Church Podcast Tips: For Every Episode

This is the first part of a series of blog posts I’ve done around podcast tips for the Church. You can find the other posts here.

We’ve got great content to share

I was at the Premier Digital Conference in November 2019, and was inspired by a talk by Pete Phillips who shared about how we can use ‘digital devices for faithful living’.

So many people have smart speakers at home, cars with interactive head units and phones in their pockets. Why can’t we make these devices all access the word of God which we are proclaiming.

It got me thinking about the content my church, Westminster Chapel, produces and how it can easily be accessed. First in mind was our podcasts of our Sunday sermons.

There are people in our community who can’t get to Sundays for whatever reason, either regularly or every so often, so the podcasts might be used as a way to connect with what’s going on during a Sunday service.

Additionally the recordings can be a great resource when there’s a message we think someone else should hear, and it would be amazing if they had an easy, painless experience consuming the content and technology doesn’t get in the way.

These are some things to consider when you have a podcast produced by your church, which is mostly your Sunday messages recorded and put out as a podcast. I’ve taken in to consideration the latest practices and thought about how we can make this resource even better and reach more people.


Jargon Buster

Some jargon I should clarify before we get too far;

  • Podcast channel; the whole name for a collection of podcast episodes, e.g. ‘Serial’, ‘This American Life’, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ are all podcast channels.
  • Podcast episode; what you may post as your Sunday sermon.
  • RSS/XML; the feed which goes to places like Apple, Google or Spotify to show a list of our podcast episodes.

My suggestions

There are two main types of suggestions in this series;
1) things you should do with each and every episode.
2) things which are technical setup and you should only have to do once (and maybe update infrequently to keep them ticking over).

Initially I’ll focus on the audio and weekly content in this post, whilst most of the technical and podcast channel suggestions can be found over here.


Hosting Your Podcast

The platform you publish your podcast on doesn’t matter too much, as long as it works for your team that has to publish them and you get the RSS feed you need to publish on various consumer platforms.

There is an abundance of them, and Podnews has helpfully produced an article of why you should choose one carefully and what you should consider along the way.

If you use a self-managed system like a WordPress installation with Blubrry’s PowerPress WordPress plugin, make sure you keep it up to date!

If you have an app platform like Subsplash, they may have some podcast tools you can use. Why create work for yourself on two platforms when you can do it on one!


Audio

Normalisation

There are some very detailed articles about podcast loudness, but in short, you don’t want your audio to be too quiet at one point and too loud at another where the listener has to keep turning it up and down.

In short, normalise your content.

If you have intros or outros which don’t really change and are pre-recorded each week, the sermon should be normalised before these are added.

  • Normalise the audio.

Up-to-date intro & outro

Introductions and outros for your content should be up-to-date, and probably reviewed at least once a year.

New introductions or outros might point people towards coming along on to a service to join you for worship and the sermon, or finding you on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter for the latest on how to get involved with your community.

If sermon notes/resources are available on the website, this could also be mentioned.

Bug bare: When mentioning a website, there’s no need to mention ‘www.’ as it isn’t needed to access a website typically and sounds horrible!

  • Update your intros & outros to point listeners to other resources/ways to become part of your church community.

Content

Episode Artwork

Episode artwork is displayed in many podcast services and helps users tie in visuals used during a service/series to the relevant piece of audio.

For each series, you’ll typically create a piece of artwork. Why not add this to all the relevant episodes from the series, as it will quickly enable a user to see all episodes in the series.

No doubt you also create title slides each week for use during the sermon. These could be repurposed and used on each individual item.
Whilst these probably won’t have been designed specifically for a square display, it may be appropriate when there is a guest speaker/special sermon that doesn’t fit a series.

  • Use the same series graphic on each episode from the series.
  • When there’s a special service/guest speaker, repurpose the title slide from the sermon for the episode artwork.

Titles & Descriptions

Creating better titles and descriptions can significantly boost listener engagement as they know what to expect before they start listening. Additionally, it can improve SEO on episode pages and within podcast services that provide a search function.

Putting just the sermon series or a Bible verse as the title is not particularly helpful on its own.

A potential format for your episode titles could be:
[Sermon title] - [Series title]

Whilst the description could look like:
[Speaker names] speaks about [Bible passage] as part of our series, [Series title].
Shared at [church name] on [DD Month YYYY].

A better description would then also include links to any references the speaker makes to books, other passages or further readings, however the suggestion above would be an improved first step.

  • Review titles and descriptions of episodes, to help better inform the listener what the content is. Create a template to work from each week.

Social Media

What do you do with your audio/podcast once you’ve uploaded it? Why not use it again and post it on social media mid-week to remind people they can listen to the latest sermon.

It’s possible to share and link to specific episodes using services like Podfollow or Podnews. These will also generate nice OpenGraph images for services like Facebook or Twitter to display.

Some churches have found that short clips from their sermons shared online have led to a high number of engagements.

Using services like Headliner, it’s possible to generate audiograms with accompanying images and subtitles.

  • Share sermon audio on social media and link to specific episodes.
  • When there is a significant moment from a sermon or word that is there to encourage the whole church, create an audiogram with an appropriate image and share it on social media.

For technical and distribution tips, read the second part here.

If you’ve found this article useful at all, feel free to share it, comment or let me know on Twitter.

There’s quite a few links in here, especially to a great source of podcast industry news and tips, Podnews. Check them out for the latest techniques and also signup to their daily email for the most up-to-date podcast related news.

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