More than ever before, people are engaging with audio content through podcasts. The latest stats for 2019 say that over 144 million Americans are listening to podcasts regularly, with about 40% of all people under 55 listening at least monthly, with growth year over year (stats from www.thepodcasthost.com/listening/podcast-industry-stats/).
If you’re not familiar yet with podcasts, essentially they are talk radio shows, accessible on demand at no cost through phones, computers, and tablets. Nearly every topic under the sun now has a podcast and people love the ability to take thoughtful conversations or teaching about topics that interest them everywhere they go. Unlike video streaming, podcasts can be taken more places like driving in the car, washing the dishes, or on a jog. The power of the human voice provides an intimate connection between host and listener, and without the time constraints of a radio show, podcasts can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours in length. There are no rules in the “Wild West” of digital audio in our pockets.
People are flocking to podcasts, and there’s a hunger for more interesting, thoughtful content on important issues people are wrestling with in their normal lives. So, as Christians, if we are to be incarnational and take the hope of Christ into all spheres of culture, some of us must also join the world of podcasting! It can become a powerful tool for engaging new people by having extended conversations on important topics that aren’t able to happen in a Sunday liturgy format.
In the last year, I have entered this world myself and now host two podcasts. One is a weekly podcast called Word Made Digital (currently sponsored by Wycliffe College) which hosts long-form interviews with Christian creatives and communicators to encourage and equip young Christians. The second is a brief daily podcast called The Future Church, which offers very practical tips each day for church communications and media workers. Although my podcasts are not overtly “evangelistic”, it has been amazing to see thousands of people discover it and lean into the authentic conversations about church life. Some of my listeners are not yet believers, but value the content and keep returning.
How do people find your content in a vast array of options? How do you actually “reach” people?
As with most things, if they’re good the word spreads. The number one way people find new podcasts to listen to is by posting on social media and asking for recommendations, Second is asking a friend personally. Third is through searching keywords in a podcast app (stats from www.thepodcasthost.com/listening/podcast-industry-stats/).
If you prayerfully and thoughtfully create interesting, entertaining, or intellectually challenging content on topics of faith, people will come back for more and tell their friends. They will post about it on their social media if they like an episode. They’ll pass on a certain segment to a friend going through a hard time. And remember, if even 500 people are listening, don’t be discouraged you’re not a podcast listened to by thousands or millions. 500 listens is 499 more people than you were reaching with your thoughts before you started a podcast!
Starting a podcast is not expensive. Here’s a few basic things you need in terms of equipment:
- A microphone. I recommend the Blue Yeti USB mic which retails for about $150, but you can also use something cheaper/simpler, right down to a pair of headphones with a microphone built into them.
- A computer. You likely already have one of these, but many tablets now can also record audio. All current computers would come with free basic audio recording apps like QuickTime on Mac. If doing interviews at a distance, Skype can record the audio for you for free on their calls.
- A place to host the files online. It’s very possible that your own church website could be set up to do this and so its not an additional cost. Platforms where people listen to podcasts like Apple, Google Play, or Spotify check for new episodes from your site (via RSS feed) and offer them to people on their sites to listen at no cost to you.
- An idea. What are you passionate about in sharing your faith? Do you wish you had more time in the homily for content? You could do a follow up audio recording for the “drive home” podcast after sermons. Do you love the intersection of religion and culture? What about recording interviews with people involved in both? Want to talk apologetics all day? Do it in a podcast! Want to tell stories of God at work in real people in your community? Interview them and share it with the world.
If you do begin a podcast, consider how to make it sustainable.
Maybe you need a co-host or a few members of the congregation to participate with you, recording multiple episodes at once so you have content ready to release into future weeks/months. Podcasting is cheap, but it does cost your time and commitment, and I’ve learned this first hand. The first while it will take longer as you learn, but soon it will become a much simpler process and you’ll start to get the feedback of listeners engaging with your content!
A quick Google search will also get you on your way to setting up your equipment and posting them online, but also feel free to reach out to me if you’d like more help getting started.
Joanna la Fleur