1 Effective Strategy Very Few Churches Are Using
You won’t know this unless you’ve been following my work for a long time, but I was actually a very early adopter of podcasting. My friend Tim Stevens and I had a podcast called the Simply Strategic Show about 12 or 13 years ago—maybe even longer. I can’t remember :-)
The fun Tim and I had creating the content probably outweighed the actual value it brought to the listeners, but we loved it. We did that for about a year, and then I was out of podcasting for a long, long time.
A few years ago my team at The Unstuck Group encouraged me to pick podcasting back up, and Sean Bublitz, one of our ministry consultants, has been extremely helpful moving it forward.
Why this history lesson? Because I think a lot of church leaders heard about podcasting a long time ago and either tried it and gave it up, or never really gave it a shot at all, and many have misconceptions about how they could be using a podcast strategy to help people take their next steps as disciples.
Honestly, when we were planning this episode we tried to come up with a list of great church podcasts to share with you and we gave up. We just couldn’t get a solid list together.
The truth is, many churches have a podcast, but it’s not the kind we’re talking about. Most just post the audio from their weekend teaching online and that’s it. Not very strategic. Or creative. And at the same time our churches are rapidly becoming the place people don’t go for answers for their lives’ questions.
So, in this episode, Sean Bublitz joined Amy and me to talk about podcasting as a part of your ministry strategy. Here are some of the things we discussed:
- Why podcasting makes sense as a strategy for making disciples
- Why podcasting is a key way to connect with Millennials (2/3 of podcast listeners are under 44)
- How podcasts diverge from our modern understanding of attention spans
- The kinds of podcast we WISH church leaders would tackle
- A practical how-to for getting started
A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Church Podcast
Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting? Already convinced this is your next step? To accompany this week’s episode, we created a practical guide for you:
Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content, and this week, it also provides a practical How-To for starting your church’s strategic podcast.
Opt-in here and get the Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Church Podcast for this episode, as well as access to the archive.
Share Your Thoughts and Questions on Social Media
We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.
Links & Resources from the Episode
- A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Church Podcast
(only for Show Notes subscribers!)
- Why Church Communication Is Stuck in 2004 – Episode 61
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Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Bublitz, and each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. As the speed of life and the pattern of business increases in our culture, we’ve seen an equal impact in church attendance – that’s left many churches having less of an influence in people’s lives from week to week. What if there were a way to connect with people where they are in those 167 hours of the week that there isn’t a church service? This week, I joined Tony and Amy on the podcast to look at a key tool we think churches are missing when it comes to engaging people outside of the walls of the church. Make sure as you listen this week to grab the show notes at theunstuckgroup.com/episode101. You can also join our conversation on social media by using the #unstuckchurch when you post. You can connect with Tony, Amy, and myself and explore this episode as well as others. I would also like to suggest that you make your busy life a little easier and subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get one email with all of the info, including the leader guide, resources we mentioned and bonus resources. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s the conversation I had this week with Tony and Amy.
Amy: 01:11 On this week’s podcast, we’re talking about podcasting, specifically podcasting for churches. Joining us is our teammates Sean, who helps produce this podcast. So welcome Sean.
Sean: 01:22 Hey Amy, it’s great to be with you guys on this side of the podcast.
Amy: 01:26 Good to have you and Tony. Yeah. Let me just ask, why are we taking the entire podcast or an entire episode to talk about podcasting for churches? I thought most churches already have a podcast.
Tony: 01:36 Well, most churches do. That’s true. Many churches do have a podcast, but not the kind of podcast we’re talking about. Most churches just post the audio from their weekend teaching online and then they don’t do anything more. But when you look at the statistics of the number of people engaging with online content, particularly with podcasting, we’re missing a great opportunity to be a part of people’s lives with the other 167 hours they’re not at church and really to reach people who aren’t yet connected to a church. And so part of the challenge here is that our churches are rapidly becoming the place people don’t go to for answers for their life. And instead where people are more likely to look for answers now it’s Google; it’s Siri; it’s Alexa, right? Should I say, Alexa? Louder to see if it pops up?
Amy: 02:29 No, mine will turn on.
Tony: 02:31 So, churches have this powerful tool using podcasting to reach people as they’re going about their day and to begin to increase their influence in people’s lives. And right now it’s, it’s just a tool that’s being underutilized. And so the topic of today’s conversation, it’s a podcast about podcasting.
Amy: 02:53 Well, Sean, Tony just mentioned how the statistics are showing. Lots of people are listening to podcasts, right? But what are you seeing specifically as you’re learning more about overall engagement with podcasts?
Sean: 03:06 Yeah, well, in the, in the bigger picture, the number of people that are engaging with podcasts has grown rapidly. So 32% of the U.S. population listens to podcasts at least every month: that’s about 105 million people. 22% are listening weekly and 67% of the listeners are below the age of 44. So all those churches who have been exploring, how do we better reach millennials, they should really lean in when they hear that last stat. Two-thirds of the podcast listeners are under the age of 44; if you’re trying to find a way to connect with this segment of your community, podcasting is probably a key way. But here’s what I think might be the key statistical insight for churches: 80% of podcasts, listeners listen to the full podcast episode or, or most of the episode, and that 22% of the U.S. that listens to podcasts weekly, they listen on average for six and a half hours. So people are really engaging with podcast content for longer periods of time and our assumption, I think in this multitasking culture that we live in is that people have smaller attention spans, that all the content needs to be shorter to really connect with them. That doesn’t seem to be the case with podcasts.
Amy: 04:21 That really is surprising. Everything you just shared is kind of surprising to me. Why do you think people are listening to podcasts for longer periods of time? You mentioned short attention span and I think it was the article in Microsoft that we were reading that they said people have shorter attention spans than goldfish, so something doesn’t make sense here. Why do they listen for longer periods?
Sean: 04:43 Well, I think this really just speaks to the accessibility of podcasts. I mean, the reason podcasting is so effective is that it fits into busy people’s lives – it’s portable. A large majority of people that are listening to podcasts, they’re listening on their smartphones so they can listen in the car at work, at the gym, mowing the lawn, that’s where I listen to a lot of my podcasts, really anywhere they want to. In fact, the data says that almost half of podcast listening is actually done at home. So, it’s safe to assume that people are doing the dishes, folding laundry, working out, and that’s a key reason as to why they’re listening for longer periods of time. That’s why I think this is such an important communication tool for churches that we’ve all seen and felt the effects of a culture that attends weekend services less. We have fewer opportunities to tell people about Jesus and have an influence on their lives than we used to. And what we’ve seen as we’re on the ground working with churches is the strategy for a lot of churches is to focus on getting people back into the church building where we can influence them and then hope they come back. A better strategy though is to reach them where they are, to position our church’s influencers in their lives and were more likely to see a higher level of engagement them if that’s our approach.
Amy: 05:59 Okay. So, podcasting is a great strategy for churches to reach people where they are, but Tony mentioned earlier that the content of this kind of podcast is different than just replaying the weekend teaching, or at least that’s what I thought you were getting at Tony. What, what’s unique about the kind of podcast you’re talking about?
Tony: 06:17 Yeah, so we mentioned before that this is about positioning your church as an influencer in people’s lives. And when you have a question in life right now, people are going to Google, and in the future, we’d like them to consider our church as an option as well. This is a concept that aligns with the term inbound marketing that we talked about way back in episode 61 of the podcast, and so in case, you missed that, you may want to go back and listen to episode 61. So we’re talking about podcasting in this context. We’re talking about content that is designed in a way to add practical and specific value to people’s lives. As we share our knowledge and expertise, people will hopefully begin to see us as an authority on topics that are important to their lives.
Tony: 07:10 And this will prompt them hopefully to listen in more closely when they’re asking those types of questions. So, for example, your church could start a podcast on helping parents build their faith in their kids. You could give practical tips on how to talk to kids about Jesus or how to help them navigate the Bible with their kids and teach them how to read through it. You could share tools that they can use to keep Jesus a part of the daily conversation as they’re getting ready their kids ready for school, eating dinner, doing chores, whatever that looks like. Parents will then begin to see you as a valued partner in raising their kids and see a higher value for how you’re helping them disciple their kids, including how you engage with their kids and their families during the weekend services.
Tony: 08:03 So it’s an add on bonus, but really you’re trying to partner with them in a unique way, in a way that we’re seeing, and as Sean highlighted, really is connecting with today’s culture. Another example would be helping people read and understand the Bible in general. There’s a lot of confusion and question about the Bible in today’s culture, both by insiders in the church and outsiders of the church. And people are either curious or apathetic when it comes to scripture. So you could design a podcast where you’re debunking myths, where you’re sharing widely unknown background, tips on how to get a clearer understanding of the history and the context of the stories that we find in scripture. People will be more Bible literate and see your church as having a key voice when it comes to understanding scripture if you go a step beyond just sharing the message from Sunday. The key here though is to choose a topic that adds value to your community.
Tony: 09:06 So it’s critical to note who is in your community. And then if your church is surrounded by young families as an example, then that parenting podcast could be a helpful tool. If you’re in the part of the country that’s known for being more skeptical, then that podcast on understanding the Bible, understanding scripture could be a better strategy. So again, the key here is you’ve got to know your community and then address the needs, the questions that your community is asking. And so churches have been doing that from the pulpit for a long time. We’re just going to challenge you today to consider extending the pulpit beyond the platform on Sunday morning so that you can engage people where they were living their lives.
Amy: 09:51 All right, so Sean, let’s say a church catches the vision for this and they have a topic that they’re passionate about and it’s a key felt need in their community. How would they ever get started even putting a podcast like that together?
Sean: 10:04 Well, the first place I would start, and this may seem obvious, just listen to some other podcasts. Don’t just go to other church’s podcasts, you really want to get a feel for what makes podcasting so appealing to two-thirds of the U.S. population. Sample different approaches that are out there. A few of my favorites personally, “Freakonomics Radio” is a really good one. “How I Built This” is an excellent podcast of the Tim Ferris Show, another long format podcasts that are really well done. All of those formats are all a little bit different, but they’re highly effective in their communication and the content. So figure out which podcasts are your favorite and for what reason, and then key into their marketing strategy and how they encourage their listeners to connect with them beyond just tuning into the podcast. 70% of podcast listeners said that they were more aware of a product or a service because of a podcast.
Sean: 10:58 So it’s a really effective medium for marketing. The next step is just to choose a topic or direction. Tony mentioned a couple of examples before, but find the felt need that connects with your community and matches a passion that you have. If you’re not passionate about it, it’s going to be really hard to sustain that content over a longer period of time. So once you figured out that topic, then choose a release schedule that you can realistically commit to. Decide, you know, is this a monthly podcast, is this a weekly podcast or is it something else? And then commit to it. You have to be really committed to that release schedule. You could also, another strategy would be to consider building a podcast around seasons, which allows you to do content but in shorter bursts and then have some off time so you could do season one and then take a little bit of a break and then season two and take a little bit of a break.
Amy: 11:46 That’s kind of like Netflix, Sean.
Tony: 11:48 It is, right? That’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. So establish a release schedule. What is it that you can commit to? And then once you’ve established that, begin to dive into the recording. So we’re going to get a little bit technical here. Just hang with me for a second, but make sure that you have the equipment you need to create a high-quality audio experience for people. If it sounds bad, people are really likely to tune you out. But to help with this, we’ve actually created a guide for getting started in podcasting. It’s going to be included in the show notes. So I just encourage you to go and download those. We have links and examples of all the equipment that you’ll need to get started, like Mike’s computer software, all there in the getting started guide. So download the show notes and make sure that you grab that. After you’re done recording, you’ll need to get your podcast recording and then post it somewhere where people can access it; where they can download it and listen to it.
Sean: 12:43 And we actually have many of those options listed in the podcasting startup guide as well. For our podcast, we found Libsyn to be a great option. It’s L, i, b, s, y, n. They allow us to track and download data, upload episodes that go public on a later date. So they’re right when we upload, they’re not immediately available, but we can kind of plan for the future and then really manage all of our podcasts data all in one place. And that’s incredibly helpful as you’re trying to decide what are the right topics, what are the right conversations for us to have that are really adding value to our community. So it might not sound like it from my explanation here, but starting a podcast really is pretty simple. The hardest part is just picking that topic, but once you have it after the initial setup, the rest of it will flow pretty easily.
Tony: 13:31 And I’ve, I’m just amazed. The funny thing about podcasting is actually I was a very early adopter somewhere, someplace in the, on the Internet, my friend Tim Stevens and I did a podcast, it’s probably 12, 13 years ago now, maybe even longer. I don’t know. I’m getting really old. “The Simply Strategic Show”, and I think it was actually Tim and me had more fun than we actually brought great content to the listeners, but we loved it. Then we did that for a little bit more than a year, I think, and I was out of podcasting for a long, long time. And then my team said, Tony, you really need to start a podcast. And so a couple of years ago we picked it back up. Sean’s helped us move it forward immensely.
Tony: 14:22 So thank you, Sean. But it used to be when I would be onsite engaging with the church, they would say, it’s great to have you here, Tony. We’ve read your books, we’ve read your articles on your website. I never hear that anymore, which makes me wonder why I write books and articles. But what I hear consistently is we heard you talking with Amy about such and such on your podcast. And it’s just a great reminder for me that the message that we’ve been trying to communicate for 10 years now, it really hasn’t changed, but the methods we use to communicate the message absolutely has to change. And we are learning at The Unstuck Group that podcasting is a phenomenal way to connect with the people that we want not only to share our message but really provide helpful resources for them to take their next steps in the context of ministry. And in your case, we’re hoping you’ll understand this is a great opportunity to help people take their next steps in their lives.
Sean: 15:27 Before we go, Tony, I just want to remind everybody to get the podcast startup guide that we’ve created. You can get that by subscribing to get the show notes. You can go to theunstuckgroup.com/slash podcast, subscribe to get the show notes. You’ll get that startup guide with all of the information about the kind of equipment that you’ll need, all of the resources that you’ll need to get started. A lot of what we talked through today on the podcast. So download the show notes and get that.
Amy: 15:51 By the way, we’d love to hear about it someday after you get it started. Tony, any closing thoughts that you have?
Tony: 15:57 Yes. As churches we do, we need to continue to find new ways to reach new people. And I believe how Craig Rochelle puts it, we’ll do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. So if starting a podcast feels like a stretch for you, that’s actually probably a good thing. We have to continue to grow and adapt to the ways the culture is changing. Again, we have a message. It never changes, but the methods we use must change.
Sean: 16:25 Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. If you like what your hearing on the podcast, help us get the content out by subscribing, give us a review and tell your friends. At The Unstuck Group, we’re working every day with church leaders to help them build healthy churches by guiding them through specifically designed experiences that focus them on vision, strategy, and action. If that’s a need in your church, let’s talk. You can start a conversation by visiting us at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Have a great week.