The Grandfather Effect is the most unique podcast you’ll have ever encountered on Moody Radio. Debuting May 19, the series tells host Brian Dahlen’s dramatic family story over seven suspenseful episodes. Through candid, thought-provoking conversations, you’ll discover the Dahlens’ secrets, faith, sins, and attempts at forgiveness—while learning hopeful lessons for your life along the way.
Brian Dahlen, cohost of Mornings with Brian on Moody Radio Cleveland, recently sat down to talk about The Grandfather Effect. After reading his interview, you’ll be eager to hear the first episode of our most anticipated podcast of the year!
BRIAN: The concept for The Grandfather Effect podcast began in the fall of 2016. Initially, it had more to do with creating a new space in Christian podcasting than this particular story. I’m an avid consumer of podcasts and particularly love storytelling podcasts. While Christians certainly produce podcasts, we generally only make either preaching programs or conversation podcasts. The most popular podcasts in the world tell great stories, and followers of Jesus don’t have a relevant voice in that genre.
We aren’t in that space for a few reasons. It’s both time consuming and expensive to create storytelling podcasts. I also think we have an unnecessarily narrow view of Christian storytelling. Typically, we only tell one story: the gospel. While I most certainly love the gospel, I don’t think every great Christian story needs to have a salvation story arc. Do our great stories really end when we get saved? I hope not. We all experience the complexities of life and struggle to live out our faith in the midst of it. And not all of our stories have happy endings. Life just doesn’t work like that.
BRIAN: I needed to demonstrate what this type of Christian podcast would sound like. Out of convenience and practicality, I looked inward. I had one lurking unresolved family issue that seemed to have potential for a podcast storyline. I knew my paternal grandfather disowned my family when I was a little boy over something seemingly trivial. But we never talked about it, and none of it made much sense to me. Maybe this story would be worth telling.
From that point, I was off and running. What I thought would take a few months turned into more than five years of exploration, interviews, revelations, and production.
BRIAN: The whole story hinges on the participation of my parents. Since I was too young to know what was going on when the relationship broke, I needed their insights to figure out what happened. In November of 2016 I wrote my parents a long email proposing the concept and asking for their blessings and participation. I went the email route so they’d have time to process the gravity of the request without me staring at them. They asked for time to consider, and after a few weeks and a few in-depth conversations they agreed to participate.
But none of us knew where this would lead. My dad only has one brother and not many living relatives, and he isn’t close with any of them. So we didn’t know what, if anything, I’d be able to uncover. I eventually connected with relatives and recorded interviews. I was pleasantly surprised at how willing people were to discuss this family story.
BRIAN: I made the false assumption that answers would be easy to find and situations would be simple to explain. I was wrong. As time went by and things got more complicated, I was faced with the reality of making my family drama public knowledge.
The decision to move forward wasn’t as difficult as you might imagine. I’ve been in radio ministry for 15+ years. The Lord has guided me toward transparency as a foundational part of my role in the kingdom. Too often Christians feign perfection and hide our struggles. I believe true intimacy with Christ and each other cannot be achieved without confronting brokenness. If God wants to use my family story as a teaching tool for understanding relational brokenness and reconciliation, I’ll follow where He leads.
BRIAN: Developing The Grandfather Effect has had a profound impact on me. I didn’t expect the Lord to use this experience as a mirror that compelled me to stare directly at my own sin and brokenness. As I examined my family’s mistakes, I saw my own propensity to have the same weaknesses. I discovered how I’ve been unwittingly continuing unhealthy cycles in my own life.
This led to some deep self-exploration through both professional counseling and discipleship. Lord willing, I’m growing in spiritual maturity and in intimacy with Jesus through this project.
BRIAN: This seven-episode series is in the very final stages of production. A few episodes need some final edits, but we’ve ultimately got the project down to about 95% complete. We will begin releasing episodes weekly starting in May.
BRIAN: Podcast listeners will feel right at home when they begin this series. Radio listeners will find it both unfamiliar and compelling. Everyone will realize that I’m taking you along on a journey rather than analyzing and neatly packaging it for you afterward. You’re with me as I have intimate conversations with my family. You eavesdrop on the moment I make discoveries. And like me, you won’t know what happens next.
BRIAN: I’m a huge fan of storytelling podcasts. Anyone familiar with the genre will know how NPR’s Serial ultimately innovated the concept of telling one story over multiple episodes. Many of these podcasts have an unwritten agreement with the listener. They are taking you along on a journey of discovery related to a mystery of some sort, maybe an unresolved question. But there’s an understanding that nobody knows how it will end, even the storyteller. It’s even possible that the story won’t have an ending at all or will create more questions than answers.
But isn’t life like this? Aren’t we all in the midst of a story following Jesus where we don’t know what twists and turns are ahead? Where we’re promised salvation, not comfort and prosperity? It’s my hope that The Grandfather Effect will be one of those stories.
BRIAN: I assembled a focus group for this series. I asked them to listen to the story and share their experiences. Everyone walked away with different highlights and takeaways. They all seemed to focus their attention on a particular aspect of the story that most resonated with their own lives. The universal response was that listeners began to see themselves in my story. They saw their own families in what happened to mine.
Lord willing, after listening to The Grandfather Effect you’ll implement Christ-centered change in your own family.
BRIAN: You should listen to The Grandfather Effect because it’s a story about a real family. About sin. About brokenness. About reconciliation. And it’s about how to navigate the realities of how messy life can be. Christians need this kind of story today more than ever.
BRIAN: It’s a bit cliché, but I hope this podcast series draws listeners closer to Jesus and stops unhealthy cycles of generational sin in families.
Brian Dahlen is host of Mornings with Brian on Moody Radio Cleveland. Brian became a Cleveland morning show host after working at Moody Radio Chicago as a radio host, producer, and cohost of a weekly podcast. Brian caught the radio bug while teaching history at a high school near Minneapolis, where he was cohost and producer of a weekly radio program. After teaching for six years and graduating with a master’s degree in education, Brian lives with his wife and five children in Broadview Heights, Ohio.
The Grandfather Effect is a gripping new storytelling podcast from Moody Radio's Brian Dahlen. The podcast follows Dahlen’s family and their rocky road from relational brokenness to reconciliation. The seven-episode series takes you on an emotional journey into their secrets, faith, sins, and attempts at forgiveness.