospel broadcasters prefer a microphone like the RCA 77-D Uni-directional (only one responsive side) for a good focused pick-up. Such a microphone generally will cost from $100.00 to $200.00, with the truly top quality microphones running much higher than this.

D. The Musical Talent for the Broadcast. The average gospel broadcast generally has a ratio in time of 1/2 to 2/3 music to speaking. It is important, then, that only the very best musical talent be used. Not everyone will do for the radio ministry. It is felt that if acceptable talent is not available, it would be better to use recordings of good sacred artists. It is a wise plan for a music director to give a tryout to each singer before allowing him to participate in the broadcast. Voices that sound all right for live performances are often not acceptable for radio work. This is especially true of the highly dramatic voice or the voice with a great deal of vibrato.

A good organist and pianist are paramount for a successful broadcast. The ideal is when these musicians are flexible as well as accurate, have the ability to read and transpose music quickly, can play suitable background or mood music, can modulate smoothly, and are keenly sensitive to the needs of good “programming.”

The size ensemble that most music directors consider ideal is a group from seven to fourteen voices. From this size ensemble almost any four-part choir can be performed. Also, smaller groups such as quartets, trios, solos and duets can be easily formed. Most music directors feel that groups larger than twenty voices present too many problems of organization, maneuverability and diction. However, it- should also be mentioned that with a larger group there are certain advantages. The leader is not so dependent upon any one person, a greater number of people are being trained, and a wider circle of interested people is gained for the radio ministry.

With regard to choosing music and developing musical talent for the radio broadcast, the following suggestions are offered:

1. Use established, well-known hymns and gospel songs.

2. Use songs that have real spiritual worth yet enough attractiveness to make for audience appeal. It is always best to use simpler arrangements and do them well than to try to use more complex arrangements and perform them sloppily.

3. Keep the songs short, usually about two minutes in length. Generally two or possibly three verses of a song are enough. It is better to have a greater variety of numbers rather than to do fewer long numbers.

4. Perform songs with slightly more tempo than those used for live performances, never at the expense, however, of making a song sound “cheap” or frantic.

5. Keep the piano and organ introductions to a song brief. Generally the key for a song can be established while the song is introduced with speaking.

6. Strive for as much variety and contrast between members as possible. For example, use variety in the size of the performing groups (the complete ensemble followed by a solo or trio); variety in the use of color between voices (men’s vs. ladies’ voices); variety between the tempos of the songs (a 4/4 song followed by a 6/8); variety between key signatures of songs (a song in the key of C followed by a song in the key of Ab); variety between the moods of songs (praise song followed by a devotional song). With all of this variety, however, there still must be maintained a sense of unity to the entire program.

7. Use good instrumental music when possible. For example, use piano and organ together, solos or combinations of strings, woodwinds, brasses, etc. However, use only hymns and gospel songs that are familiar to the average listener.

8. Keep in mind that the understanding of words is of utmost importance in radio singing. Give even more emphasis to diction techniques for radio work than you do for live performance.

E. Writing tile Script. Almost without exception, every radio broadcast should have a prepared script, since groping for words and using repetitious and meaningless expressions are “major sins” for good production. In many communities radio stations reserve the right to see and approve the script in advance of the broadcast.

The basic principles of script writing are clarity, color and simplicity. In writing for radio the emphasis should always be on the way words will sound when read. A good rule for script writing is to express the thought aloud first before attempting to write. Words must be written so that they will make for the greatest fluency when spoken. The writer should do all possible to avoid combinations of sounds that emphasize the explosive consonants–b,p,d,t, etc., since these sounds tend to “blast” the microphone when spoken. The sibilants, too, s,z,th,sh, etc., should be avoided in combinations since the high frequencies characteristic of these sounds tend to produce a whistling or hissing sound.

The script should be typed double spaced on paper that is as noiseless as possible. There should be enough copies for all key personnel–the pastor, music director, organist, pianist. The script should be marked so that important words are underlined, like this. Minor pauses should be marked with single marks (#) and major pauses with double marks (# #).

The writing of verbal introductions for musical numbers is known as the “continuity.” This may also include the writing to set a particular mood for an activity or speaker to follow. The following are examples of possible approaches for writing continuity for a musical number:

1. Read a related portion of Scripture or a portion of the song.

2. Give a Scriptural thought or an explanation of a spiritual truth.

3. Cite an appropriate illustrative anecdote.

4. Use poetry.

5. “Paint” a word picture.

6. Give the story of the composer of the song or of an incident associated with the use of the song.

7. Have a straightforward, simple introduction.

A Sample Script Form

MUSIC: Theme–Ensemble start in “cold” in the key of C.

ANNOUNCER: (organ background) modulate to key of F behind announcement
# (double space these lines of continuity) #
MUSIC: Ensemble–“Praise to the Lord” (key of F)
ANNOUNCER: (organ background–modulate to the key of Eb)
Poem–“His Faithfulness” author unknown
# #
MUSIC: Soloist–Jane Smith–“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (1 verse)

The following miscellaneous suggestions are offered for writing radio script:

1. Think the whole program through before writing anything.

2. Write in short, clear sentences.

3. Avoid words and theological expressions that the average listener will not understand. Avoid controversial subjects.

4. Make the writing intimate and personal.

5. Avoid general and trite expressions.

6. Write positively. Don’t use the passive voice any more than necessary.

7. Plan your program so that you leave 30-40 seconds at the end for the local station announcements. For example, a 15 minute program should actually consume about 14 minutes 30 seconds.

8. Don’t be overly flowery and effeminate. Keep in mind the male audience when writing.

9. Acknowledge authors, composers and sources of materials. It is wise to check with the local radio station regarding their policy on the use of copyright songs. For major stations and networks, music used must first be cleared by B.M.I. or A.S.C.A.P. Keep in mind that a copyright is effective for 28 years with the possibility of being renewed for another 47 years. Songs copyrighted after January 1, 1978, however, have a term of protection for the life of the author/composer plus an additional 50 years. After 75 years, however, any song becomes public domain.

10. It is a good plan to make a personal collection of poems, illustrations and anecdotes classified according to subject matter. The material chosen and used must have meaning and appeal to you personally before it can be effective to others.

11. Use a variety of words to express the same thought. Consult frequently such books as English Snyonyms and Antonyms and Prepositions by James C. Fernald, published by Funk and Wagnalls Co., N. Y.

F. Announcing and Speaking. The same principles of voice production that are necessary for effective public speaking before an actual audience (full resonance, voice modulation and variety vocal flexibility and projection) are even more applicable in radio speaking. Before a “live” audience one can supplement his vocal abilities with gestures, facial expressions and general personality. In radio speaking the listener hears only a voice. It is imperative, therefore, that any radio speaker do his utmost to master these basic techniques of public speaking. Above all, a radio speaker must learn to cultivate the conversational tone and manner. There must be warmth and sincerity in the radio voice with that indefinable quality of “believability” about it. The manner of speaking should be that of a good friend speaking intimately to another friend. In radio speaking there is no place for the dramatic, “preacherish” tone quality or the manner of orating to a large audience.

The following miscellaneous suggestions are offered for effective radio speaking:

1. Have a factual and emotional grasp of the script. Be able to express the entire text in your own words.

2. Let the script stimulate and challenge you before you try to do the same to others.

3. Stand or sit approximately 12 inches to an arm’s length from the microphone, depending on the quality of the voice, the type of microphone, the studio and other variables. Be close enough to get intimacy but not so close as to sound “blasty.”

4. Talk distinctly but not with an over precision that makes you sound stilted and artificial.

5. Practice reading a great deal aloud to achieve fluency. Especially is this necessary in the use of Bible names and expressions.

6. Be “time” conscious when reading. Gauge the length of your script by the normal rate of speaking, which is from 125-150 words per minute.

7. Be careful of mispronounced words. When in doubt, check a good dictionary. Other good books to have are: 25,000 Words Frequently Mispronounced by Frank H. Vizetelly, published by Funk and Wagnalls Co., and the NBC Handbook of Pronunciation.

8. Avoid any of the following:

a. Crumpling the pages of the script.

b. Making vocal sounds such as clearing the throat or coughing.

c. Moving around and about the microphone once the speaking begins.

d. Touching the-microphone during the speaking.

e. Talking or making any sound at the conclusion of the program until certain that you are off the air.


1. Discuss the spiritual possibilities for an effective church radio ministry in a local community. What are some of the problems that a church must face in starting a radio broadcast?

2. Discuss the various leading religious broadcasts on the air. Which ones appeal to you and why? Which ones do you feel are the most effective in reaching non-Christians with the Gospel?

3. What do you consider to be the greatest weakness of most religious broadcasts?

4. Choose ten songs that you feel are appropriate for a radio broadcast. Pick two verses from each hymn, justifying your choice of these songs and verses.

5. Prepare a fifteen minute devotional broadcast. Write a script, showing the theme, the musical numbers to be used, the continuity, the length of the message, etc.


1. Handbook of Broadcast by Abbott. Published by McGraw-Hill Co.

2. Manual of Gospel Broadcasting by Loveless. Published by Moody Press.

3. Psychology of Radio by Cantril and Allport. Published by Harper Co.

4. The Church in the World of Radio-Television by Bachman. Published by Association Press.

5. The Modern Broadcaster by Lawton. Published by Harper Bros.

6. Broadcasting in America by Head. Published by Houghton-Mifflin Co.

7. Fundamentals of Radio Broadcasting by John Hasting. Published by McGraw-Hill Co.