One of the easiest ways to get started with a podcast ministry is to publish the sermon as a podcast.
It’s the easiest because, if you’re like most churches, you already record the sermon. You only have a few steps left to make it podcast-ready.
Think about this.
You’ve prayed, studied, prepared, and preached to the audience that was there. With a podcast ministry, that message can now continue beyond that audience and into the future.
Who would listen to a sermon podcast?
Let’s take a moment to consider who might be interested in listening to a podcast of your sermons.
People who were not there
They missed hearing you because they were sick or taking care of someone who was sick.
Or maybe they had to work that day.
Or maybe they weren’t working at all because they were on vacation.
Or maybe they are struggling in other ways and just couldn’t get up and go to the church building.
People who serve during the sermon
Staff and volunteers who work in various ministries during the time you preach might also like to hear the sermon. Sure, they were at the church, but maybe they were taking care of the babies and children.
Somewhat ironically, another group that might not hear every word includes people in the media ministry. They’re concentrating so much on making the technical aspects of the worship service run smoothly that they don’t hear every word of the sermon.
People who were there and heard the sermon
They were so moved and motivated by your message that they want to listen again.
Or maybe they want to share the sermon with someone else.
People who are looking for a church
One of the first places people look before attending a church is your web site.
If they see you have a podcast ministry and your sermons are available, then people have a chance to get to know what and how you preach before they visit.
Preparing Your Sermons for a Podcast
If you already record your sermons, you’re just a few steps away from podcasting your sermons.
Edit your sermon podcast
Don’t skip this.
These are the particular edits your sermon podcast must have before you publish to the world.
- Cut out all music
- Cut out movie clips
- Level the audio
- Adjust the overall loudness
These four edits are essential. Here is why.
Cut out all music
The most important edits will be to the beginning and ending of the church service. Usually there is singing and music, and generally you cannot legally include copyrighted material like that in your podcast.
There might be exceptions to that if your church has purchased certain copyright licenses; however, be aware, the basic CCLI license for what happens in your church building does not apply to podcasting.
What about the music that plays under the closing prayer or invitation?
This is where it gets complicated.
I’ll explain when you can play music like that in your sermon podcast and when you can’t. Then I’ll tell you a better way to handle the closing of your podcast.
Streaming License from CCLI
If you purchase a streaming license from CCLI, then you are allowed to play music that is performed live during that service. The streaming license even covers podcasts, which are almost always downloaded—not streamed.
However, you cannot play prerecorded music on the podcast. In other words, if your church uses a recording of a song at the end of the service instead of instrumentalists performing it live, the playing of that track is not allowed in the streaming license.
You know how I found out about this exception to using copyrighted music in a podcast? I called CCLI and talked with a representative. And that’s what you should do before you purchase the streaming license and decide to keep that closing music in your sermon podcast.
And you should be aware of several other “permitted” and “not permitted” activities, especially if you also put the podcast on YouTube.
A Better Way
Whether you want to avoid paying extra for the streaming license or simply want to avoid the hassle, consider this alternative.
Record a closing prayer or extend a special invitation specifically for those who listen to the podcast.
One of the concepts I talk about at PodcastMinistry.org and OnTheGo.FM is reaching people “on the go.”
People who listen to your podcast during the week are choosing to listen to your message. While they are commuting, exercising, shopping, cleaning house, or walking the dog, there are plenty of other things they could be hearing.
Instead, they are choosing to listen to you.
Recognize that by recording a special invitation and even praying for those who listen to the podcast. You can even encourage them to contact the church if they have any questions or prayer needs.
You can record this during the week before you preach. Later, when you edit the podcast, simply add that pre-recorded invitation and prayer to the end of the sermon podcast.
Cut out movie clips
Another important edit will be during the sermon if you used a movie clip as an illustration. In order to legally use movie clips like that during the sermon—even if it’s just for the audience gathered in your building—you have to buy a separate copyright license. Whether you can then make that movie clip available in a podcast (which is most often downloaded, not streamed) is question you would need to ask of the CCLI.
To find out more about licensing movie clips in your sermons—and what you can and can’t do if you stream your services live or record them as downloadable podcast episodes, check with the CCLI to see what’s allowed and which licenses you need.
Of course, you can easily avoid potential copyright violations by simply podcasting the preaching. Just edit out everything else.
Level the audio
When we talk, in person and from the stage, our speech volume fluctuates from quiet to loud to quiet to loud. When you record, those variations in loudness are noticeable.
The leveling process makes sure all parts of the audio are at a similar loudness throughout the entire sermon podcast.
Adjust the overall loudness
When your sermon podcast has been leveled, the next edit makes sure it’s loud enough.
Have you ever been watching a movie on television when they switched, without warning, to a commercial break? That jump in loudness is jarring.
That’s one of the problems when your sermon podcast is at a different loudness than the next podcast in your listener’s playlist.
Another problem is when your sermon podcast is too quiet. Listening to the podcast in the car, for example, is difficult when you have to turn the volume all the way up in order to hear it over the noise of the highway.
There is a tool available online that will do both leveling and loudness normalization. It’s free for up to two hours of audio a month. And it’s not expensive if you produce more than that.
Auphonic will level your audio file from start to finish. It will also set your loudness to specified levels (generally -16 LUFS for podcasts).
Export to MP3
After your sermon podcast is completely edited (no copyrighted music or movie clips, audio that’s level, and loudness that’s set), it’s time to export that uncompressed audio file to a smaller file that people will listen to.
The most common format is MP3. But there are dozens of different settings for the MP3. The following will work for almost everyone.
- Constant Bit Rate (CBR)
- Bit Rate: 64 Kbps
As you are exporting your sermon audio file, convert it to mono if it isn’t already. Stereo is usually only needed for music and audio dramas.
And while 64 Kbps is fine for most, I suggest you listen to the MP3 yourself to make sure it sounds good.
For my own podcasts, 64 Kbps produces a sound I don’t like (even though most people don’t notice). So I will often export at 80 Kbps—but no more than 96 Kbps.
The higher the bit rate, the larger the file. That can quickly take up the available space on your media hosting account.
Also, larger files take longer to download to listeners mobile devices. And if they’re not on an unlimited data plan, the larger file will affect that too.
The sermon podcast is the easiest way to start if you already record the sermon each week.
If you have any additional questions, I’m happy to help. Just contact me.
And if you already do sermon podcasts and want to try something different, the next article will show you how to go beyond the sermon.