When it comes to media consumption, the Rev. Robin Blair
wants to give parents every opportunity to make healthy choices for their children.
"It's really important to me that children have access
online to music, scripture and peer conversation that is not influenced by
corporate advertising and does not
usurp parental authority," said Blair, founder of Common Good Radio, Internet
radio programming designed to lift up voices of children and family.
"Kids can be entertained without any commercials that
try to persuade them to desire something unhealthy," said Blair, who also serves
a "two-point charge" with Sandstone UCC and Finlayson United Methodist Church in Sandstone,
Minn. "Common Good Radio accepts no corporate advertising because kids are
not for sale."
The fallout of traditional media advertising targeted at children cannot be
underestimated, she said. "All the ads that your kids are exposed to
matter. They shape young minds and hearts, identity and perception."
Roots of Blair's labor of love are traced to her street ministry in central
New York state – and to one youth in particular whom she said she believed in,
despite his occasional run-ins with the law.
"It made me realize we cannot assume that children recognize their own
worth to God and to life's purpose," she said. "They don't know it
until we invite them to it."
Starting with a vision in 2008, Blair rolled out the welcome
mat. Common Good Radio web streaming began in 2009 and is now heard in 60
countries. Especially catching on with the 10-and-younger crowd, the
programming is "simply an attempt to support a compassionate lifestyle,"
said Blair. "Christian, interfaith, compassionate, you name it – the
On Common Good Radio, a listener is apt to hear a child's voice saying, "Telling
the truth is better;" the song "Big Yellow Taxi;" the parable of
the Good Samaritan; or the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children."
By submitting audio clips of themselves reflecting on spirit, youth learn to
participate safely in online media. Blair encourages youth groups and families
to submit recorded
reflections on scripture or concepts for use between songs. She also accepts
recordings burned on CD – like the one the missionary in Bolivia sent from her
Sunday school class.
Blair said she recently observed youth from her church dancing
to some of their favorite music. After she heard sexually explicit lyrics, she asked
whether they knew what they were hearing – and its implications. "They
said, 'Oh, we don't listen to the words. We just really like the beat.'
"Probably that is true for the most part," said
Blair. "On the other hand, if you are repeatedly exposed to something like
that, don't you pick up on it a little bit?"
Before answering the call to ministry, Blair had been a recording artist,
television personality and radio program director. TV program creator is also
on her resume.
Those experiences prepared Blair to envision an online radio outreach. She
started Common Good Radio with support from the Upper New York Annual
Conference, where she was serving at the time.
The station's revenue covers royalties and programming upgrades, but no
staff. Blair is appointed to Common Good Radio as an extension ministry of
Upper New York Annual Conference, but is not compensated. (Grand Island, N.Y.,
Trinity United Methodist Church holds the station's fiscal responsibility.)
She accepts online donations for Common Good Radio and is seeking a
fundraising volunteer so she can devote time to developing projects such as
live broadcasts or a parenting podcast, or starting Faithdreams, a sister
station focused on bedtime music.
"Other parent issues have to do with technology, video
games, cell phones, computer time," she said. "I would like to see
evening programming that offers parents a chance to have those discussions."
Blair's future programming vision also involves clergy
podcasting. Discussion topics might include the challenges of living in a
religiously pluralistic culture while still building up the body of Christ, she
"How do we respectfully hold on to what we believe our
faith is calling us to live into – and yet the biggest picture that God
provides us is that nothing was made that wasn't made by God. And that's the