Creating digital side doors

Creating digital side doors

Did you know that more than 104 million Americans listened to podcasts in the last month?* This growing number of people are consuming content from more than 1.5 million shows on topics ranging from food to crimebusting to religion.

“I think the appeal for most people is that it’s on-demand, focused radio,” says Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer and cohost of the WELS Tech podcast. “You’re not at the will and whim of the broadcaster and their choices, but you can laser focus on things that you’re interested in.”

But what does that mean for ministry and spreading the gospel? Peter Hagen, pastor at Resurrection, Maumee, Ohio, says that his goal with his Raised with Jesus podcast is to create a digital side door—a way for someone to get acquainted with the church and its teachings—and then connect the digital to the physical—a way for someone to contact the pastor and congregation to learn more.

“Most people check out a church online before they walk through the door for the first time,” says Hagen. “A consistent, quality podcast can bridge the gap. People can have repeated exposure to the Word of God and to the teaching that is provided at your church without any extra effort on their part.”

Then by providing in his podcast his contact information, the church’s service times, and a link to the WELS Yearbook for listeners not in the area, Hagen gives listeners opportunities to connect physically with a pastor or congregation.

Hagen became interested in podcasting about five years ago. One of his members at his former church, Shepherd of the Lakes, Fairmont, Minn., a plumber by trade, listened to podcasts non-stop when working, consuming hours of programming a day. “He said, ‘Pastor Hagen, you gotta get into this,’ ” says Hagen.

Hagen discovered that the bar for starting a podcast can be quite low. “Someone with a smartphone and nine dollars a month can host a podcast and make use of the digital materials a congregation is likely already producing,” he says. Hagen started by recording his sermons, Bible classes, and even catechism classes. When he took his call to Maumee in 2018, he added Sunday school lessons, guest content, and topical series to the mix. “For the input of about 20 minutes a day, I regularly get 50 to 150 downloads a day,” he says. “A number of people might not come to Bible class on a given Sunday, but they will tune in for their commute.”

He continues, “For me, the podcast was a way to get Bible reading into my folks’ homes. When people have those minutes of solitude during their commute, they can pull up the podcast and have 10 minutes with Jesus that day.” He says he also recommends podcast episodes to potential members as a way to extend his Bible information classes.

An added benefit is that podcasts are easily shareable, allowing members a simple, non-intimidating way to witness. “I have a number of members who told me they share the podcasts with somebody,” says Hagen. The congregation even developed podcast “business cards” to hand to people who like to listen to podcasts, people like the branch manager of Hagen’s local bank. “I had a chance not to have just a five-minute gospel presentation in her office when I was refinancing my loan but for her to hear a daily presentation of the gospel [through my podcast],” he says.

Learn more about other WELS podcasts in future issues of the magazine. Have a podcast you want highlighted? Let us know at forwardinchrist.net/submissions. Listen to the Raised with Jesus podcast at bit.ly/tenminuteseveryday.

*podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

Volume 107, Number 12
Issue: December 2020

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