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It’s Time To Get Your Sermons Online

January 19, 2010 by

Each week pastors across the world are creating valuable content. They work hard studying, praying and seeking the wisdom of others. They then polish of this all into a sermon that’s (typically) delivered on Sunday morning. For years churches have been recording these sermons to CDs or tapes for those who are unable to attend the service. More recently though, some have been publishing their messages online. So is it time for your pastor to go digital?

Let’s start by taking a look at the potential benefits posting your sermons online can have:

  • For members who missed the service. Each week there is a percentage of your congregation that will be unable to attend the service for various reasons. For those people, providing easy access to the sermon online is a great service. This is especially important if your pastor teaches in series.
  • Spreading the word. Beyond your own congregation, there are people who will benefit from hearing these messages. Posting your sermons online lets people easily share sermons with friends through e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. A timely message may speak to a non-Christian’s heart in ways nothing else has.
  • Easy distribution. Once you put the pieces in place, people can subscribe to your sermons. Each time a new message goes online, they can be notified and in some cases the sermons will automatically be loaded onto their portable players or phones.
  • Listen again. There are some sermons that are just so rich and deep that it’s hard to take it all in Sunday morning. Being able to listen to the sermon again at home, work or in the car can be invaluable.
  • Promotional purposes. More and more people are searching online to find new churches. Letting people listen to sermons right from your web site gives them get a taste of the church culture, teaching style and the personality of the pastor.
  • Historical archiving. Remember that sermon from last year’s Christmas Eve service? Posting your sermons online gives your members, and your pastor, easy access to all past sermons; just a few clicks away.

Of course this isn’t a definitive list, and the actual benefits to your congregation will come in varying degrees. Looking over the list though it does beg the question: why aren’t more churches publishing their sermons online?

Typically I hear two reasons: a false perception that it is cost prohibitive and/or a general lack of technical know-how.

The truth is that publishing your sermons online does not need to be expensive at all. There is no need to invest in expensive recording equipment, streaming audio servers, high end microphones or pay a team of experts to show up every week to check audio levels. Think simple and start simple.

Getting the audio into a digital format
Most churches already run their audio through some sort of sound board. In this case a $2.00 adapter from RadioShack will allow you to plug directly into a digital voice recorder. A little tweaking and you’ll have great sounding audio in no time. Alternatively you could plug in a laptop and record using free software like Audacity.

If your church is already recording the audio to CD, you can pop the CD into your computer and use iTunes to import the digital file.

If you don’t run a sound board, stick the voice recorder on the pulpit and record from there. iPhones are great for this.

A note about audio quality: You may find yourself tempted to get caught up in perfecting the quality of the recording. Remember that it’s the content that’s important, not the fidelity of the recording. As long as you can clearly hear the message and there are no ear piercing hums, hisses, or pops, let it go for now. You can always improve the quality down the road.

Publishing the audio online
The technical term for taking audio files and publishing them online is “podcasting.” Don’t let the name scare you though, there are some great online services that can get your podcast up and running in minutes, with no technical experience needed. These podcasting services allow you to upload your audio files and then host them for you online. They also create your RSS feeds and a few other things, but it’s not necessary to dig into all of that at this time.

Below is a short list of online, full service, podcasting applications. You can search Google for “podcast hosting” and you’ll see there are plenty of others to choose from. Each service is a little different, but the better ones are extremely simple to use and require nothing more from you than an audio file and filling out a little information about each sermon.

(* Author’s note: I own and operate Buzzsprout, one of the podcast hosting services listed above. While I do think it’s an excellent service, each church has unique needs and no one service is going to be a perfect fit for all. My encouragement to you would be to click around and see how each service aligns with your needs.)

Promoting / Embedding / iTunes
So your sermons are recorded digitally and are hosted online. What now? Most of the podcasting services will provide you a few options for letting people access the audio files. Some may provide you with a podcast web site that you can link to from your own web site and some may provide you with code that will allow you to embed the podcast within your own site. At this point it really depends what you want and what the service you’re using provides. In any case I would recommend you submit your podcast to the iTunes podcast directory. iTunes provides the most popular podcast directory by far, and every podcast hosting service should provide clear instructions on how to get listed.

If your web site utilizes a blogging platform like WordPress or ExpressionEngine, ask your developer or search for podcast plug-ins for help integrating your sermons right into your existing site.

So is it time for your pastor to go digital?
Of course it is. These are valuable messages that the world needs to hear. Next time your pastor knocks one out of the park on Sunday morning, don’t just tell me how great it was…send me a link so I can listen for myself.

Post By:

Kevin Finn


Kevin Finn is a founding partner of Molehill, a small web application development shop out of Jacksonville, Fla. He has worked in the web industry for over 10 years, loves the Lord, his family and River City Church.
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27 Responses to “It’s Time To Get Your Sermons Online”

  • Justin Woulard
    January 19, 2010

    I’m glad you mentioned the iPhone as a recording device. I’ve been using mine to record my sermons for over a year and it works great, clear sound with no problems. Just remember to put it in airplane mode. At first I didn’t, but after losing the second half of a sermon because of a text message interrupting I have ever since.


  • Matt Rittgers
    January 19, 2010

    Our church just overhauled our media center on our website. We’re using a video hosting service called Vimeo that we are using to embed our videos onto our website.
    Check it out!
    http://www.prairielakeschurch.org/media-center/default.aspx


  • bondChristian
    January 19, 2010

    Yes, my fellowship is ridiculously in need of getting this going. It’s just been plain laziness on my part for not setting it up for them. Thank you for the encouragement and links to some of the resources to get started.
    It’s staggering to consider how many sermons have been preached over the years that have only lasted that short time on Sunday morning. I’m sure God has used them in specific ways in the moment, but the Internet is certainly offering a way to easily get it out there now.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.


  • Greg
    January 19, 2010

    Good info.
    Another site to look into for podcast hosting is Sermon.net. We’ve been using them for quite a while and the tools they offer are very user friendly.
    For most churches, I believe that using free applications such as Audacity to edit the file somewhat and clean up the audio a little is a must. While content is key, low quality can be off-putting. I teach classes on this and stress that the content also has to be pleasing to listen to. Degraded quality can be distracting.


  • Matt S
    January 19, 2010

    Another option, which we utilize: If you have enough space from your web hosting provider, and if you use WordPress as a backend, you could use the SermonBrowser plugin. With some template tweaks, it looks and works very nicely out of the box. Also allows you to integrate various media types, and with the AudioPlayer plugin, allows you to stream MP3s directly.
    We’ve been using a digital voice recorder hooked directly to the sound system, as you mentioned, and even downsampling the MP3 to 64bit, audio is quite good.


  • Andy Wittwer
    January 19, 2010

    Our pastor preaches from a transcript so, in addition to the audio, you can read the whole thing. The benefits are great – many people learn better through reading, it creates a searchable archive, it’s easier to jump to a particular point … in addition, although I haven’t done this yet, you could link to resources throughout the text of the sermon. Oh, plus it makes it available to the hearing impaired (and perhaps even translatable if the need arose?). It’s a service I’ve been excited to offer.
    Back to audio – http://www.sermoncloud.com/ is another great resource for podcasting.


  • Todd
    January 19, 2010

    One thing to keep in mind… If you are doing this, then remember that everything you say is out there for public record.
    Last year we had a former attendee launched into the national spotlight (her name starts with an S, ends with a n, and has arahPali in between). Our 7 years on sermons that were online were harvested by news outlets, bloggers from the left and right, and the opposing political party. (At one point there was 100,000 attempts at downloading…)
    So, if you are going to put it out there, make sure they you are aware of what you are saying, and be prepared for people to judge, take it out of context, and to misinterpret it.


  • Ted
    January 19, 2010

    The pastor of my church went online a while ago. I have heard him say that before they went online they had a large TV ministry. Now, for a fraction of the cost, they have more people listening and a larger scope, being a world-wide reach. Great post, thank you.


  • Ted
    January 19, 2010

    My pastor went online before I started attending the church. Before they went online they had a large local television ministry. But, they made a decision to go online. I have heard him say they have more people listening now, and the reach is global. There are times when the sermon is not recorded or posted due to sensitive nature of the subject or the speaker.
    Good post, thank you.


  • MP
    January 19, 2010

    When I started attending my past church they had a radio ministry where they would have an hour long program of music and the sermon. When I left we had switched from tape to cd for the radio and we would typically have the sermon online within 30 minutes after the service ended.
    We used a computer connected to one of the outputs on the mixer. Everything was recorded, edited, and exported as mp3 in Audacity. We then made a lower bitrate version in Switch Sound File Converter, and uploaded the lower quality file to a podcasting system called Loudblog on the website server. All the software was free and hosting only cost $9/month for all the storage we need (we have back to 2005 so far). Right now things have stalled because the computer died, but the new one should be running later this week.
    As for the new church, they have a CD ministry, but currently have no plans to put anything online. I working on changing that.
    I have fairly extensive experience in audio, and quality is more important that you would think. You’d be suprised how distracting a bad recording can be.


  • Emilio Espinosa
    January 20, 2010

    I am right there with you and have helped many a ministry over the years get their messages recorded and distributed. My only problem is with the fact that many ministries don’t really look at providing their messages as a part of their outreach and service to their communities, but rather see it as another avenue for revenue.
    Sermon CDs can cost you from 5 to even 15 bucks and a series can easily run you 50 – 100 bucks or more for 4 or 5 CDs. I understand the concept of “overhead” but it can get ridiculous.


  • Matt
    January 20, 2010

    Pardon the pitch here, but if you’re looking for a simple way to put your sermons online, you should check out City Gates. The podcasting function is designed just for churches, so sermon audio and video are dead simple to upload – and it comes pre-integrated with iTunes and RSS. Contact me if you’re interested! :)


    • Margaret Ebangit
      April 23, 2012

      Contact me. I want to know more about getting my sermons on line. I have a few copies of sermons I preach on radio in Uganda. I am interested in getting them on the interent.

      Bevery blessed!

      Margaret


  • Andy Wittwer
    January 22, 2010

    This makes me wonder: what other technologies should churches be making use of?


  • Pierre-Yves Mutrux
    January 25, 2010

    As audio engineer, specialized in acoustics, I can only agree with Greg. The audio quality needs to be sufficient to warrant good intelligibility. It’s not enough to get the message out, it also needs to be understood, don’t you think? And the most commonly overlooked thing in churches is the impact of the room acoustics on the recording!
    But thanks Kevin for this post and for Buzzsprout that I’m using.


  • Greg Powell
    January 28, 2010

    This was a great topic and couldn’t come at a better time. Whats the feeling on having your sermons podcast/archived vs. a full ‘Online Campus’
    The costs are certainly higher, but there seems to be SO much more functionality of a campus. In any capacity, having your message online is a great thing. Good to see people being so innovative!


  • Shawn
    March 1, 2010

    Good article.
    I would agree that you can improve quality later, but I caution that you shouldn’t wait too long.
    Churches spend thousands on sound systems just so the people in attendance can hear the message. Don’t be afraid to spend some time in trimming, cleaning, and amplifying your audio as needed before posting it to the world.
    I spend 1-1.5 hours a week tweaking sound files before putting them up on the web. That might seem a bit much, but think about the time that the pastor put into study and composition, and think about the eternal value of the message, and it just makes sense to me.
    I pay attention to the places where the pastor moves away (or turns his head away) from the mike, and I give them a boost.
    Result: I’ve actually had people who were part of the live congregation go to the web to listen to the message again and they’ve left comments that they were able to catch things they missed (or couldn’t quite hear) during the live sermon.
    “Faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17)
    I did like the article, and I would like to thank the churches that have made posting their messages a priority. I regularly scour the net looking for sermons to listen to throughout the week and have been very blessed by pastors I have never met. Thanks to all of you sisters and brothers who are not hiding your light (or sermons) under a bushel.


  • Heather
    June 21, 2010

    Our church uses a free service called Sermon Companion (www.sermoncompanion.com), which is nice as you can upload an unlimited amount of sermons and host them 100% free of charge!!

    I upload our services each week to our website, which we were able to embed the sermon player as well to our site so that members of our church or other listeners do not have to access the sermon audio from a third party website.


  • jason
    July 15, 2010

    Oh such a wonderful and encouraging article. More churches should go digital. This is ideal for people like me who wish to stay connected without the obligation of going to church when traveling. I listen to some online sermons my church offers – http://www.crosspointechurch.tv/media.html Wonderful to see more people encouraging this.


  • Brian
    August 5, 2011

    We use http://BridgeElement.com they have a great “all-in-one” media player – http://ThatsGrace.org/media.html – It has an iTunes feed built in.

    But the best part is they put our sermons into our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/thatsgrace Now when we update our media player it creates a post on our Facebook page that has a little audio player, in the feed! I think more people listen to it in Facebook, we have seen tons of positive feedback from attenders and non-attenders!


  • Juan
    March 27, 2012

    I run a church website through Homestead Websites. I was looking at Podcast Machine on your list because it looks like the free option. I am looking to be as cost effective as possible. I am aiming to upload one audio sermon a week. Would this be my best option? Does Podcast Machine give a embed code that I can put into a website, or will I have to put a link in and direct users to another site to listen to sermons? I have to do that with Vimeo videos.


  • Paul
    February 20, 2013

    Great article and every church should be doing this. In fact it would be nice to see a related post about how to video your sermon and get that out. Our church has over 100 sermons on our church website and have had over 10,000 downloads at http://www.cliftoncommunitychurch.org.uk/sermons. We’ve just started a podcast through iTunes as more and more people have smartphones they can use to subscribe and automatically download the mp3.


  • Sylvan Finger
    May 29, 2013

    The question I have is how many sermons should a church post online. As with my church it’s not like we have a transcript with our sermons so that the search engines can tag our sermons well. It’s just audio. The main reason for my concern is that my church’s website provider will reach it’s limit on storage space soon. Perhaps I could encourage my church to switch to an unlimited data host provider. Nevertheless, I’m thinking that only posting three years instead of 5 is a plentiful number of sermons. Any other thoughts. How about one month or one season? It’s not like my church is saying anything revelatory. The message is designed to minister for the laity of that day.


    • Julie
      May 30, 2013

      Sylvan — I post our audio sermons the day after they are given. 99% of the traffic to each audio sermon comes on the same week it is released. We decided not to do any back archives to save space, and because there is low interest. We just publish as they come. Then I keep all our recorded sermons (they’re on CD) in my office, just in case someone comes and asks for a sermon from, say, Pentecost 2006.

      Just some insight from my experience. I get 35 to 40 unique listeners for each sermon. Our snowbirds (Minnesota church) really enjoy listening while they’re away. I link every sermon immediately from our Facebook (443 fans) and Twitter pages (40 followers). Facebook really helps in driving traffic to the audio sermons.


  • David
    March 21, 2014

    You may also want to consider UCstreaming. Video is on the rise. They have this cool webcam deal that helps save money while streaming HD video.



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