By Rick Kern
“The real crux of the matter is ministry, it’s getting the Gospel out, getting the Word of God out there and seeing people come to Christ where people grow in their faith,” declares Wayne Taylor, General Manager of Mars Hill Network (MHN). “We also reinforce the local church as much as we can,” he adds, “by presenting church activities, doing interviews when they have guest speakers in and of course, our “Pastor of the Day,” featuring local pastors.”
It is all part of the Mars Hill playbook and make no mistake about it, Wayne Taylor and the Mars Hill staff are playmakers. And when it comes to the Lord’s ministry, they came to play and play to win! That is due in large part to Taylor’s leadership philosophy, “The staff is a very important thing and I feel, as a general manager, one of my primary responsibilities is to really shepherd the staff, help them to do what they do and they do it well to the Lord’s glory — to encourage them.”
“They each have certain needs and each person is different and so you have to work with people individually,” he continues, “but at the same time, you work with them as a team. We like to have the real team spirit. God has given us so many different skilled people, different talents, skills, abilities, and personalities. You really are trying to minister to a large group of different people, but at the same time, minister to them as a team. We try to bring everybody in together.”
It is through this dedicated team that is committed to the Lord and His ministry at Mars Hill that the Gospel goes forth and people grow in their faith. And while the message does not change, the times and thus the methods do. “The radio is changing,” Taylor observes. “There’s a lot more of the IT (Information Technology) side to radio than ever before. Programming and voice tracking — it’s a lot different. You’re not spinning records anymore or playing tapes. An IT person is extremely important, and ours has been a real Godsend. He’s so talented and is really up to par on what’s going on.”
In addition to their IT man, they have also hired a Social Media Director. “That is something that we’ve had to add because of FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and all that stuff” Taylor notes. “IT and social media is now something that we never even thought of say, 15-years ago.” Mars Hill also has two program directors now and their job description includes a requirement to be computer savvy. “Even our music is selected by software,” says Taylor. “We put the guidelines in of how we want to select music. The program director and the music director, they have to be very familiar with how the computer software works with everything else we do here. So, that’s a big thing. Things are really digital now. Everything is computer.”
While life behind the scenes may be digitalized, radio personalities are still just that — personalities, and they have to have one. “The on-air talent,” explains Taylor, “you look for people who are personable and warm and love the Lord above all things, and convey that on the air.” He adds, “We’re a little different because our music is not quite as ‘contemporary’ as some of the stations in the area. But we strive for a clear message and for music that truly exalts the Lord.”
MHN programing is subject to strict criteria that pass through an extensive vetting process. In this way, the Mars Hill Network maintains its professional integrity and assures that what it puts on the air meets the highest biblical and professional standards, reflecting positively on the network, but even more importantly, on the Lord. Their programming committee, consisting of a number of MHN’s board members and Wayne, exercises considerable thoughtfulness in scrutinizing a potential program. Carefully reviewing content, professionalism, the ability to meet the needs of MHN’s listeners, and the host’s theology and reputation, they prayerfully search deeply into the candidates and their organizations. “We don’t want to have someone who has questions hanging over their head on the air,” notes Taylor, “the programming committee is very careful.”
Additionally, their music committee gets together and reviews music as well. “It’s not as easy as just pulling down the Top 40 Christian Contemporary Music Chart,” says Wayne. “That would be kind of easy if we were that type of station. There’s nothing wrong with that type of station, but we have to wade through a lot of music to find stuff that fits our format. It takes a lot longer. They use a lot of diligence in selecting music.”
He continues, elaborating, “We’re not unique because we do programming, but in the area that God has given us to minister to — I think because we are heavier in the Bible teaching and that makes us a little unique. We also feel that we’re a bit more concerned about some of our music than some stations might be. Do the lyrics convey a clear truth? Are they written clearly about the things of God? Is it understandable? We’re a little bit lower on the key of the music scale. We’re contemporary, but we’re not head banger stuff. We’re a little bit more mellow.”
The diligence with which MHN approaches their programming content is simply an outgrowth of their guiding philosophy of ministry. “First, we’re here to proclaim the Word of God,” there’s no other reason we’re here,” declares Wayne categorically. “We ask ourselves if we’re ministering to people. Christian radio is predominantly listened to by believers, but we regularly hear from those who have listened and have come to know Christ through the broadcast alone or the broadcast combined with other witness.”
In addition to broadcasting, the Mars Hill Network touches their community with extended ministries, which again, is simply an overflow of who they are. A non-denominational Christian, not-for-profit, multi-media ministry, they have their hand in a number of undertakings that include workshops and seminars hosted by pastors, teachers, and professionals. They also bring Christian concerts into the MHN broadcast region and offer high quality children’s programming supported by MHN Hilltop Kids. The Hilltop Kids ministry focuses on spiritually nourishing children’s events and resources, while engaging in student outreach that works with and offers support to related outreach leaders and organizations. Moreover, they have developed a ministry to the military and their families.
The Mars Hill Network was essentially established in 1966 when God planted the idea in the hearts of a handful of Christians from the Syracuse, New York area. Upon sharing their vision for a radio station in Central New York, they formed a corporation named “Mars Hill Broadcasting.” The moniker was adapted from Acts 17 where the Apostle Paul preached Christ to the Athenians in the market place and on Mars Hill. Bathing the endeavor in prayer, it moved from miracle to miracle and today has grown to an amazing 19 facilities all across New York State.
“We really try to focus on ministering the Word of God,” Taylor reflects. “Our current slogan is, ‘Connecting You with the Bible,’ or ‘Your Bible Connection’ and variations of that. We realize also that when you do that, when you program a lot of Bible teaching programs, you’re narrowing your audience down because it’s easy to listen to Christian music and there’s a place for that and that’s good.” He goes on, “But with teaching, you really have to desire to hear the Word of God and be taught by it. I think that narrows our audience down just a little bit. We understand that. That’s our calling, the mandate God has given our board of directors from the very beginning.”
For more information about the Mars Hill Network, visit their Website at www.marshillnetwork.org or tune your radio to their flagship station, 102.9 FM.