Podcasting in a Time of COVID-19

Mar 18, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Rev. Clint Schnekloth

Churches across the world are working to discover how to express and preserve our community in Christ in a time when various government agencies have asked us to limit contact in order to protect the vulnerable among us. 

Rev. Clint Schnekloth is sharing some of the ways that he has made this possible in his congregation. , You can view his other posts in this series: streaming using Facebook, remote Sunday school and Bible study, and pastoral visitation during social distancing.

Visit the ELCA's Public Health website for updated resources on this rapidly unfolding situation.

You have responsibly followed CDC guidelines and canceled large gatherings at church for a number of weeks. You are relatively new to recording podcasts of your worship services, and are looking for simple advice on getting started.

Then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s describe the simplest path from recording your audio to posting on iTunes.

Although audio recordings are posted on many sites, iTunes is still the premiere platform for podcasts. A good aggregator can also send your podcast to other audio hosting sites, but for our purposes we’ll keep things focused on iTunes.

First, you need some simple kind of audio recording device. Believe it or not, one of the best tools for this is your phone itself. You can use the Voice Memo app on your phone to record high quality audio.

Another great app that records and posts audio to the cloud and also creates a transcript of the audio (using Artificial Intelligence) is Otter.ai. As a side note, Otter is fantastic for recording meetings and other conversations, and the transcripts are incredible.

If your worship space has microphones routed to a mixer of some sort, your mixer may be the place you will record your mp3. The point here is to get a well-balanced audio recording of whatever it is you wish to post as the podcast.

Once you have your audio recording, the simplest way to get your podcast live online is to use Buzzsprout. A basic account with Buzzsprout will host your podcast online and will also automatically “push” your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Alexa, Overcast, PocketCasts, and many others.

Once you have an account with Buzzsprout, click “Upload a new episode.” Select the audio file you want to upload. Give your episode a title or description. Choose when you want to publish the episode. Then click save episode details. For more information, visit the Buzzsprout website.

Okay, now your podcast is up and live. This is one side of the equation. The other side is facilitating listener experience. Podcasts may be new to some of your parishioners. That being said, it’s somewhat unlikely that computers or cell phones are completely unfamiliar to them.

I have found it a highly effective strategy to help homebound members, or anyone who wants to listen to the podcasts but struggles with new technology, to simply take their phone in hand, and help walk them through the steps to subscribing to a new podcast.

Of course, if you’re going to do this literally, make sure you use some sanitizing wipes before you get started.

But here’s what you do. On an iPhone, open the Podcast app. Once there, use the search feature to search for the title of your podcast subscription (ours is searchable by Good Shepherd NWA . . . it’s helpful to choose something slightly unique, since there are hundreds of Peace Lutheran Churches, for example). Then click “Subscribe.”

There are many more complex options for each subscription. You can modify the settings to tell the phone how frequently to download the podcast, and how many to store on the phone. But the basic subscription will ensure the new podcasts populate when they are published.

Sometimes it takes a bit more work to get your audio file up to snuff. There are some great tutorials on how to edit podcasts. Of course you can make them very fancy. In our context, we find we have to run our audio recording through Audacity to equalize sound levels, and then everything is good.

You might wonder, what are the pros and cons of podcasts vs. Facebook Live or video of services? Well, the first thing to know is that podcasts are much easier in terms of production values. Viewers these days expect relatively high-quality video footage, which means multiple cameras and perspectives and video editing. Podcasts are simpler because they end up just sounding like a radio broadcast. On the other hand, video broadcast at the right time and on platforms that already have more followers may have broader “reach.”

Podcasts are better for listening on a drive or walking in the park. Video is better as an experience. In our context, we have chosen to do both Live videos and podcasts, in order to engage various kinds of listeners. Both processes are very simple for us, and we do zero post-editing (other than the sound equalization on Audacity for the podcast). You can get much fancier than this, but only if you have the interest and time.

As the COVID-19 response continues, we are finding that people really are looking for connection and community, so something additional to consider is whether this might be a chance and a platform to offer midweek podcasts as well. Bible studies with the pastor. Testimonials from parishioners. Special music from ensembles. Think outside of the box and creative.

Topics: General Ministry, technology, COVID-19, Coronavirus

Rev. Clint Schnekloth

Written by Rev. Clint Schnekloth

Clint Schnekloth is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas; chairman of the board for Canopy NWA, Arkansas’s refugee resettlement organization; blogs at Patheos; and is the author of Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Transmedia Era.

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