Attract young adults via podcast
SUMMARY: Podcasts enable your church to spread the good word both geographically and youthfully. It is popular among teens, young adults and anyone using iTunes or mp3 players.
Your congregation and prospective members can take your messages on the road and listen at their convenience. Taking advantage of this technology starts with strategy. Grab a digital recorder, a microphone and a message—the simple formula for a good podcast.
What is a podcast and how can it help your ministry?
Podcasts are online-accessible recordings that give you another opportunity to share your message. They may be sound or sound and video. People subscribe to podcasts via iTunes and listen to them on mp3 players. Podcasts are convenient because users can take an mp3 player with them and listen on the road, at work, while exercising or anywhere.
Technically speaking, podcasts are a series of digital media files. Users can subscribe to them and automatically download them from a Web site. The “pod” part of the word stems from the Apple iPod, one of the most popular mp3 music players today. Other mp3 players also will play podcasts as well. “Cast” comes from broadcast and means to spread widely.
United Methodist Communications has a great podcast tutorial here. If it looks too complicated, do not worry. You may find a tech expert among your family, friends and colleagues. Now is the time to develop a strategy.
Consider the podcast another tool in your marketing arsenal. Start simple. What activities does your church already do? Consider airing them online. “Sunday sermons” is the most frequent response. Many churches post the audio of their sermons on their Web sites, taking the message into individuals’ homes.
The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, First United Methodist Church, Bedford, Ind., posts a weekly audio message that averages about 20 minutes on her blog:http://bedfordfirst.blogspot.com. While she will create a podcast with an individual message, Cook often picks a theme that extends over multiple weeks. This entices people to return to listen to the “next part” of her message. During the summer, for example, the theme “Be the Church” included parts such as “Be Compassion,” “Be Family,” “Be Justice,” “Be Light” and “Be Disciples.”
Trinity UMC, McMurray, Pa., posts the weekly sermon in podcast form on its Web site: www.trinitymcmurrayumc.com. First UMC, Austin, Texas, airs its sermons and adds some detail to assist site visitors (http://www.fumcaustin.org/resources/podcast.html) who may be unfamiliar with podcasts or how to use them from a technical aspect.
Mount Bethel UMC, Marietta, Georgia, also gives guidance on using podcasts at http://podcast.mtbethel.org. Its podcasts deliver the church’s traditional, Encounter and St. Philip services as well as what is happening. The last element—what is happening now—has allowed Mount Bethel staff to interview congregation members, nonprofit organizations and others to share lessons and news. In one podcast, for example, current and former mission directors discuss their efforts in Kwambekenya.
While the number of adults who listen to podcasts is growing, the younger generation grew up on digital audio files. This generation knows iTunes but does not know what a cassette tape is, let alone a record. Podcasts enable you to show the younger audience that your church relates to their needs by delivering messages in a youth-friendly format.
In fact, consider asking your youth group to create its own podcast—a series of broadcasts created by and for youth. Perhaps they can lead the team to create “News and Views” about all of your church’s happenings. They can coordinate and edit interviews, learn on-air broadcasting skills and gain valuable experience, all while feeling connected to their church.