Podcasting for Beginners
At the Priest Pulse podcast we have a motto: “We believe the Church is alive, and we’re keeping our finger on the pulse.”
Anyone who is keeping their finger on the pulse today has noticed an uptick in the presence of podcasts. When we began our foray into the field four years ago, there were very few Episcopal Church specific pods out there. Easter People, from Virginia Theological Seminary, had already laid groundwork, along with some others. The Collect Call, a brilliant liturgy and Book of Common Prayer podcast, was winding up around the same time as Priest Pulse, and Popping Collars was hosting fantastic discussions on pop culture from a progressive Christian perspective (and they still are!). A quick look on the iTunes store or your favorite podcasting app today will show you how many offerings there are — and there are more on the way.
The podcasting community knows it’s getting a bit overcrowded. WNYC, the New York City radio station and veritable podcast factory known for hits like RadioLab, is launching a new kidcast (a podcast for children) called This Podcast Has Flees, wherein rival pets, a dog and a cat in the same household, launch competing podcasts. The explicit joke is that everyone has a podcast these days, even the dog and cat.
While it may be true that the market is becoming oversaturated, there’s a reason we are seeing so many Episcopal podcasts pop up. If you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of the Church and keeping up with trends in the world, the desire to create relevant content is only natural. In fact, it’s essential to our mission as Christians. Throughout history, the Church has used the newest communication technology to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and proclaim the message of love, justice and peace.
When considering your place in digital ministry, focus on this: be yourself. Find your own authentic voice and discern your call to digital ministry. For you, this may not be a podcast. Perhaps your authentic voice is best used blogging, or you have the skills needed to make solid video content or to enter into grand ideas I haven’t yet begun to imagine, using platforms I’m not aware of. The internet is constantly evolving and moving on, and the oversaturation of the podcast medium means new platforms and technologies are just around the corner. Actually it means they’re already here, we just don’t know about them yet.
If you feel you are called to enter into podcasting with an idea too important to ignore, I have good news for you: it isn’t very difficult. My co-host, Colin Chapman, and I didn’t really know what we were doing four years ago when we began Priest Pulse, and I knew even less four years before that when I launched my first podcast, No Avatars Allowed (a video game and theology podcast). With no professional training, I launched the All Ports Open Network, and I produce The Hive Cast. Today the internet offers so much help to beginners in the form of articles and YouTube videos. Here are a few of my own quick tips to get you started:
- First, pick up a solid microphone. You can do this without dropping too much money. I would recommend the Blue Snowball microphone which will only set you back around $70. If you’re not planning on having group conversations or doing in-person interviews, you could get away with spending a little less on their iCE model, but be warned: it only has one setting for recording. If you want to get a little fancier, purchase a studio boom arm and a pop filter as well.
- Second, find your recording software and start learning. The best way to learn is to play with it. If you use a Mac, you already have an amazing application in Garageband, which will be all you need to make a start. I use a pay-what-you-want program called Reaper, which I highly recommend. Many people use the program Audacity. You do not need to purchase Pro Tools to begin podcasting!
- Third, in order to make a podcast that is easy to listen to, you’ll want to make sure your end result is “leveled” well. This means all the volumes are at similar levels. Luckily for us, there’s a program that does the heavy lifting, the Levelator. Once you have a final product and you’ve exported it into .wav format, open Levelator, open your podcast episode in the program, and it actually levels it for you. That little miracle worker puts out a copy of your file with a .output extension on it that sounds fantastic.
- The last thing you’ll need to do is get your podcast to your listeners. You’ll need to host your show somewhere, like Liberated Syndication. Libsyn, as it’s called, will do the hard work for you. You pay them a modest monthly fee, answer a bunch of questions, upload some podcast art that showcases who you are and what you do, and it creates your RSS feed and connects your podcast to various sources where listeners can find it. You’ll need to follow a couple other steps they lay out for you to get your podcast on iTunes. But Libsyn is very user friendly, and I highly recommend them.
Content is critical
The best advice anyone can give you for podcasting is this: the most important thing you need is good content. Content drives everything. If your heart and soul is in your vision for what you are creating and the content is both good and desired by listeners, you’re off to a good start. Quality content is more important than an expensive mic or professional production. I bet you know someone with the skills to get you up and running. And there are consultants and producers out there, like myself, who you can hire to help you get started.
If you want to learn by example, there are forays into podcasting and new technology to investigate. The Hive Apiary, a wellness and spirituality website that supports progressive Christian and spiritual women’s growth in faith and wellness, offers the Hive Cast hosted by the Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining and Ken Raining. The Episcopal Cafe has a podcast network with incredible offerings like 2FAB—Two Feminists Annotate the Bible. If you want an example of how podcasts can share amazing personal stories of ministry impact, check out Hometown from Episcopal Migration Ministries. And if your church has been blessed with a large budget and is looking for ideas on how to engage locally in ministry while also sharing the good news digitally, you might want to check out Theology Live from Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis.
Everyone in ministry wants to keep their finger on the pulse. This is an exciting time to be a Christian and an Episcopalian, as God’s Spirit leads us into new and uncharted territory with opportunities to use technology for evangelism that we never dreamed possible. If you are reading this, then I sincerely believe God is calling you to find your own authentic, missional voice in this digital age. I pray you discern where God is calling you, and that God gives you the courage and boldness to see it through.
Fr. Benjamin Gildas is Founding Co-Host of the podcast Priest Pulse and rector of Incarnation Holy Sacrament Episcopal Church in Drexel Hill, PA, where he lives with his wife and three children. Ben produces The Hive Cast, a podcast from The Hive Apiary hosted by the Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining and Ken Raining. In 2018 Ben launched the All Ports Open Podcast Network, where he hosts several podcasts including Pod of Love co-hosted with his wife, Melissa. Ben is a speaker, writer, producer and consultant on technology, podcasting and digital ministry, and he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Reclaiming Relevance by Lori Mills-Curra, Vestry Papers, March 2013
- The Ministry of Communications by Richelle Thompson, ECF Vital Practices Blog, February 27, 2012
- Storytelling as Evangelism an ECF webinar presented by Edmund Harris, May 24, 2016