CHURCH & MINISTRY
The Ceiling Fan Podcast
A New & Authentic Voice in Youth Ministry
Ah...junior high school. The awkward moments desperately wondering if you'll be accepted. The heart-pounding feeling when you're left on your own in a room full of your peers. And for Christian teens, it can be a real test of faith. If you're 15 years old and singled out by a particularly witty bully for your belief in Jesus, I mean, come on...can burning at the stake really be that much worse? At least if you're martyred you can die and forget it ever happened.
Recently, we interviewed Kevin McCreary, one of the creators of the popular Christian podcast The Ceiling Fan.
"I received an email about a year ago from a young man who said he had just started middle school," McCreary told us. "He had been having a really hard time in school, making friends and dealing with new classes and stuff. He told me that it would have been unbearable if it wasn't for the days he would come home and get to listen to a new Ceiling Fan episode. I was honored that I could write back to that kid and encourage him, because I felt the same way when I was that age."
Ethan Daniels (voiced by McCreary) is the star of the podcast. Ethan is a typical teenage boy, a strange mix of insecurity and bravado, a good kid trying to cover up his innocence with a bad boy veneer and a garage band. "Someone once commented on the podcast," he says, "that Ethan reminds them of the most absolutely annoying boy in their class who always gets sent out of the room because no one wants to hear him talk all the time."
Like most teenagers, Ethan (and his friends) are annoying, stubborn and totally endearing. But unlike much of the entertainment created to compliment youth ministry, The Ceiling Fan never feels forced or preachy.
The show's popularity among kids and teens is its first credential — around half of the show's listeners are 13-15 year old males. The podcast parodies Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, and though it leans heavily on its listeners' knowledge of that world, The Ceiling Fan is still enjoyable for those (like myself) who had never previously listened to AIO. The script writing is excellent and the audio production is creative and engaging. Ethan's band even has its own album, available on iTunes! But the podcast's magic ingredient is authenticity — the feeling that the show's actors and creators actually remember what it's like to be a teen.
Along with this essential ingredient, the creators, actors and writers of The Ceiling Fan seem to have a natural gift for youth ministry. Interestingly, those gifts were encouraged by mentors who had an impact, rather than church experiences. "I don't know that church, as a whole, helped me in my faith nearly as much as specific individuals who took time to hang out with me and share truth with me," says McCreary. "I think kids can sit and listen to a sermon for 100 years and never learn as much as they would from a godly person taking time out of their day to be their friend."
The show crosses back and forth between the adventures of Ethan and his friends, the town of Odyssey, and the world of its creators. The main storyline is padded with humorous news broadcasts about events in the town of Odyssey, and there are some great extras. The show's creators also regularly take time off to talk directly to their audience, and let them see behind the scenes in video segments that reveal exactly how the show is made and recorded. One of the writers for Adventures in Odyssey, Nathan Hoobler, is a friend of the team and sometimes helps with interviews and even makes an few video appearances as an amusing straight-man (what is that pie really made of?)
The team behind The Ceiling Fan wants to entertain its listeners and to entertain themselves while they're at it. But they also want to inspire. "I hope people laugh," says McCreary, "Everyone on the team is a volunteer, and does it because they love the show. "I hope our listeners are inspired to pursue their own creative dreams, even if nobody's paying you...we continue to do our show with next to no budget, and though a budget would be nice, we have an amazingly talented team who continuously surprises me with their ability to make great content with extremely limited resources."
One of the best parts of the show is the yearly Thanksgiving episode, where the team shares about their past year. This is where the community aspect of the ministry really shines. It's like being fourteen again and listening to the comforting voice of a big brother or sister home from college. They really get you. They make you feel safe. They don't preach, but they're real about life and about God. Something like that can't be done without love, and that is why The Ceiling Fan podcast is being featured in this week's Love in Action column.
"I wouldn't do the show if I didn't love the people who listen," says McCreary. "For one, the whole podcast team is made up of fans of the show. I don't feel like a show creator, I just feel like a part of a fun community and I happen to help put together the podcast for that community. The listeners spread the word and we pray for each other and help each other out. I used to make recordings as a kid on a cassette player and try to get people to listen to them. I was the weird kid because of that. I'm still the weird kid, but it turns out I'm not the only weird one. Everybody is weird."
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