radio is a marvellous medium for instructing, or providing advice where needed, especially when listeners are spread over a wide area. Radio has been used to teach listeners about agriculture and health. It has been used to teach skills in science, mathematics, learning a foreign language and a wide range of other subjects. In one case radio was even used to teach students how to draw, and it was found to be more effective than a television program!
In the Christian radio context, instruction programs fall into two broad categories: social development and Christian education.
Community development is the process of enabling communities to identify, plan and implement action to change and improve their living and environment.
Why should the Christian broadcaster involve himself in community development programs when his main interest lies in spreading the Gospel?
There are many ways we could answer this. We could look at our definition of the Gospel or our understanding of the Kingdom of God. We could look at the Scripture records of how God and Jesus concerned themselves with the well-being of people. We could take the view that as we have freely received so we should freely pass on to others who are less privileged. We could justify it on the basis of our responsibility to the community and meeting the felt needs of those around us. It is a good way of saying we care and serve our listeners. We could even say that by so doing we are blessing them in Jesus' name. Or we could say that it is simply a good way of attracting listeners.
The point is that Christian radio has a role here. This type of programming demonstrates our concern for the well-being of our listeners as well as reflecting a Christian world-view. By doing so we earn the right to be heard in matters of more direct Christian significance. Community development programming can have a direct relationship to church growth as shown in Africa.
The aims of community development are to involve, motivate and instruct the community to take part in their social, economic, physical, and spiritual development. Participatory programs in which listeners contribute to the purpose, design, and content of programs, help link listeners to community leaders and others who can provide functional information. It also gives communities a "voice" to express their views and desire for change. Read more about this in the next role – Advocacy
Programs can educate people who cannot afford the education or training they need, where they have neither the time nor opportunity to attend classes, or where there is a lack of teachers or other resources. Programs can supplement or complement what is already being taught in classes. Radio is widely used for educational programs for schools and universities.
Functional information helps listeners in their work, life and family. We can cover important issues relating to human rights, conflict resolution, tolerance, understanding, citizenship and cultural values. Health and agriculture programs are obvious topics for us in many of our broadcast fields. Radio is especially useful in times of national emergencies such as disasters where rapid and specific information is needed. Other types of instruction might include topics such as computing.
Radio can also play a vital role in building bridges of understanding between communities where there is a history of tension and conflict. Much of it is fuelled by ignorance or by misrepresentation of the facts. Good teaching, sensitively prepared and presented, can do much to break down barriers of distrust.
Study programs that teach the English language are popular. Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) by Christian broadcasters remains a field of largely untapped potential. With newly emerging economies rapidly trying to catch up with the rest of the world we find a great hunger for learning English. Programs in Specialised English have also begun to make an impact. These programs use a limited vocabulary and also the delivery is limited to 70 words per minute in order to aid comprehension. (See Spotlight web-site)
We do, however, need to exercise caution as teaching English can be viewed as a form of cultural imperialism. This is the view in China where listeners often associate the Gospel with foreign cultural invasion. They think Christianity is a Western-imported thing and teaching English is a means.
We may even find opportunities to work alongside government projects or as part of a government campaign. Some countries are closed to the Gospel. In these countries supplying educational programs or training to produce them, may be ways of building and establishing credibility.
Christian radio programs provide practical teaching at relatively low cost — especially because believers are motivated to listen. This is true of believers in closed countries. But even in open country situations, such as the Philippines, radio is a valuable tool for bringing low-cost Christian education to those who cannot afford to leave home to attend a Bible School.
We should not assume that there are large numbers of unbelievers interested in studying the Bible as we know it. However, we may be surprised to discover that there are significant numbers who are curious to find out more about Jesus Christ, Christian belief and the teachings of the Bible. We'll look at this a little more in the role of Apologetics.
A key issue is how we teach the Bible and Christian truth. What creative ways can be developed to interest the listener enough to make him want to come back for more? How can we talk about things that interest them? At the same time we are anxious to help them find very practical help in our guidebook, the Bible? In some instances it may be better strategy to use the radio program as a means of giving them an appetite to know more. For example, use the program to promote a Bible correspondence course so that the listener can be put on the road of studying and discovering the Bible for himself. Or it may mean using a culturally appropriate form for teaching — such as a Buddhist-style chant as is used in one country.
Instruction for believers is easier for Christian producers to produce because we're in familiar territory and we have a ready audience. The common mistake, however, is that we overlook the creative side. The time of broadcast, the style as well as the content, sometimes suggest that we expect listeners to be doing serious Bible study while eating their breakfast!
Any teaching of Christians should be based on observed needs, depending on the circumstances. In situations where there is restricted access Christians are often left with little trained leadership and few Bibles. Because of this they are wide open to heresy and cultic practices. A priority might be to give them a solid grounding in the basics of the faith. On the practical side they may need to learn about how to run a church fellowship and include pastoral counselling and learning new songs. Serious consideration needs to be given to social issues and how to address them. Such topics might include family counselling, environmental issues, coping with stress, financial management and in general about a Christian's social responsibility in society.
Last updated 11 Aug 2011
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