When Faith FM station manager Michael Engelbrecht climbed onto the roof of his rusty shed in July 2008 to install a radio antenna, he had no idea the impact that a single radio channel would have.
Together with Paul Holton, who now works in infrastructure support for Faith FM, and several other members from the Moe and Traralgon Adventist churches in rural Victoria, Australia, they strung up guy-wire and mounted the radio mast. The church members prayed over the radio station, 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. While the ministry has grown steadily over 15 years, however, the past 12 months that have seen exponential growth, starting with a network increase to cover an additional 1.5 million listeners across Australia.
Adventist Church 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.
“Twenty twenty-two was an incredible year of growth for us,” Faith FM content and promotions manager Robbie Berghan said. “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 twofold, and it all started with a comment made by a listener to 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,” Berghan said. “And then she started mentioning her favorite 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 first half of 2022, listeners enjoyed good food and conversation with Faith FM presenters, with fantastic turnouts in several Australian cities.
“During the dinner, a Faith FM presenter will give a quick 20-minute presentation expanding on their show’s theme,” Berghan said. “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,” Berghan said. “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 church’s Australian Union Conference (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,” Engelbrecht said.
And this growth is only the beginning. The AUC has worked with the Adventist Church’s South Pacific Division (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,” AUC president Terry Johnson said. “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,” SPD president Glenn Townend said. “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,” Engelbrecht said. “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.”