April 20, 2023 8 Church Podcast Ideas (That Aren’t Your Sermon)
Stuff You Should Know. Crime Junkie. The Joe Rogan Experience. Broken Record. Smartless. The Armchair Expert. Honestly.
These are just a few of the titles of the more than 5 million podcasts out there producing over 70 million episodes! Nearly 290 million Americans over the age of 12 listen to podcasts weekly, and it’s safe to assume that a majority of your congregation is consuming this type of content as well.
Have you considered a strategy for leveraging this powerful tool to engage with your internal and external audiences?
Taking a step back to consider what it is about podcasts that is so compelling to people would be really helpful to understand why people may be spending so much time consuming this content and why it may be important for your church to consider implementing this tool into your ministry strategy.
The obvious reason people consume podcasts is entertainment. There are plenty of shows out there that seem to offer little-to-no redeeming value … I won’t name them here, or they may simply be hobby or interest specific, but a look beneath the surface may point to some more deeply rooted needs for people.
Here are 3 reasons people may be listening to podcasts:
1. People are obsessed with meaning and truth.
This is what’s behind true-crime, UFO investigation and the “random things you should know about” type of shows. People care deeply about understanding right and wrong, why things are the way they are, how the world has been shaped by the decisions of world leaders, how different people and cultures experience the world, and most importantly, do aliens exist? 👽🛸
2. People want to have meaningful and honest conversations.
Podcasts offer a unique opportunity to be a fly-on-the-wall when people have honest conversations about topics that are often hard to talk about. We don’t often see this modeled well in culture or in the church, but many podcasters have been able to facilitate these types of conversations really effectively.
3. People want to learn and grow.
So much of the podcasting content is around personal growth – spiritual, relational, professional, emotional, intellectual, etc. Podcasts offer content on-the-ready for people who want to develop some deficiency in their life or want to grow in their expertise on a particular subject. This striving to learn, grow and get ahead in our culture creates a massive market for experts on a subject to curate podcast content.
With these 3 reasons in mind, the church should be playing a pivotal role in elevating truth, modeling honest conversations and helping people grow.
Churches naturally curate a lot of content and draw on unique experiences through all that goes into preparing sermons, leading people and serving the community that could be drawn upon to help believers and spiritually curious people alike engage with faith. A podcast would be a great platform to unleash this reservoir of content in a way that could make a difference for your audiences.
Here are 8 ideas to consider:
- Unpack the sermon.
Pastors may preach for 45 minutes ( on a short week!), but they’ve got more they’re holding back … and they’d be happy to talk about it! Podcasts are a great place to deep dive into the sermon and uncover more of the deeper applications, biblical context and address questions that may arise from the sermon.
- Tell the story of your community. If you want people to care about serving in your community, you have to tell the story of what is going on in your community and why it matters. Set up interviews with local partners, highlight the ways small groups are serving or give updates on what is happening in your community. It doesn’t always have to be about what your church is doing - sometimes people aren’t even aware of the needs and the opportunities around them in their neighborhoods. A podcast can be a great way to create awareness that leads to action.
- Provide a spiritual practice.
In certain traditions and denominations, there is a rich history of daily devotionals, affirmations, prayers, and meditations. Could you record a daily, 5-minute reflection, offer a prayer or blessing and affirm God’s presence in their life? This could be catalytic for a person who may be looking for help with being still and listening to God.
- Tell stories of life change.
Telling the stories of how God is changing people’s lives is incredibly powerful. This encourages believer’s faith, compels people who aren’t believers and helps people in your congregation be known. As you begin building an archive of these stories, this could become key to developing a culture around celebration, authenticity and community!
- Real life pastoral care.
Want to try something not many people are doing? Find individuals (or couples) who are willing to sit down and talk about their spiritual journey and current reality on a podcast. This is different from telling a story you can put a bow on and resolve by the end of the episode. The payoff of this format comes in holding a conversation in the midst of figuring out what it means to follow Jesus or navigate singleness, marriage/divorce, parenting/barrenness, grief/loss, etc... You’d obviously need to do some solid vetting and proceed with care, but the power of hearing real people in your community talk with your pastor (or a trusted counselor) has the potential to spark increased vulnerability and a growing desire for authentic discipleship in your church.
- Model healthy dialogue.
It is deeply important for people to learn from, empathize with and compassionately interact with others who experience the world differently and think differently. Unfortunately, this is not what the Church is known for collectively, and individually, this doesn’t happen naturally. We are oftentimes landlocked with people who think like us, look like us, live like us and have similar experiences as us. Our social media algorithms even reinforce this for us! Imagine what it would look like for the church to become known as a place that brings people together with divergent experiences and differing values. Imagine the church being known as a place where people humbly seek to understand without assuming, ask questions without solutions and extend an invitation without prerequisites! I think it might look something like Jesus!
- Help your people think well.
This one is closely linked to the previous idea but with a focus on people who would say they are believers. Believers often struggle thinking well about how to engage with the ever changing values of culture and in a biblical way that reflects Jesus. The Church should be a leading voice that helps believers think about hot-button issues like the elections, LGBTQ+, war, poverty, racial reconciliation, science/faith, etc. How can you help your people think well?
- Let people see behind the curtain.
This might just be too much, but I dare you! Trust in church leaders has been on the decline for years now, so what if your pastors/board members/leaders processed what they’re thinking about publicly? What if they shared some of the burdens they’re carrying, the things they’re discerning for the church, the dreams they have for the future, how they work through hard situations, etc… How can a podcast help bring transparency to your organization? Then, get really brave and invite a Q&A session about it!
So, here are some ideas … now what? I’m glad you asked.
Getting started is actually quite simple. You only need 3 things:
Technology – This is the easiest part of the whole process! Your worship or tech leader will be able to get this set up very easily, or find a Gen Z kid who is streaming their video games online and ask them to set it up for you!
Leadership – Is there a person on your team that is passionate about this type of content? Finding this person is critical to keeping it going and making it effective. If you’re doing an interview style podcast, make sure you have a facilitator who is curious, empathetic and flexible to be able to lead through conversations in an engaging and natural way.
Focus – Determine what your “angle” is going to be. What is the thing that your community is passionate about or is experienced at leading through? What is a key strategic direction the podcast could serve for your church? What is your unique voice that others aren’t talking about? Clarifying what you want to focus on will be very helpful as you begin to pursue this.
We would love to hear from you! Have you tried podcasting? Are you considering it for your community? What are you learning? Let’s connect!
Written by Justin Langebartels