Podcasting Church 101112

I’ve had an idea for a book in my head for a few years now. Since there is a challenge afoot, I started, November 2, 2010, to write that book. This blog will contain the very rough draft and I hope I’ll get a chunk of it out this month. No guarantee I’ll write everyday, but I hope this won’t be the last entry.

Genre

When it comes to creating a podcast, most churches would be tempted to repurpose existing content. You already have a Sunday message; you already have Wednesday nights, so why not reuse it? It’s possible to do, but should you? Maybe.

This is the most common genre of podcast that churches put out. As you consider doing this, you should ask yourself a couple of questions. “Who is my audience? Do I know anyone in this audience?” The reason that you ask the audience question is because it affects how you create. If your pastor has a following outside the church already, this podcast might be very different than if he doesn’t. If you hope to replace your CD ministry with a podcast, but your congregation is just getting used to CDs having only replaced cassette tapes because tape players are harder to get, this might not be for you.

If I were creating a podcast in this genre, I’d create an open and closing for it. I may or may not have a host to introduce it. I might have the pastor record some closing thoughts about other pieces that didn’t make it into the final message. I might have the pastor ask the worship leader about her song choices from this service in an interview style. There are lots of things you can do to quickly add to the content and make it even more engaging, even for people who’ve already seen it.

Classes

In a lot of churches, there are classes on one thing or another. Maybe it’s a membership class. Maybe it’s a marriage or parenting class. In my church, my pastor teaches a leadership class twice a month for a group of the core leaders. He wants them to be able to listen to it again. Originally, each class was put on CD. Each participant got copies. Over the course of a year, this got fairly expensive. In the second year, they converted to podcasts and now the reproduction cost is almost nothing.

It wouldn’t be difficult for us to take these classes and create a monthly version that’s distributed to anyone who wants it. It could include messages from others as an anthology of what the pastor knows and who he’s learned from.

Missions Moment

Does your church support a missionary? You’ll often get a yearly report from her in the field, telling you about what’s happened. What if instead of a yearly report, your pastor made a Skype call to her and asked what was going on, what are current needs, how can we pray? Wouldn’t that show you that the money really is important? Wouldn’t you celebrate the triumphs and mourn the losses even more than a yearly slide show?

Ministry Report

I grew up in a church that had business meetings. They weren’t horrible (like the ones in a divided church I went to during seminary), but they seemed to take time out for minutes and reports that felt like it could have been better used elsewhere. What if that became a podcast where the ministry leader gave updates with interviews and stories about how things were going? Imagine if the youth pastor interviewed students after a mission trip. Imagine if there were stories from each student about how they’d encountered God recently.

What I’m learning

These podcasts need not be long form, they could be short tidbits. What if the worship leader had a weekly minute (or five) where she told us about the new worship music she’d found and what it meant to her? She could talk about the Psalm that the song came from or the story from the artist. She could even say how Sunday worship affects her and how she chose the songs for a given topic.

Training

I couldn’t leave this one out. In tech, there are certain skills that need to be cultivated. We teach them one on one or in classes, but what if we took extra time and effort and created lessons that people could learn on their time? Imaging a PhotoShop for our church training. Two years from now, new people could quickly come up to speed without the leader scheduling a new class to teach basically the same thing she’d taught two years earlier. If you shift to a new way of doing things, a screencast might be an appropriate way to show the new worship software.

Meetings

Imagine that there’s a group that meets regularly, but from time to time someone needs to be absent. It seems like something always seems to come up that the very person who’s missing needs to hear. Normally someone will say something like, “Make sure you email so and so and let him know that he needs to look into that.” You could create a feed that members of the team can access whenever they’re gone or know they missed something in their notes. They can go back and look at it.

Announcements

Whether it’s someone just listing the weekly activities from stage or a preproduced video segment, most of us want to know what’s happening at church. What if you created a podcast for announcements so people could either refresh their memories or catch up when they’re gone.

Segments

Sometimes you just want to show off a certain piece of the service to friends and family that don’t go to your church. During our Easter series in 2009, I wanted to show off the work my fellow video teammates had done in our own “reality show” called “Justin vs. Shilito” where our assistant pastor supposedly spent five nights in a local city park “roughing it.” It was hilarious and might have been a piece that would have made church accessible to people who wouldn’t have normally come to church.

Music

If you get the rights to or they’re songs written locally, you could create a podcast for your musicians so that they could hear the music that you’re planning to play in upcoming weeks. If they’re not on, they don’t have to download it. If so, think of the time in duplication you’d save over mix cd’s.

Best of

What if you’d been recording your services for years and some of the great sermons of the past have been forgotten? You could create a “Best of” series kind of like the Saturday Night Live producers have. These could be organized by topic (financial, marriage, the love of God, etc.). They could be yearly retrospectives if your church has been around a long time. Your imagination is the only limit for how these are organized.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. has been a tech volunteer with Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of TrinityDigitalMedia.com, llc. He became part of the technology in ministry team when his church’s attendance was around 200 in one Sunday service and has witnessed it’s growth to 5,200 average weekly attendance in one Saturday service, four Sunday services in one online and two physical campuses. He literally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines.