Leaving radio for the church

My first experience in the world of radio, like many, was at college. As a sophomore at Kansas State University, I was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. Then one day I ran into a table at the student union for The Wildcat 91.9, the non-commercial radio station for the school, and I instantly fell in love. It didn’t take long before I had a weekly “specialty show” — specialty because it aired Tuesdays from midnight-2AM — that featured everything from Steve Earle to Cattle Decapitation. I was also helping with the sports department, taking stats during football and basketball games, feeding them to my classmates who were giving their best attempts at big play-by-play voices.

From that point on, my life was dedicated to radio. I had a real job with a real radio station in a not-so-real city a few miles outside of Manhattan, Kansas, and after graduation — even though I applied to seminary in Texas— I wound up with a rare full-time gig in Kansas City working for the same stations I grew up listening to. Here I made some lifelong friends and had many, many great experiences. I still miss it.

It didn’t take long, though, to get the itch to keep climbing the mountain. During my time at K-State, I had the opportunity to intern with WABC-AM in New York City, and I always wanted to get back. After applying for several positions that I was highly unqualified for, I finally found a job that made sense for me, a job that mirrored what I had been doing in Kansas City. I applied on my birthday in 2010 and by April was living on the West Side of Manhattan, commuting to 2 Penn Plaza every day.

Like my time in Kansas City, I made the most out of every opportunity I had at WABC. Eventually, thanks to some support from those around me as well as their willingness to take risks, I snagged the Assistant Program Director gig for WABC, followed by the “interim” PD position. This was my dream job.

I don’t say that to sound affected, it actually was my dream job. After my internship, I often said, “I want to be the next Phil Boyce,” and here I was, doing my best Phil Boyce impression, trying to run the station; working with Sean Hannity and Mark Levin; launching Geraldo Rivera’s first-ever radio show; dealing with Don Imus.

Unfortunately, my dream job came about because of a change of ownership with the station, and that change of ownership eventually pushed me (on my own accord) to find a new place to work. It was a tough decision, but I soon landed with another broadcast company and found the creative and inspiring environment I had been craving. That was around 1,550 days ago.

During this transition, I became more and more involved with my local church in New York City. I was leading a weekly small group study with my wife, I helped mentor other small group leaders, I joined the diaconate, and about a year ago, I started attending an accredited seminary program in the city. I was still working full-time in the radio world, but now I was balancing evening and weekend classes with conference calls and trips to our markets.

It didn’t take long to realize this was the path I wanted to be on, and it became harder and harder to balance the radio life with the seminary life. I always knew that eventually I would make the vocation change in pursuit of a job with a church, I just didn’t know when.

About six months ago, I started down the ordination path for my particular denomination, and this summer I was offered a position on-staff with my local church. They are launching a pastoral residency program and I will be one of four residents in this inaugural rendition. For the next two years, I will continue my efforts toward ordination while learning the ins and outs of my church’s operations. To say I’m excited would be an understatement, as would saying I’m a bit nervous to enter into a world that isn’t dominated by radio or music.

One thing that has made this transition surprisingly easier, though, is the immense support I’ve received from colleagues and co-workers. Regardless if they share my faith or not, there has been a universal acceptance of what I’m doing, and more encouragement than I ever expected.

One of the most inspiring notes I received came from an executive who I often chat with about music. Upon hearing the news of my vocation change, he sent me the following:

Music and faith both nourish and move the soul, provide oxygen and energy to life, and open our ears and eyes to try, experience and appreciate the new, the different, the unexplainable, the unconventional and the inexplicable. And in doing so we learn, we grow and better understand and better connect to the greater world around us.

I can’t think of a better way to tie my two worlds together than that.