Technique of the Bible School of the Air

Radio evangelism in action

By MELVIN K. ECKENROTH, Radio Evangelist, Evangelist, Tallahassee, Florida

Recently I prepared an article for the Ministry concerning the Bible School of the Air. Since then many have asked questions concerning various details of technique. In response to a number of questions, I have been asked by the editor of the Ministry to write a second article dealing specifically with these points. These are pre­sented in the form of questions and answers.

Q: Do you prefer a fifteen-minute program or a thirty-minute program?

Answer: Personally, I prefer fifteen-min­ute programs, if it is possible to secure at least three such programs a week. As a general rule, people are more likely to sit and listen to a local fifteen-minute program; whereas a thirty-minute program may be too long for them. It is amazing how much one can say in fifteen minutes, if his talk is well organized. However, as is the case with our national hookup, there are conditions in which a thirty-minute program is more desirable. At present we are on the air fifteen minutes daily during the week, and thirty minutes on Sunday.

Q. How much music do you have on your program, and what type do you use?

A. Since my programs are short, I neces­sarily avoid consuming too much time with music as a regular feature. However, we do have special music programs by our church choir, and other features. When we do this, it is for the entire fifteen-minute period. On our Sunday program, which is longer, we use more music. Occasionally a Bible student will write in for a song to be dedicated to a loved one on a special event, such as a birthday. For such a one we usually have a stanza and chorus of the requested song. If talent is available, we use it. If it is not available, I do not hesitate to use a good transcription. It is much better to use transcriptions than poor local talent. The station usually has a fine library of records.

Q. What time do you prefer on the air?

A. In the first place, one must be governed by the time the station has available. Some stations have different prices for time periods which they classify as "A" time, "B" time, and "C" time. A good location is immediately following a news broadcast, especially since the recent entry of the country into the war. On local stations, "A" time might be from five o'clock in the afternoon until around seven-thirty in the evening. After seven-thirty in the evening the national hookup programs draw heavily from local stations. Our pro­gram at the present time is at six-thirty in the evening. After sundown many of the smaller local radio stations cannot be heard over a very wide area, owing to evening interference. One must consult with the local radio manager regarding the best time.

Q. How soon do you ask the radio audience to join the Bible School of the Air?

A. I explain immediately, with the first broadcast, the plan and purposes of the Bible School of the Air. I invite people to write in at once, as the first lesson will be sent out shortly. I was on the air' three weeks before I sent out the lessons, however. During this time I gave talks of interest concerning current events in the light of Bible prophecy.

Q. How do you handle the latecomers after the first lesson has been presented on the air?

A. We group our classes as class "A," "B," etc. Those who write in to us during the first four weeks the lessons are being taught are put in class "A." That is, we mail up to four lessons at one time to any one individual. For example, suppose we are teaching Lesson 4 on the air and someone writes in and desires to join the Bible school. We send him the first four lessons, and ask him to catch up with his back lessons as soon as possible. However, after we begin Lesson 5 on the air, anyone who writes in is placed in class "B," and when class "A" gets Lesson 5, class "B" gets Lesson 1. When class "A" gets Lesson 9, class "B"• gets Lesson 5 and class "C" gets Lesson I. This goes on until class "A" has finished all the lessons. Thus the Bible school is virtually continuous. It is always "feeding" new classes and students. This, of course, requires diligent effort to keep the classes straight, and the mailing accurate. It requires the keeping of separate files for each group.

Q. Do you have a radio secretary, or do you do your own filing, correcting of lessons, etc.?

A. We have a radio secretary. One of the sisters in the church takes care of the files, correction of the lessons, etc. We pay her a nominal fee for her services, out of the radio fund.

Q. Who addresses your envelopes?

A. We have the young people of the church do the envelope addressing, folding, and stamp­ing, as a missionary project. They receive a real blessing out of it, and it keeps up their interest in the radio work.

Q. How do you grade the papers?

A. It is important to let the student feel as though he is doing excellent work. I always red pencil any mistakes, but grade the papers as "Excellent," "Good," or "Fine." Wher­ever a student makes a mistake, I write in some word, encouraging him to study a certain por­tion of the lesson again.

Q. What lessons do you use?

A. I use the Community Bible lessons by the Southern Publishing Association. At the pres­ent time these lessons are being revised, and after their revision they will be much better adapted to the radio. I found them to be very satisfactory. The price quoted for them is so low that it is impossible to produce one's per­sonal lessons that economically.

Q. What type of program do you put on—the lecture or more, conversational style?

A. I use the conversational style almost ex­clusively—the informal chat, the homey, un­conventional style. A sample of my introduc­tion is as follows : "Good evening, friends: My, I'm glad to come around your way tonight. You always open wide the door to your house, and after a hard day's work it is so good to have a little chat with friends. Many of you are writing to the Bible School of the Air for the lessons about which I've been telling you," etc.

Q. How much does the Bible School of the Air cost?

A. This, of course, depends entirely on local conditions. We saved considerably by secur­ing the precanceled stamps at the post office. One must figure on costs for lessons, envelopes, stamps, radio time, promotional material, .stencils and mimeograph paper for weekly letters to students. One really should have a mimeograph machine to run off the weekly letters to the students.

Q. How soon should one ask for funds?

A. I never ask directly for funds on the air. I usually approach the matter something like this : "Dear friends, I certainly thank you for your cards and letters. Many of you enclosed a money order or check in your letter to help us carry the burden of this wonderful work.

I want you to know that we deeply appreciate your remembering us, and I know that God will licitly bless each giver. Whether your offering was large or small, the God who saw the widow's mite sees your gift, and will reward accordingly. This is just another re­minder that we thank you."

Q. What do you charge for membership in the school?

A. We offer the lessons free of charge.

Q. How do you finance the program?

A. It is a wonderful assistance if you can interest your conference in helping you get started. If not, the churches will eagerly rally to the support of such a program. Secure permission from the conference office to visit the churches that would be in the area of your broadcast. Meet with the church boards first, and then present the plan to the congrega­tions.

I sincerely hope that the foregoing infor­mation will prove helpful to fellow workers who are interested in attempting the radio work. I am most enthusiastic about radio possibilities. We have received thousands of letters, and have baptized many persons as a direct result of the Bible School of the Air. Let us utilize every one of the resources at our command to hasten the coming of Jesus, and thus end the reign of sin in the world.


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By MELVIN K. ECKENROTH, Radio Evangelist, Evangelist, Tallahassee, Florida

June 1942

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