Sermon Podcast Basics
Before we explain how to podcast sermons, we need to explain what they are. Many people don't realize that a sermon podcast is different than posting a sermon on their website. When a sermon is posted to your website, people must visit your website to listen to or download the sermon. They have to do this each time a new sermon is posted. With a sermon podcast, every time a new sermon is added to your website, podcast subscribers automatically have the sermon downloaded to their device. They can also set up their subscription to be notified when a new sermon is added to your website. When set up in this way, subscribers can stream the sermon instead of downloading it.
Audio vs Video Podcasting
There is an excellent article in Church Tech Today on whether churches should use audio or video podcasting. The article gives a lot of information but the gist of it (and we agree) is that, for small to medium sized congregations, audio is preferable. Video filming and editing can be quite complex to produce and most small to medium sized churches don't have the money or expertise to do this. Also listening to a sermon is often done in situations where viewing is not possible. For these reasons, we will only be addressing audio podcasting.
Sermon Podcast Advantages
- You can keep sermons as long as you like. If the sermons are simply uploaded to your website, they will only be available as long as you leave them there. Many times to save room on the website server, a church only leaves their sermons up for a period of time. So when they are taken down, people will no longer be able to listen to them. When you podcast sermons, however, people can save their favorite sermons on their device as long as they like.
- You can reach a larger audience. When you podcast sermons, they are often added to a service like iTunes. iTunes is a directory that people visit and search for music and and other types of audios. When your sermon podcast is added to one of these directories, people searching the directory can also find it there.
- People can arrange podcasts how they like. The person who subscribes to podcasts can arrange them on their device any way they want. This makes it easier for them to find what the podcast when they are looking for it.
When someone signs up for a sermon podcast subscription they don't need to visit your website in order to listen to the sermons. This may not be what you are after so it does need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to add podcaasting to your website.
Some Technical Background
So we have talked about what a podcast does and how it is used, but how does it work? That is the question we will answer next. A podcast consists of 4 things:
- An audio file. The first thing you need is the ability to record your sermons and edit them. That is not the focus of this article so we won't be going into detail here.
- A place to host your audio file. This can be on a website or a service like soundcloud.
- An RSS feed. An RSS feed is an XML file that let's a feed reader know when new content has been posted to your website.
- A podcast directory. Once the audio has been made and the RSS feed is in place, the feed should be registered in one or more directories. The biggest directories are iTunes, Stitcher and iHeart Radio. Many people visit these directories looking for things to listen to and you need to register to get your sermons seen on them.
Step by Step Guide: How to Podcast Sermons
There are 2 ways to podcast sermons. One is to host your sermons on your website and the other is to host them on an audio hosting service like Soundcloud or Buzzsprout. We are assuming your church has (or should have) a website so we will only go through the steps to podcast sermons from it. Since there are also many different kinds of websites and ways to post sermons on them we will also limit our discussion to WordPress websites because they are what we specialize in.
- The easiest way to add sermons to your website and create a podcast is with a sermon plugin like Sermon Manager or Series Engine. These plugins create custom post types that will allow you to display your sermons in a high quality, professional manner. So the first step is to install the plugin on your website.
- The second step is to add your sermons. You will want to use MP3 format for your audios as this is accepted by almost every device.
- The next step is to submit your RSS feed to a podcast directory. Both of the plugins I mentioned in step 1, create an RSS feed for you. iTunes is by far the most visited directory so we highly recommend submitting your podcast there. Click here for a great tutorial on how this is done.
- Once the podcast has been approved (normally about a 10 day process) you can link to your podcast and people can subscribe to it from there.
A sermon podcast is a great way to get your message in the hands of a larger audience.