A mid-game surprise for Twins fans: baseball action, radio commercials … and a 60-second ‘sermonette’

For someone who grew up listening to the Hamm’s Beer “Sky Blue Waters” commercials during Twins games, today’s mid-game breaks can be a little jarring. One moment, you’re listening to baseball, maybe cursing a bad call, the next you’re hearing about Jesus dying on the cross for you.

This season, in the middle of the fifth inning of every Twins game radio broadcast, that’s what you get: a 60-second sermonette, time purchased by the Radio Ministry of the Wooddale Church of Eden Prairie and Edina.

“We’re pleased with the results,” said Brian Anderson, communications director of the massive church (5,000 people attend services each Sunday) and the preacher’s son. “We do get mixed results. Some really like it. We get comments like, ‘It’s a breath of fresh air.’ Some think we’re shoving God down their throats.”

The spots — Anderson calls them “programs,” not “commercials” — all are taken from 25 years of sermons of Leith Anderson, pastor of the mega-church, which is home base for Gov. Tim Pawlenty. During the course of the Twins’ 162-game season, the church will offer more than 100 different messages, all written by a professional writer and read by Brian Anderson.

Most of the messages are fairly soft, little parables that offer a message of “the truth and hope of Jesus,” according to Anderson. (Today’s message can be read here.)

In truth, most of the Jesus spots are not nearly so jarring as some of the spots the Twins’ flagship station, KSTP, runs to promote Joe Soucheray’s radio program on the station. The Soucheray promos often are blatantly political and a bit off-putting for those not enrolled in the Soucheray flat-earth society.

Nonetheless, it almost always is surprising to get the mix of baseball and religion. Brian Anderson does admit that the approach is a little nontraditional and that “the Twins were nervous about it” when the time was purchased for the entire Twins radio network. Until this season, the church purchased time only on some of the team’s outstate stations. As the season progresses, the team’s comfort level seems to be growing. 

The move into baseball marks just another step in the evolution of the church’s radio ministry, according to Anderson.

In the beginning, the church broadcast half-hour programs on Christian radio stations. But, in time, it realized that its messages were essentially preaching to the choir.

So a few years ago, the church decided to go with two-minute “programs” on music stations.

“If you think it sounds strange to hear our message in a baseball game, you should have heard what it was like after a Quiet Riot song,” said Anderson. Country stations also were favored by Wooddale.

About five years ago, the station decided to reload and put the messages on KFAN radio, a sports talk station.

There is a common theme here: The hard rock, country and sports station and now baseball all appeal to a male demographic.

“We believe that males are less likely to be the spiritual leaders in their households,” Anderson said. “We want to catch their attention.”

They do.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Ed Stych on 06/26/2009 - 10:15 am.

    I love the Wooddale spots on KFAN and the Twins games! Good for them for stepping into “the world” to spread the Gospel. It’s what we Christians are called to do.

    I like that they are targeting men. I’m currently reading, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” and there is a lot of work to be done to make church more relevant to American men.

  2. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 06/26/2009 - 11:00 am.

    I do not necessarily have any issue with these religious message that I hear during the Twins game. The Soucheray promotion grates my nerves everytime I hear them. They even seem to pick sound bites with Joe at his highest level of stupidity.

    Those commercials, plus KSTP’s lousy signal and John Gordon’s ineptness, makes me yearn for the WCCO days of Twins coverage with Herb Carneal.

    Maybe Woodale could craft a message getting us all to pray for a decent play by play announcer!

  3. Submitted by Mac Riddel on 06/26/2009 - 11:03 am.

    I actually hate these commercials. When I listen to baseball, I don’t want to listen to a sermon…that’s what church is for.

    Shame on the Twins for thinking about money first, and ignoring what their fans really want to hear during the game.

  4. Submitted by William Malo on 06/26/2009 - 12:38 pm.

    Being non-religious, to put it mildly, I have a very difficult time with proselytizing of any nature, and I find it completely unacceptable when the venue is ‘public’ – but baseball?
    Just another reason to hit the fridge, and do so more often.

  5. Submitted by Erica Mauter on 06/26/2009 - 01:09 pm.

    As unwelcome as I might find the message (very), I can’t object to it on principle. I’d hardly call it offensive, but where is that line, exactly? Most ads are equally as unwelcome.

  6. Submitted by Michael Welch on 06/27/2009 - 10:37 am.

    I’m one of those soft God is good types and find the sermonads a bit cheesy, but two words on: First Amendment. It’s a business decision by the Twins/KSTP whether they want to take the church’s money.

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