Searches are the backbone of the internet. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN rule the web. What are people searching for? A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more people search the internet for religious and spiritual information than music, online auctions, and even adult websites.
Podcasts are similar in popularity and purpose. There are a lot of interests expressed with podcasts such as meditation, music, finance, politics, special interests, causes, entertainment, etc. But a quick look on podcastalley, a popular podcast directory site, reveals that podcasts related to religion and spirituality are third in quantity after Music and Comedy.
With a lot of eyes perusing through podcast after podcast, a creative and thoughtful approach will receive more play than the status quo. Everyone is looking to be different in the podcasting world and ironically this creates a lot of the same. Most churches choose to paste sermons into a template, throw it up on the church site, and call it web evangelism. But in order to better relate and interact with people, thinking ‘beyond the sermon’ is a necessity.
Let me interrupt myself by saying that a church should put their sermons on the web. It’s a need and a proper extension of a church service. However, when evangelizing and reaching out to the community with new tools like the internet, you must rethink the formula. The next section of this article deals with two examples of purposed web campaigns. Though these two examples are not podcasts, there is a lot to learn about their purpose and execution.
The first web campaign is a puppetry site. It’s actually a blog that talks about puppetry in film and media called puppetvision. This guy is a puppet fanatic and he’s proud of it. He eats, breathes and lives puppets in the entertainment realm. This is comparable to how a non-Christian would view a Christian website. I know what a puppet is, and I know what a puppet does, but if you want to get into the history or the recent news I really don’t have a clue.
Take a look at his site. Most of the unfamiliar words on the blog are links, so I can find out what he’s talking about. It’s organized, readable, and inviting. He blogs, twitters (which is a shorter form of blogging), links to youtube movies, links to puppet podcasts and other puppetry blogs. He updates often and makes sure there is a constant stream of information pouring into his audience. Do you get the feeling of how much this guy loves puppets? How much more should we put our best face forward in reaching the lost?
No one is an island
‘We’re members of the Body,’ ‘it takes a village,’ however you want to put it: any goal is better achieved when the whole community helps. The web is a place to find people with similar goals to form community. This kind of community is what makes churchmarketingsucks such a great resource. The intention of the site is to frustrate, educate, and motivate so that churches learn better communication skills. Most churches don’t realize that a house of worship constantly broadcasts to its community.
Whether communicating through a building, through helping or not helping the community, the church is always saying something, intentionally or not. This site offers many great resources for churches at all stages. The belief is that most churches need to rethink their message. There are how-to articles, technology blogs, guerilla marketing plans, as well as off-the-wall ideas for churches to try. They even make an online lab available where visitors can become part of the community. The “support” button shows exactly how a layperson can get involved by adding comments, guest blogging, or even volunteering for some of the needs of the site. Do you see how much churchmarketingsucks tries to engage the visitors?
Evangelist or Resource
In the end, you must decide whether your podcast is for evangelism like the puppet guy or a resource like the churchmarketingsucks site. An evangelist podcast engages the listener. A resource podcast equips the listener by teaching or providing fresh information and perspective. Either way, put your all into what you do. Nothing speaks as loudly as a poorly executed plan. Side note: keep the podcasts coming regularly.
Once a week, once a month, it doesn’t matter as long as there is a consistent, steady flow. If you’re taking a break or don’t know when the next podcast will be, then let the listener know. If your audience is aware that the podcasts will continue at a later date, they will be less likely to unsubscribe.
The internet is the information and communication equalizer. You don’t have to attend college or have Dr in front of your name to publish your thoughts. You don’t need a degree in communications or marketing to post your podcast. As people search, you can help provide answers with your experience and resources.
Everyone in this global village has something to contribute. And whether you work for a church, run a ministry, or volunteer, every contributor needs to consider their purpose in relating to others on the web.
Check out churchmarketingsucks.com and puppetvision.blogspot.com