A friend of mine sent me a link to a podcast of a local church. It was a church’s weekly sermon and the pastor (Lance) was a great communicator, very insightful. I was intrigued. I went to a church service with my family and I was inspired. What if this communicator could apply his gifts to more than just the weekly service?
I once heard it quoted at a conference that the average pastor can get to know 75 people really well. Without arguing the number 75 let’s assume it’s premise is correct: A pastor or ministry leader can only know so many people before forgetting a name, a personal situation, etc. So how does a leader of a larger church let people get to know him beyond the weekly sermon and a few handshakes afterwards? Enter Podcast and Blog. I mention blogging and podcasting because some people prefer to listen and some like to read.
Let me quickly give an overview of the church and its pastor. Bridgeway church is located in Rocklin, CA near Sacramento. It’s 12 years old and has a weekly attendance of over 1,500. Pastor Lance Hahn has been the pastor for over ten of those years. They are recent to their building and just poured foundation on a new building. I saw the website and it seemed that the whole church often tries new things to reach the lost.
I met with Lance at a waffle house in Roseville, CA with the church’s Media Director, Rachel. Together we brainstormed what a podcast and blog might look like and how much time it would take. Here are some of the ideas we threw around for a theme based concept: Anxiety; depression; biblical questions; what I’m reading; relationships; hot topics-controversy; stories about his children; what happens when you can’t be at an event; discipleship; every day life.
After breakfast I emailed a description of our conversation, the subjects we discussed, and how much time it would take on a weekly/monthly basis. I allotted approximately 1 hour the first week and 30 minutes per week after that. I received an email from Rachel a few days later:
OK, so here’s how it played out today!
At 10:45 Lance and I got together to record his podcast. He picked four topics he wanted to discuss based on those commercials he’d written for Christian radio. We used the CD burner in the sanctuary because it was already set up for the weekly radio recordings. We quickly came up with a name for the podcast (Mental Musings…) and laid down 4 tracks… A month’s worth of podcasts.
That took about 30 minutes, and then we went back to Lance’s office and I showed him how to log in and post a new blog. (I set up his blog and podcast on our church’s website last week- it only took about 10 minutes with the system we have.) While he was posting, and coming up with an email to blast out to the church body, I started cutting the podcast in Audacity. That took all of ten minutes on both ends. As soon as the podcast file was complete, I uploaded it to our site, and published both the blog and podcast to the live site.
One week later Bridgeway launched “Mental Musings with Pastor Lance.” Rachel sent out an email to the entire church inviting them to read and subscribe:
Hi everyone, I have some exciting news. I just joined the 21st century! I am starting both my own personal blog online, and a personal online weekly podcast of different thoughts about different elements of life. The introductory blog is already online for you to read and the podcast is coming (we just recorded the 1st four). They are very casual and informal, so if you are easily offended by regular talking and not formal preaching, I suggest you let these go on by. If you enjoy off the cuff thoughts fired out about life in a radio-show or personal recording format, then this is your thing.
The blog will be 2-3 x’s per week, and is available in the resource section of the website under the blogs, so have fun with those. It’s good to be up to date, finally. Pastor Lance (can anyone help me program my VCR?).”
The first blog/podcast was an introduction to the concept, explaining what to expect in weeks to come. So that people could better get to know him, he’s putting his thoughts on different subjects and publishing them on the web for the congregation.
Over one month Lance wrote eight blogs and three podcasts.
About the blogs:
Blog #1 – 05/27/08 – Welcome to my brain – an introduction to his blog concept and what to expect.
Blog #2 – 06/03/08 – Polygamy Sect – What’s Wrong with it? – a discussion of the morality of polygamy.
Blog #3 – 06/05/08 – Blessing or Dressing – do believers have the ability to shape other people’s lives by blessings?
Blog #4 – 06/10/08 – When I Want to Quit – A Pastor’s frustration vented.
Blog #5 – 06/17/08 – The Gates of Hell – Discussion of Matt 16:18-19.
Blog #6 – 06/19/08 – Solving the Silence in Prayer Phenomenon – Unanswered Prayers
Blog #7 – 06/22/08 – How Do You Worship – I really want to know – asking for input from congregation.
Blog #8 – 06/24/08 – The Body of Christ – and my stupidity – personal realization about the church body.
Podcasts were supplemental to the blogs so people could subscribe to both and not receive duplicate information.
Podcast #1 – 05/27/08 – The Meds
A discussion about whether a Christian takes drugs for depression and anxiety and how it affected his life personally.
Podcast #2 – 06/04/08 – The Power of Thought
How ‘thought life’ changes the believer and how it can be misconstrued to put the power into thoughts themselves.
Podcast #3 – 06/24/08 – Soul Mates
Is there such a thing as a soul mate?
It’s always tough to take a thing like ministry and try to measure effectiveness since so much of it is out of our control. However, the means by which we minister, the technology of communication can be measured and that is what I’m attempting to capture here. The podcasts were difficult to track because a customer doesn’t need to actually view a webpage in order to subscribe. However blogs are websites and are traceable through Google analytics.
There were 332 page views of the blog webpage by 167 unique visitors in one month. The blog with the most views was the Polygamy blog. He talked about a controversial topic while it was big news. Very often a congregation would have to wait until their Pastor’s sermon happened to coincide with a topic in order to hear the opinion but with blogging, it is instant.
The blog with the most responses was When I Want To Quit. There were four responses to the blog and more responses went directly to the pastor via email. Lance told me that when he would try to engage the congregation in theological conversation he received almost no response. However when he shared part of himself he received the most feedback. Over all Pastor Lance was encouraged by the experiment and he will continue the blogs and podcasts.
Posting is not difficult and all the hard work to set everything up was done the first week. Now it’s just a matter of upkeep and allotting a few minutes per week. All of this came as a result of the community of church catching up with technology. Again, these are just tools for sharing what’s most important. For more information on Bridgeway or to read their blogs, please goto www.bridgewaychristian.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org