Christmas: The Post-game Show
“Hi, my name is Natalie. I’m a big fan of your station. My family supports you through prayer, friendraiser, the sharathon etc. I want to first thank you for all you do. But I also have a concern. I have noticed this year that you are playing more secularly themed Christmas music than I remember in the past. I became a new listener at Christmas time several years ago. I was drawn to your station by the variety of beautiful songs that talked about the birth of Jesus Christ and loving others etc. I became a year round listener and supporter because of this. This year, I’ve been hearing more “holiday classics” (such as White Christmas, Let it snow, jingle bell rock etc) than I remember hearing in the past. You played them some in the past, but the overwhelming amount of music was still about Christ’s birth. But now, I feel I’m just as likely to hear a song that doesn’t say anything about Christ as I am to hear a song about Christ’s birth. I didn’t want to contact the station about this at first, because your ministry does so much for my family and friends. And I in no way wanting to be critical. But this morning when I heard “Here comes Santa Clause” by Gene Autrey, I had to e-mail my concern. I know these are “Christmas Classics”, but what do they have to do with the birth of Christ? Santa is part of the commercialization and secularization that has taken over the season and overshadows the message of Christ and His love for us. Please don’t keep doing what “the world” does at this time of year. I can hear about Santa, reindeer, sleigh rides and mistletoe in lots of other places. I can only get music that is Christ centered in a handful of places. Other than WTOP traffic reports, WGTS is the only station our family listens to. WE LOVE YOUR STATION because it is so Christ centered. Please don’t loose your focus. For the first time in years I find myself turning WGTS off because I repeatedly can’t hear anything that points me to Christ in some of the lyrics. I know the classics are still “family friendly” but they aren’t “Christ centered”. I’m disappointed. I still appreciate what you do, but I’m concerned that you’re losing touch with what you do best this Christmas season. I hope I’m wrong, and that by some fluke, I’ve just been catching lots of the secular songs on the air. I miss being able to turn 91.9 on and know that what I hear through your music will reflect the message of the Gospel. I’m still a fan, but I’m becoming a more cautious one. I thought you should know, just in case I’m not the only one who feels this way. You are in my thoughts and prayers.” – Natalie
I really appreciate your email, and your thoughtfulness and kindness while writing it. I know it’s very early January as I respond to this, so it’s a bit like calling play-by-play on a game that just ended, but I know that you raise a concern that I’ve heard several times this year, and since we work on getting our Christmas music just right each year, and make changes each year, I want to respond for both this year and next.
I want you to know that we rely on emails exactly like yours to help us determine how we’re doing. If I had to give this year’s Christmas music a grade, based upon listener feedback, I’d say we were a good, solid B. We did several things very well, and missed several things. In some cases our ideas were good, but we had a few missteps as well. As the Program Director, I take responsibility for those missteps, and I can assure you that next year we’ll do better. One of those items was in not communicating with our audience what we were trying to accomplish in December, during the month of November. That will change next year. And, even though this blog post is after the fact, I know other folks may have the same questions you did, and I want my answer to be available to them.
WGTS 91.9 has a specific intent in our Christmas programming, one that is reviewed every year with our pastoral counselors. Over the past 10 years that WGTS 91.9 has implemented this approach, (using a small percentage of secular Christmas songs familiar to people who donâ€™t normally listen to Christian radio), the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Many listeners, who never listen to Christian radio, find WGTS 91.9. Some even make it their new radio â€œhomeâ€ after the Holidays.
Our Christmas music programming is primarily an evangelistic tool. When we polled our listeners, the overwhelming majority told us they would support this type of ministry outreach at Christmas. When we play these songs on WGTS 91.9 at Christmas, we ask our listeners to cover them in prayer. These songs are â€œhooksâ€ designed to attract people who donâ€™t normally listen to WGTS 91.9. Christmas brings back fond memories and excited anticipation for most people. Certain Christmas songs help bring back those memories; these are the songs most of our listeners remember growing up with.
You may have experienced the reality that your friends and family are a little more open to hearing about spiritual things during this time of year. Many that would never go to church normally seem to be more open to doing so during the holidays. Many friends and family who would never listen to Christian radio are more open to do so when theyâ€™re listening to a station playing Christmas music they are familiar with.
I want to be clear with you that so that thereâ€™s no doubtâ€”the primary focus of WGTS 91.9â€™s music at Christmas is Jesus Christ and His birth. While Santa Claus is a mythical figure, there really was a St. Nicholas. Born into a wealthy family during the fourth century, Nicholas was a Christian man who loved children and his neighbors, and spent his life privately giving gifts to the unfortunate. These acts of Christian charity â€“ usually made secretly â€“ probably led to the practice of exchanging gifts at Christmas. Nicholas gave to others expecting nothing in return. It is this selfless generosity that made Nicholasâ€™ gifts a reflection of the gift God gave us in His Son. Some Christians use Christmas as a time to teach their children how to practice selfless giving like St. Nicholas. More information can be found online at www.reasonfortheseason.com.
Dr. James Dobson offers an interesting perspective on this subject:
â€œChristmas memories are among the most cherished of all my childhood reminiscences. The fantasy of Santa Claus coming on Christmas Eve was an important part of the fun. Iâ€™m reluctant to deprive todayâ€™s kids of an experience that was so exciting for me. On the other hand, I understand the concerns expressed by many Christian parents about the pagan celebration of Christmas. They donâ€™t want to link Santa Claus, a mythical figure, with the reality of the baby Jesus who was born in Bethlehem of Judea. They have good reason to fear that they might weaken the validity of the Christmas story by mixing it with fantasy. So this is the dilemma â€“ Santa is fun, but Santa could be confusing. What are Christian parents to do? This is a judgment call to be made by a given family. Shirley and I chose to play the â€œSanta gameâ€ with our kids, and we had no difficulties teaching them who Jesus was and is. Other families regret mixing the two images. What is best? I donâ€™t know. But if I had to do it over, I would still let my children thrill to the excitement of Santaâ€™s arrival down the chimney on Christmas Eve.â€
I can assure you that all the music we play is prayerfully reviewed by our programming staff and pastoral counselors, with input from other Christians in focus groups. Songs are are chosen to make sure that they reflect the Biblical values of family and relationships. They are selected within the entire scope of programming on the station to impact listeners with an uplifting; positive; family friendly; and inspirational message that unmistakably points to Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that the vast majority of songs you hear on WGTS 91.9 during Christmas still point to Christ, the true reason Christmas is celebrated. Again we have included specific classic Christmas songs most of our listeners remember growing up with that remind them of Christmas. However, we donâ€™t abandon the message that Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas, and that He is the Savior of the world. That is our message during Christmas, and that is our message all during the year. We think if youâ€™ll listen, youâ€™ll hear the message clearly, as listeners have over the past 10 years.
Our goal is always to bring new listeners to the radio station, so they can hear the message of Godâ€™s love. We think thereâ€™s no better time than Christmas, to find people who donâ€™t usually listen to Christian radio, and give them a reason to do so.
Now that a new year has begun, weâ€™re making our resolutions like everyone else, and weâ€™re resolving to improve upon our efforts for the coming Christmas. Thank you for your honest feedback, patience, and support.
Their was only one person speaking in a whisper-quiet hall, as we filed in. “Thank you for coming on behalf of the family,” he said as he shook my hand, shook my wife’s and gave a smile to my little baby girl, Audrey. I found out after we left the rotunda that his name was Jack Ford, and that he was one of President Ford’s sons. Jack’s wife also smiled at Audrey and thanked us for coming out that day, especially with a baby girl. I suspect that in the somber, respectful room that was President Ford’s temporary resting place, there had been few baby visitors that day, and the sight of one brought a smile to her face.
The Ford family didn’t have to stand there, hour after hour, thanking visitors they didn’t know. They didn’t have to expend that emotional energy during one of life’s most stressful moments, but instead, they infused that moment of silent respect with dignity, grace, and an uncommon consideration for regular people like me.
We had came to the Capitol building to pay our respects to President Ford, but were honored by the respect his family showed us.
G’day to WGTS 91.9
“I am an American who has lived in Australia for the past 23 years. I used to live in Washington DC and a few nights ago did a search of Christian Radio stations in the DC area for a taste of home while I did spring (it is summer here) cleaning in my study. I found your station and have been listening to it as often as I can ever since!!
I even love the traffic reports because it brings back memories of commuting from Alexandria to GWU!! Your programs are balanced, uplifiting and your music is great. My study will probably be the best spring cleaned room around!!”
Blessings to you all -Linda
Stories from Target
Another great story from the WGTS 91.9 inbox …
“Please allow me a small spot on your show to convey my appreciation to two very special people.
I was shopping in Target Stores at Towson Market Place in Baltimore on Saturday 2nd December and unfortunately lost my wallet in the bustle of the holiday season. I am currently a student and this misfortune came at the worst possible time. I searched the entire store, left my information at the front desk and sadly returned home, no wallet, no identification and no access to any funds. But you know what? I remembered how my God always comes through for me, so although I was a little concerned about losing the wallet, I said a prayer and knew something would work out. About three hours later, I received a call from my roommate who just happened to be outside my apartment building at the time. She told me that there was someone downstairs who had found my wallet. I was very surprised by this news; as I was not expecting to ever see it again and went down to meet them. It was an elderly woman with someone who appeared to be her son. They had found my wallet at the store and tried to find me to return it. However, my driverâ€™s license had my old address on it and so they had been driving around looking for me, without luck. As it so happens (I must say God), I had left an MVA card with my new address on it at the back of my wallet and they found it. It was only God that that card was there and that my roommate was downstairs at that exact time as there is no access to the building without a key.
I was so happy to get my wallet! I told them thank you and wished them a Merry Christmas, however in my haste, I forgot to get their information so that I could send them a thank you card! And I know that I didnâ€™t do enough to thank them! In a world and a society with so much mistrust and hate, where people only look out for their individual needs and whatâ€™s best for them, it is so good to know that people like these still exist! I didnâ€™t know how long they were driving or how they far they had come to find me. So I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated what they did! And I donâ€™t think that it was simply because of Christmas, but because they were genuinely good people and were willing to do something for anotherâ€¦
So to these two people Thank you so much! I hope you hear this! May God continue to bless you and your family for years to come! – Sincerely, Janine”
Cream of Wheat
Sorry to be blunt, but your programming is boring and predictable. It seems like you play the same songs, about the same time every day, and most of them are as bland as plain Cream of Wheat. I’ve lived in this area for five years, and you still have some of the same songs in your playlist that you were playing then (Michael W. Smith, “Come just as you are,” are two that come to mind). A little more variety would be appreciated (listen to WRBS), including other songs from current albums – not just the so-called “hits.”
Thank you. – Richard
Cream of Wheat … mmmm. Richard, you just took me back to some good childhood memories. My mom used to make us hot cereal every morning, and sometimes it was Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, Zoom, oatmeal, whatever, but it was always piping hot and it filled you up. Kept you until lunch. Sometimes we’d have it with just salt for seasoning (otherwise it really was bland), or maybe a big tablespoonful of peanut butter, sometimes sugar, cinammon and raisins, but however it was made, it was always good. I still love Cream of Wheat to this day.
Ok, now that I’m past the food, thanks for not sugar-coating how you feel. WGTS 91.9 plays older music because listeners ask us to play certain songs for longer periods. I Can Only Imagine from Mercy Me, for example, has been out for years now, but is still a most requested song, so we continue to play it. Did you know that we add new music, new songs, almost every week? We actually don’t even receive CD’s from most record companies anymore. We get a list of songs that we are able to download and listen to, but the traditional album gets bypassed in order to get the new music on the air even faster. Our Listener Advisory Board helps us rate those new songs so that we know whether to keep playing them or not. If you’d like to join, we’d love to have you.
Thanks for keeping in touch. We’ll work on throwing in a few new spices for you. – Ty McFarland
I just wanted to thank everyone who works at WGTS for their dedication to Christ. I have been going through a tough time lately and I’ve found listening to your station to be refreshing and a great way to keep my focus on the life God has planned for me. I also want to thank the people who speak in the name of Christ on your station.
Thank you all!!
Z-Jam and 20: The Countdown Magazine
“Hi, Normally at 11 on Saturday evenings ZJAM played on WGTS. Lately it hasn’t been on, neither has 20 the countdown. Did you stop playing those shows or have they been off air for a while? If you get the chance, thank you otherwise thank you anyways.” - Laura
Hi Laura, Good to hear from you. Unfortunately, WGTS 91.9 no longer carries 20: The Countdown Magazine or Z-Jam.Because we’re continually conducting audience research, studying our listeners habits and preferences, and re-focusing the programming of the station to better serve the audience, we change our programming line-up from time to time. Sometimes those changes are fairly minor and go almost unnoticed, and occasionally, they take the form of adding or dropping an entire show.
In the case of 20 and Z-Jam, this was less a reflection on the shows, as it was a decision between two good things (regular WGTS 91.9 music and specialty shows). The challenge, as always, was to decide which would be the better thing, given the mission of the radio station and listener preferences.
It’s never easy making these kinds of decisions. Programming decisions are taken seriously and involve a great deal of thought and research. We realize that the radio station serves the whole community, and that we have an obligation to serve our audience in the most effective manner possible. Currently, WGTS 91.9 is airing our regular music format in the place of 20: The Countdown and Z-Jam. You may be pleased to know, though, that Z-Jam is available online at www.zjam.com, you can listen online anytime by clicking a link on their front page.
I know that this may not be what you want to hear, but I appreciate you giving us the benefit of the doubt. We certainly make mistakes all of the time, and although we hope this wasn’t a mistake, you might be right and we might be wrong. In any case, thanks for your support and encouragment.