When Faith FM station manager Michael Engelbrecht climbed up onto the roof of his rusty shed in July 2008 to install a radio station, he had no idea the impact that a singular radio channel would have. Together with Paul Holton, who now works as infrastructure support for Faith FM, and several other members from the Moe and Traralgon churches in rural Victoria, they strung up guy-wire and mounted the radio mast. The church members prayed over the singular radio station, all believing God could multiply their efforts to reach Australia with the gospel message.
And multiply He did.
Faith FM will celebrate 15 years of radio in Australia this year, with more than 230 radio stations across the country. But while the ministry has grown steadily over its 15 years, it’s the past 12 months that have seen exponential growth, starting with a network increase to cover an additional 1.5 million listeners across Australia. Conferences around Australia have invested in Faith FM, both in the areas of content creation and network expansion. The result has been an explosion in listener engagement, specifically in requests for evangelistic resources such as literature and DVDs.
“2022 was an incredible year of growth for us,” said Faith FM content and promotions manager Pastor Robbie Berghan. “Over the past 18 months, we made some very intentional changes to the local content we are creating for Faith FM, and this has really resonated with Australia.”
Of course, with such growth also came challenges. The small Faith FM team, already stretched to capacity, found themselves struggling to manage the surge of listener engagement. But thankfully, support from Australian donors has also been increasing. This allowed the Faith FM team to step out in faith, welcoming additional team members in part-time roles focusing specifically on supporting listeners and helping to create connections with Faith FM ambassadors.
Another challenge was turning these “growing pains” into opportunities. How could the small team best connect with these new listeners, while still nurturing the interest and investment of church members?
The answer was two-fold, and it all started with a comment a listener made to Pastor Berghan as he visited a church in North New South Wales.
“I was speaking to a lady after church who had been a long-time listener of Faith FM, and she was telling me which shows she loved,” said Pastor Berghan. “And then she started mentioning her favourite presenters too, and she said, ‘Oh, I’d just love to meet them one day.’”
Her comment sparked an idea. In a number of locations around Australia, the team found there were lots of listeners eager to engage with Faith FM show presenters. And so, the Faith FM Community Dinner was born. Commencing in the early half of 2022, listeners enjoyed good food and conversation with Faith FM presenters, with fantastic turnouts in Coffs Harbour, Adelaide, Newcastle, Tamworth and Armidale.
“During the dinner, a Faith FM presenter will give a quick 20-minute presentation expanding on their show’s theme,” said Pastor Berghan. “These presentations often give listeners bonus insights and material beyond their on-air show, leaving an appetite for more.
“Holding these community connecting events, like the dinners, have really been embraced by Faith FM listeners.”
While a large number of listeners attending the Faith FM dinners are from a secular background, Adventist Church members also attend and enjoy the community aspect. And with more listeners connecting, the team found there were, and continue to be, more opportunities for local church members to support Faith FM. This led to the Faith FM Ambassador program.
“Radio is a powerful tool that educates and encourages people to make positive changes in their lives, but lasting changes, particularly in the spiritual area of life, most often occur in the context of personal relationships with real people,” said Pastor Berghan. “Faith FM ambassadors have the unique opportunity to form friendships that can connect listeners with people in their own community who can help to nurture a growing disciple in their walk with Jesus.”
The exponential growth Faith FM has seen over the past 12 months hasn’t gone unnoticed. Local conferences around Australia have caught the Faith FM vision of reaching Australia with the gospel through radio, and have sought help from the Adventist Church in Australia (AUC) to activate all remaining radio licences.
“This means that in just three years the number of Faith FM radio stations across Australia could grow from 230 to 400, reaching many more people for Christ,” said Mr Engelbrecht.
And this growth is only the beginning. The AUC has worked with the Adventist Church in the South Pacific (SPD) to secure Faith FM funding for the next three years.
“I am thrilled to see conferences right across Australia fully support the Faith FM vision of connecting Australia with the gospel by opening studios and creating engaging content,” said AUC president Pastor Terry Johnson. “Faith FM is doing pivotal mission work in spreading the gospel, and this SPD funding has the potential to make dynamic impacts over the next few years.”
“The SPD is excited by the opportunity that Faith FM brings as a toolbox of community reaching methods for transforming Australia for Jesus,” said SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend. “This SPD funding grant will help local churches, via a subsidy, to get on-air over the next three years, and to assist in creating more local church community connecting events.”
“The gospel always grows in challenging times, and as we look back to the last two years, the growth we have seen has truly been amazing,” said Mr Engelbrecht. “On the back of great growth, conference commitment, AUC leadership and SPD funding, we have the potential to surpass our current reach of a quarter of Australia, and connect even more people with the life-changing gospel.”
Faith FM is a growing, vibrant, national network supported by more than 40 content creators across seven studios. If your church is interested in exploring how to get involved with Faith FM, or you’d like to become a Faith FM ambassador, send an email to <[email protected]>