Churches, it is time to start podcasting. The time for
I am not exactly sure when the church went from being an early adopter to being a “way too late adopter” of communications technology. The church was at the forefront in the use of the printing press, radio, and television to spread the Word of God and connect people to the Christian community. Perhaps the world-wide-web marked the point that churches stopped taking advantage of all the tools at their disposal. Honestly, there are still churches that don’t have a functioning website.
Don’t miss this one. Audio is exploding as a means to communicate. With the ease of production and distribution of video, many thought audio alone would no longer be an effective means of communications. But then came the podcast.
What is a podcast?
Wait. Didn’t I just write that we were going to put the word “podcast” aside? Yes. I did. Now let’s look at broadening our definition.
A podcast, at its most basic, is a downloadable audio file.
A podcast, at its most basic, is a downloadable audio file. We are talking about a program of some sort, usually produced on a regular basis. Podcasts can have one or more hosts, might have guests, and may come out as frequently as every day, every week, or less often. Podcasts can be any length. There are some that go on for hours. There is one my son listens to every day that is just over two minutes. (More on that in a moment.)
There is a podcast about nearly everything.
As far as subject matter goes, if you can think about it, there is likely a podcast about it. It is amazingly easy to start a podcast. That fact has led to a large number of niche podcasts.
If you are looking for a podcast on fly fishing, there are at least twenty that I found with a quick search. Love your Instant Pot? You can choose from a number of podcasts on the topic. If I want to listen to a podcast about Honda cars while driving my Accord, I found at least two options.
While the podcast has been around in some form since the 1980s, it really took off with the introduction of the iPod. (That’s where they got their name – iPod cast.) Remember those quaint devices that played audio and did little else? When the iPhone and other smartphones started appearing in people’s pockets, the latest episodes could be downloaded automatically making listening even easier.
Alexa, play me a podcast.
While most of us weren’t even paying attention, the role of audio expanded again. As of 2018, it was estimated that 43 million Americans now own a smart speaker. These include Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and others. While some of these are beginning to add screens, they are primarily audio devices. At first, they could answer questions, play music, and operate smart devices. But people quickly got creative. Now you can schedule an Uber ride, order a pizza, and even connect multi-colored buttons and play trivia games with the family.
And, because these are audio devices, they are perfect for playing podcasts. Podcasts have even become tailored to the devices. My seven-year-old now listens to a “podcast” twice a day. It is called “Chompers,” and it guides him through brushing his teeth while teaching him about animals, the human body, money, and other topics. He never misses brushing, he always brushes in all the right places, and he never brushes for under two minutes.
Chompers is produced by a company called Gimlet Media. Gimlet Media was started in 2014 as a standalone media company focused solely on podcasting. A lot of people thought they were crazy. Apparently streaming music platform Spotify didn’t because they just purchased Gimlet for $230 million. Spotify also just picked up a company called Anchor, a podcasting hosting company that specializes in helping new podcasters get started. So, Spotify is no longer just a music streaming platform. They are a significant player in podcasting.
Audio, Much Safer in Cars than Video.
Audio has always been the media of choice in cars. That makes sense because video and driving don’t mix. Americans spend an average of over 17,000 minutes a year driving.
Radio was the king of the car for a long time. Then, cassettes and CDs started to take some of that market share. Eventually, satellite radio came along and threatened to own our car speakers but then connected smartphones jumped into the mix. Now, drivers can find a playlist of podcasts to take them right through their morning and afternoon commute.
It’s Time for Churches to Get Creative…
When I talk to churches about podcasting, I rarely get much interest. Some don’t understand how much podcasts have become part of daily life for so many people. Others do but suffer from a failure of imagination. People might think of a podcast they listen to and think, “How would that translate to a topic related to the church?” Well, it doesn’t have to. You don’t have to create a podcast like any other podcast you have heard. Basically, you have a free, open audio channel that can reach millions in their headphones, on their smart speaker, in their cars, and wherever technology makes audio available next.
Over the next few weeks and months, I will be posting some “how to get started” pieces for churches looking to begin podcasting. In the meantime, spend some time thinking creatively about what you could do with one of the fastest growing mediums.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
A Daily Audio Devotional During Lent
This could be less than five minutes. With the right planning, it could be written upfront and recorded in one day and then released once per day. Your church members and friends could listen in their cars, on their smart speakers, or at their computers.
Sharing Your Sermons
I wrote in a previous post how you could share audio recordings of your sermons online for free. Putting them in podcast form makes it easier for tech-savvy people to access and share them. Even if you are sharing video sermons online, you should also consider sharing them as audio only on a podcasting platform.
Offering a Bible Study
I hear lots of complaints about how it is hard to get people to come to church on any day but Sunday. Attendance at mid-week Bible studies continues to fall. While there is nothing better than physically being together to study scripture, this is a chance to offer something to people who won’t or can’t show up at a specific time and place. Even people who do attend Bible studies may enjoy having something else to listen to while in the car, doing laundry, running on the treadmill or whatever people do while listening to something.
Offering Something for People Who Don’t Go to Church
Are you really good at talking about God in ways that are compelling to people who don’t attend church? Even among people who have left the church or never went in the first place, there is an interest in spirituality. How about a podcast about Christianity in pop culture? Or, Christian History of non-believers? Or, some other topic altogether as an offering to the community from the church.
I have a friend who is a devoted Christian and a small-business coach. She does a weekly podcast dedicated to helping women succeed in business. It is not a religious show, but she doesn’t hesitate to bring up God, Jesus, and scripture in a non-judgemental way when they relate to her topic. She has a lot of listeners who aren’t Christian. Maybe they tune her out when she starts talking about God. Or, perhaps they don’t.
If you are reading this, you may or may not be the one to be the host of such a podcast. Maybe you can think of someone who would be able to make a difference in this space. Perhaps it is your job to convince that person or be a cheerleader, or maybe a producer or assistant.
So, Where Do I Start?
Before you go out and buy a microphone or start learning about podcast hosting, bitrates, and audio editing, think about what you want to do. Think about who you want to reach, what you want to accomplish, and what unique gifts you can bring to the table.
Stay tuned for more help getting started!