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Dr. Paul Virts
Sr. VP for Media

“Everyone in media is facing some of the most revolutionary changes they have ever encountered, and we must find ways to adapt to the new environment,” says Dr. Paul Virts, Senior Vice President for Media at the 16-station group of Northwestern Media in Roseville, MN. “Our challenge is to change how we conduct ministry without losing our biblical distinctives.”

Like many other media ministries, Northwestern, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, is focused on keeping up with rapid changes. “The days of thinking our audience members are passively accepting whatever we have to offer are over,” states Rev. Dick Whitworth, Assistant VP. “People can get music and Bible teaching from other sources and don’t need to rely solely on us.  Today’s audiences want their voices to be heard.  And they want to be involved in ministering to others in many ways.”

As they prepare for the future, the Northwestern team is focused on one major concept: Engagement.  “We are focusing on ways to engage listeners in our programming. Our hosts bring the listeners into the conversation by encouraging call-ins, then letting the listeners connect with each other on air,” says KTIS-FM Program Director Jason Sharp. “Many callers share biblical truth or provide words of encouragement to others. Rather than relying on the ‘image voice’ to describe how our stations minister to people, we let listeners do that.”

Research confirms Northwestern’s approach. Because the listeners want to make a difference in their communities, their stations provide ways to empower them to minister to others. “The team came up with the idea of creating a website that would connect volunteers with nonprofit organizations that could use their help,” says Morgan Wood, KTIS-FM’s Director of Engagement.  “Thousands of connections between organizations and volunteers have been made.”

The team also created an interactive site that not only allows people to post prayer requests, but also notifies them when someone has prayed for them. Responders are able to send a message of encouragement along with the notification.

Northwestern Media stations are also working on ways to become more engaged in the communities they serve. The “I Love My Church” and “Ministry of the Month” programs turn the spotlight on what other ministries are doing. “We are linking arms with community-minded businesses which want to make a difference. We’re also giving voice to Christians working in secular media,” says Dr. Virts.

“As we seek to re-invent the media ministry, the focus shifts away from us and to what God is doing in the lives of listeners. We watch with joy as connections are built among listeners and between listeners and other ministries. What a delight it is to see God’s people empowered to serve Him and others.”