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.