Three years ago congregations and faith leaders everywhere were thrown into the deep end of digital ministry. There’s a good chance you’re one of them! You’ve started or improved your Sunday morning livestream, everyone in your church knows how to raise their virtual hand on Zoom, and maybe you even began using a social media platform with new intentionality. But now that we’re approaching three full years in a pandemic, it might be time for a booster shot of ideas. So roll up your sleeve and keep reading this email.
- Start a Sermon Talkback video series on YouTube
Invite a few congregants or colleagues to sit down with you each week, perhaps on Sunday afternoon or sometime on Monday while the sermon is still fresh, set up a camera (your smartphone will work if you don’t have anything else handy), and have a conversation about the sermon from Sunday. What questions are still lingering? What actions are we invited to take? You don’t have to talk long — 10-15 minutes is more than enough — and when your conversation is finished, upload it to your YouTube channel. Create a playlist so people can easily find these weekly conversations and you can even embed them on your church website.
I suggest YouTube for this idea (as opposed to Facebook) because YouTube has over 2 billion users and continues to be the second most used online search engine. This means you are putting your content in the place where people are already looking. Give your video a title that might pop up as something people are searching for: “How to Read the Bible,” “What is Prayer and Why Should You Try It,” “Would Jesus Go to that Protest?” Also, while it is possible for people who don’t have a Facebook account to watch public videos posted to Facebook, many of them won’t. But YouTube often feels more open to anyone, whether or not they have a YouTube account set up.
Lastly, an idea like this not only allows you to repurpose the sermon and easily create original weekly online content, it invites your conversation partners to pay closer attention to your sermon, and what preacher doesn’t want that?!
- Create a Sermon Prep Podcast
If you’re a pastor then you probably spend a good amount of time each week preparing for Sunday’s sermon. Open up your voice memo app a few times early in the week and capture your thoughts and ideas. Ask questions that you’re still pondering and invite listeners to share their ideas with you! Stitch them together and upload them as a weekly sermon prep podcast! This simple idea will do three things: it will help you capture and reflect on ideas for your next sermon, it will provide a resource to other preachers who are working on their sermon, and it allows your congregants to get warmed up in advance and be primed for what you are about to preach.
Now, how exactly do you turn the things you say into a podcast? You can use any number of podcast hosting platforms (I use Spreaker for the podcasts I produce at The Riverside Church) but Anchor.fm is often a good place to start. It’s a podcast recording and hosting platform owned by Spotify that allows you to easily record, edit, and upload from your phone! I recommend posting your weekly sermon prep podcast by Wednesday or Thursday each week and sharing a link to it on social media and in your church email. This simple process allows you to engage some of the 380 million people who listen to podcasts. How’s that for an online congregation?!
- Turn Your Semon into a Twitter Thread
Most sermons tend to be longer than the 280 character limit imposed by Twitter. But you can still take a paragraph or two and turn it into engage content for Twitter! Simply add a sentence or two, whatever will fit within 280 characters, and instead of tapping “Tweet,” aim for the small “+” icon and create new tweet that is connected to the previous one (a Twitter thread!). People can engage with any of these individual tweets and see it as part of a larger sermon context. Also, statistics show that Twitter threads are more often engaged than individual tweets as people click into them to read the full series. So not only is this an easy way to share your sermon online in a new way, it’s also a way to optimize Twitter’s algorithm! And if you want to take this idea one step further you could end your Twitter thread with a link to the video of the full sermon or your sermon talkback video series you just started.
One more thing: you likely noticed that all of these ideas revolve around your Sunday sermon. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the feeling that we have to create all sorts of new content for digital ministry. And while there is value in doing this, we can easily run out of energy or minutes in the day to get it all done. This is why I believe repurposing the content you’re already creating is an essential strategy for your digital ministry. You’re already putting in hours each week to write a sermon. With a little more time you can repurpose it in so many ways — the three listed above are just the beginning of the list! All this to say, when it comes to digital ministry we don’t always need to invent something new but we can simply take what we’re already doing and help people engage with it in a new way.
(Be sure to send me a link to whatever new digital ministry ideas you’re trying out, whether it’s one of these three or something else. I would love to see what you’re up to, cheer you on, and maybe even talk with you more about it!) Email Jim Keat.