Adventist Radio Station Brings Unaffiliated to Sligo Church
In latest ratings, WGTS-FM bests one commercial gospel rival by 4.5-to-1
 
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
 
Seventh-day Adventist radio station once on the verge of closing has in the past 12 months experienced a remarkable rebirth. WGTS-FM, located on the campus of Columbia Union College, is doing something no other Adventist station is known to have done: cracked the top ten ratings for all radio stations in a given major market; in this case, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
 
WELCOMING LISTENERS: Chaplain Terry Johnsson and station manager John Konrad with WGTS listeners. [Photo: Sligo Church]
 
The latest figures, released May 21 by ratings firm Arbitron, Inc., say that WGTS-FM is ninth overall in the market, getting a 4.5 percent “share” of all radio listeners; its cumulative weekly listenership is sixteenth in the market, 446,000 people, up more than 10 percent from 401,700 the month before. By contrast, WAVA-FM, a commercially owned Christian radio station, has only a 1.0 percent share.
 
The continued success in the ratings must be counted as very good news for the station, owned by Columbia Union College. In 2008, leaders of the school considered selling the station’s broadcasting license in order to raise money for the institution. Response from the audience and the station’s Adventist constituency scuttled that move.
 
WGTS-FM’s high ratings come in part from new technology being used by Arbitron, which is based in Columbia, Maryland. Called a “Portable People Meter,” the device uses technology to measure and record what people listen to, rather than the old method of paper diaries. The PPM rankings have upset listener totals in several major markets, and brought to light many listeners to the Adventist station who may not have been documented before.
 
The station was also recently named “Station of the Year” by ProgramDirector.net, an Internet Web site catering to program directors of religious radio stations.
 
According to Terry Johnsson, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who serves as the station’s full-time chaplain, WGTS-FM ranks number two among all the Christian radio stations in the U.S. for listenership, and in the Washington area it’s second in popularity among women ages 25-39, a key demographic group. Of the station’s 446,000 listeners, some 40 percent are unaffiliated with any Christian congregation, he said.
 
POWER FOR LIVING: Sligo senior pastor Charles Tapp said Christ is the Source for a fruitful life. [Photo:Sligo Church]

At the same time, the station, which has operated for more than 50 years in the nation’s capital, is not just drawing in listeners. It’s bringing them to church.
 
Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is next-door to the CUC campus that is home to the radio station, welcomed nearly 100 WGTS listeners to their sanctuary on April 25, the first of four planned “Radio Day” events for the congregation.
 
“When I heard the radio invitation I knew I had to make time to come and see the people from my favorite station,” Christina Iser of Gaithersburg, Maryland, said. “We like all the programs--even ‘Adventures in Odyssey.’ My little daughter listens, and when she climbs onto the backseat of the car she wants to know right away who is on the radio.”
 
“I am so happy to see our family from WGTS here for our first Radio Day,” said Charles Tapp, senior pastor of the 101-year-old church, after preaching about the Christian’s need for a fruitful connection with Christ.  "We are excited to meet you and hope you will join us after the service for conversation over the good meal we have prepared for you,” he added.
 
Reflecting on the purpose for Radio Day, station manager John Konrad said he had hoped to ignite precisely that spark of relationship-building energy when radio staff and church pastors envisioned WGTS Radio Day as a quarterly event at Sligo Church. “I look for ways to involve people, and radio is very good at nurturing relationships,” he said.
 
The connecting won’t stop there. On June 12, the station is planning “A Night of Hope” to be held at a hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, another key Washington suburb, Johnsson said. The event will feature a sermon, music, and the opportunity for people to sign up for Bible studies or a pastoral visit.
 
WGTS can be reached online at www.wgts.org, where its programming is also streamed online.
 
                                                                                --with additional reporting by Kitty Evans, Sligo Church
 


 
 

 
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