The Gospel in a Digital World

“Each week pastors spend time studying a biblical text, prayerfully meditating, doing background research, and coming up with personal illustrations,” writes Kayla Fuller, Director of Communications of our neighboring Virginia Synod. “All the work put in for preparation and delivery is worth it–for that one audience.” Her article which circulated this past week spells out some pastoral reasons and practical ways to expand the sermon’s audience from one to many.


 

The Gospel in a Digital World: Making Sermons Available Online*

by Kayla Fuller, Director of Communications, ELCA Virginia Synod

Each week pastors spend time studying a biblical text, prayerfully meditating, doing background research, and coming up with personal illustrations. All leading up to the sermon that they (usually) deliver on a Sunday morning. If you’re sitting in the crowd you get to hear the passion in the pastor’s voice, the chuckle after a joke, or even the spontaneous Holy Spirit driven comment that wasn’t quite planned.

All the work put in for preparation and delivery is worth it–for that one audience.

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Soon even CDs will be a thing of the past.

“It’s another tool that God can use to spread his message to the World,” said Dave Young, the Pastor of Bethel Lutheran in Winchester.

WHY WOULD YOU POST AUDIO RECORDINGS OF SERMONS ONLINE?

  • It keeps people connected.  There are many reasons why people can’t make it to a Sunday service, especially in our busy world. Families are on vacation, professionals travel for work, students go home on breaks, or older members may not feel well enough to travel to church. There is no substitute for worshiping with your brothers and sisters in Christ, but being able to listen to a sermon you missed while you are on the go or in your own home helps you feel more connected.

John Wertz, the pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Blacksburg is one of our Pastors who records his sermons each week. He said, “One college student at our church studied abroad for a year in Australia and he told us how it was comforting for him to hear something from home.”

As much as millennials love podcasts (I listen to one every morning before work), audio recordings aren’t just for the younger crowd. “We have a few of our shut-in folks who listen online,” said Pastor Wertz.

  • Members can listen again.  There is a baby crying. You didn’t quite catch what the Pastor said. You zone out. Even if we are in church on Sunday, there’s a possibility that we didn’t absorb the whole message. If sermons are available online, you have that chance to go back and listen again. Christy Huffman, the Diaconal Minister of Epiphany Lutheran in Richmond, is in charge of recording and uploading the sermons for her church had an email sent to her and the member said, “I’ve been listening to the sermons on my Kindle and the sound is loud and clear. Sometimes I am not able to follow the sermon from start to finish on Sundays so it great to be able to replay it at home and there are less distractions while I am sitting in my rocking chair.”
  • Spreading the Word.  “This is another way to be Christ’s presence out in the virtual world,” said Christy Huffman said. We are called the light. If church members hear a sermon that really impacts them, instead of just telling people about the sermon, they can email them the entire sermon or post it on their Facebook wall.
  • Promotional Purposes.  More and more people are going to the internet to look for a church when they move to a new area. Your website is really the first impression and letting people listen to sermons gives them a taste of your church culture and the pastors teaching style.
  • Historical Archives.  Remember that sermon you loved from last year’s Reformation Sunday? Posting your sermons online gives the pastor and members a way to not only store, but also go back to old sermons.

So with all the positive outcomes, what keeps people from making recordings of sermons available online? For many, the technology seems a little overwhelming or there is fear about how this will fit into the budget.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

As with anything, you can put as much money as you want into a project. But recording audio doesn’t have to break the bank. “For us, the device was really the costly part and that was around $150 for us,” Christy Huffman from Epiphany said.

“We have about $50 invested in the recorder,” said Pastor John Wertz.

HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY MAKE THE AUDIO RECORDINGS HAPPEN?

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Mentioned leaders said recording and uploading sermons only took 5-30 minutes.

The first thing anyone would need is a recording device. For some churches that already use a sound system, it may be an option to move that a microphone picking up a pastors voice to a recording. The simplest solution may be to spend $7 or $8 dollars on a cable that will convert output from your soundboard into the headphone jack available on most devices. You could also get an external voice recorder, place it up front, and the pastor can hit record when he or she starts talking.

Pastor Dave Young at Bethel Lutheran in Winchester has his sound team record his sermon using through the sound board. They then save that file to a USB Flash Drive and return the USB drive to him after the service. He uses Audacity, a free audio editing software, to convert the recording to an MP3 file which is uploaded to Podbean, a website that hosts podcasts and other audio recordings.

Like Pastor Young, Christy Huffman also uses Audacity to edit the audio files after recording using a Tascam DR05 personal recorder. At Epiphany there are three people delivering sermons on Sunday and the speaker presses the record button and the stop button. If the stop button isn’t pressed right after the Sermon, Audacity is a way to edit down the recording. Epiphany has a website that allows the user to upload the audio file right to the site.

Lastly, Pastor Wertz seems to use the simplest method. He uses a digital voice recorder that he takes up front, presses play when he begins speaking and stop when he is finished. The digital voice recorder plugs right into his computer where he uploads the file right to sermon.net.

There are many ways to make sermons available online, it all depends on your church. Each leader mentioned in this article said that recording and uploading sermons only took 5-30 minutes.

“When you are listening to a sermon, you get the inflections, you get the accent,” said Christy Huffman.

While you are thinking about how your church can make use of this information, take a listen to some sermons from our Virginia Synod Congregations:

* Reprinted by permission from “Weekly Update from the Virginia Synod” e-news (10/8/15)

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