CARROLLTON, Ala. (BP)–Broadcasting worship services on local television and radio stations has long been a tradition for many churches. But for the past several months, radio listeners in west Alabama have had the opportunity to hear a broadcast devoted to Sunday School as well.
Since December, the WALN Radio Sunday School Program has been broadcast twice weekly on WALN 89.3 in Carrollton. The idea for the show was born out of discussions between Mike Hall, WALN’s station manager who also serves as pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Reform, and Gary Farley, Pickens Baptist Association director of missions.
For many years, Farley, Hall and other pastors in the association have met on Tuesday mornings for a pastors’ prayer breakfast. At one of the breakfasts, Hall and Farley were discussing a slot that had come open in the radio station’s programming schedule, and the idea for the show began to develop.
“We usually had a church service on during that time and they had cancelled,” Hall said. “We wanted to include Sunday School teachers in some way, and the show kind of bloomed from there.”
Each week after the prayer breakfast, Farley, Hall and other local pastors record a 50–55 minute program about the week’s Sunday School lesson. Using the Family Bible Study series published by LifeWay Christian Resources, they discuss the Scripture and commentary for the lessons, offering reflections and applications based on the focal passages.
Since the participants try to limit their responses to about 90 seconds, the discussion stays lively, which Farley said is better than having one person do all the talking.
“It’s pretty much unscripted, kind of like a bunch of good friends sitting around with a cup of coffee talking about the Bible with one another,” he said. “There’s a good bit of humor, and we can play off one another in the sense of setting one another up for good answers.”
Farley listed two target audiences for the radio program -— Sunday School teachers for the 8 p.m. Thursday broadcast and homebound and unchurched adults for the 11 a.m. Sunday broadcast.
“We try to keep the show focused on our audience,” he said. “The commentary in the Sunday School literature often seems to be targeted to median adults, so we try to tweak it around to senior adults who aren’t able to attend Sunday School.”
The response from homebound church members has been positive. Hall said an employee at a local nursing facility told him they can put a radio in residents’ rooms and let them listen to the program, which gives them a connection to their local church.
Farley said he has heard similar comments. “They say the show is a blessing,” he said. “Some have even asked for quarterlies from their churches so they can study along and be ready when we come on the radio.”
He added that they don’t forget that lost and unchurched people might be listening in as well.
Hall recalled one listener who called him after hearing the program. The lesson for that week dealt with abortion, and the woman, a truck driver from Houston, told him she had an abortion 30 years ago.
“She said to hear a panel of pastors talking about forgiveness after abortion had helped her, and she had gone to the Lord and asked for forgiveness,” Hall said.
Stories like this emphasize the need for such a program on the air and encourage the pastors who participate, he said.
“The program has been effective for a lot of people,” Hall said. “They feel more connected to their local churches and to the Lord, and we want that to continue.”
Carrie Brown McWhorter is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, on the Web at www.thealabamabaptist.org.