How to Podcast Sermons

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More and more churches have realized the benefits of sharing their sermons online. In the past, churches would share recordings of services by making copies of tapes and distributing them or loaning them out. This worked great, but now sharing them online is easier, more efficient, and more cost effective with podcasting. Not to mention the time it saves the church admin from having to make copies and find lost tapes.

What is a podcast?

According to Wikipedia, “[a] podcast is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and downloaded through web syndication.” This enables anyone to subscribe to a show and have the latest episode automatically downloaded to their computer or music player. While there are many programs that you can use to subscribe to a podcast, iTunes is the most popular choice of programs.

How do podcast’s relate to church?

Not only does this provide a way for a congregation to re-listen to a complex or thought provoking sermon, it allows the community and the world to connect and reap the benefits of a pastor's hard work. Also, who isn't gone on the weekend in the summer, for a vacation, or sick and misses a sermon? Podcasting a sermon is a great way for people to catch up on a sermon they missed in a series. Maybe a student that is gone for the year could use a podcast to stay a little more connected to the church back home. Or it could be used to share an engaging sermon series with a friend.

It is possible to offer an entire series of services or just an individual service as a podcast. Also, it can be either audio or video. In fact, it does not even have to be limited to just a recording of the service, a podcast can be almost anything. You could podcast a bible study series, notes from the pastor, or video of community and church events.

However, most churches podcast just the sermon and just use audio. If you do the whole service, the complexity greatly increases as you have to worry about copyright infringement of music, recording multiple people and instruments. Also, audio alone is usually used instead of video as a sermon isn’t necessarily enthralling visually and yet again video podcasting is significantly more difficult to produce. For simplicity, we’ll discuss how to podcast an audio sermon.

What do you need to podcast?

  • Digital audio recordings of your sermons in MP3 format. Each file should be encoded as mono and around 64kbps to keep the file size low. The recording should be less than forty megabytes for an hour recording. Follow these guidelines to make sure each file has the appropriate information (sermon title, picture, and other information.) If you don’t know how to do this, Feedburner will take care of some of it.
  • Hosting. You need to post your audio files to the internet somewhere. You could do this on your website, but I would advise against it as it’ll eat up bandwidth causing increased hosting costs and possibly a slower website (it all depends on your hosting plan). Instead post your files to the free service Sermon Cloud or the pay service CacheFly.
  • A blog. This blog should be used just for your podcast and will not be viewed by anyone, so it does not matter if it is unattractive. If you can host this blog on the church website great, otherwise setup a blog on Blogger.
  • A Feedburner account. Feedburner will help setup the enclosures for the feed from your blog correctly. Also it will enable you to change where you post audio files without your subscribers having to re-subscribe.

How do I turn these things into a podcast?

  1. Post your files to your repository. Once they are all uploaded, copy the address of where the file is located.
  2. Create a new post on the blog. In the title of the post, use a title specific to that sermon, probably the title of the sermon. In the post, type a short description of that sermon. Then create a link in the post to the file that you copied in the last step. After you are done, publish that post.
  3. Burn that feed. Copy the blog’s feed to the homepage of your Feedburner account. Tick that you are a podcaster. In the next couple of steps make sure you enter the church name as the feed title and feed address. Then take time to choose and complete all the information (categories, title, contact info, copyright info).
  4. Publicize. Take the feed that you setup in Feedburner and submit it to podcast directories. There are many directories, but I would just recommend iTunes. Go here to submit it to iTunes Podcast Directory, which will then give you an iTunes feed for it also. Go to your church website and provide both the Feedburner feed and iTunes feed to help anyone subscribe to your podcast, make sure to an icon to help draw attention to these buttons. 

If you would like, you can also publish other items in your stream. You could post the bulletin or slides for the sermon, preferably in pdf format. Also make sure you have the permission of the speaker and notify them that you podcast your sermons.

Your church now has a podcast!

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I've fallen in love with Posterous.com for easy posting; they say you can podcast with it; I haven't tried it but it sounds worth a try for churches: http://posterous.com/faq

Admin

WordPress and other blog/CMS tools also have podcast plugins. I was just looking into that for a friend's podcast, but haven't implemented.

On a related note...I've wondered whether we try to encourage all the CRC pastors/churches to post to a central repository like SermonCentral, SermonCloud, etc Not only does that provide a nice feature set, I think our pastors have something good to offer people who cruise those sites. I haven't researched them enough to be able to promote one vs. another. Has anyone done some head-to-head comparisons?

Participant

Another approach: because we're familiar with Blip.tv, we've just begun uploading sermon audio files there using Blip's quick-and-easy iTunes link on our site--as well as individual MP3 download links. Blip offers straightforward download stats and the ability to upload files via its website, ftp, and a stand-alone app.

I am suprised there was no suggestions in the article as what hardware or software might be used to record the podcast with. Perhaps that is due to the many possible choices.  However I will mention some free things that work for our Church.  We use a linux PC running ubuntu (free OS) with Audacity as the software to record from the soundboard directly.  Audacity is free for both linux and windows PCs.  We record the whole service (our sound person does the recording as well so starting recording before service makes sure they don't forget)  save project then edit down to sermon only.  Now you can remove humming with audacity as well and export to mp3 for upload.   However I have found exporting to a wav file and then using a program called Foobar2000 (also free) produces the best sound quality small file and I tried ALOT of programs of all kinds.  Recently for personal work I was doing I had to get the Adobe sofware suite for video and sound editing.  I find that Soundbooth from Adobe does a great job of tweaking the audio for podcasting, but it is not free and quite expensive.  So I take the wav on USB jump drive from Church and run it through soundbooth at home and then use foobar2000 to make the mp3.  I have been thinking of using a good quality dedicated MP3 recorder instead of the computer, but I wonder how reliable they are as well as possibly needing to edit it and losing quality.  Editing a mp3 and resaving as a mp3 tends to degrade its quality.  If anyone has ideas on it I would like to hear them.  Here is a direct link to a recent sermon which is 41min long and about 13MB in size if you would like to hear.  feedproxy.google.com/~r/CrossroadsCrcSermons/~3/LgzOGkxSQ1E/9122010am.mp3

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll add something in the article about recommended ways of recording or link to some posts describing it and with tips. I see you found the forum too and discusses this. Maybe some people will be inclined to share their setup there.

There are some good devices out there for recording straight from the board, but I believe the cost increases dramatically when it records in more formats than just mp3. I'll see if I can remember them.

We at the Duncan Christian Reformed Church also use Audacity. We upload the audio files to our website: two sermons morning and evening. No archiving of sermons. Works great!

our website is located at http://www.duncancrc.org

Participant

Some great thoughts. Thanks, Sherick! A simple line out from the sound board to any kind of digital recorder would save us the time-consuming task of having to join the disconnected chapters our audio folk create to assist listeners who like to skip forward or back within a sermon.

I use JW Player for Flash on the church website to play the mp3 files