The Ultimate Guide To Taking Sermons Digital
Every week, pastors research, study, write, and deliver sermons to their congregations. Then, just mere hours after they finish one sermon, they begin writing a new one for the next Sunday. In fact, 36 percent of pastors say they start sermon writing on Monday.
Pastors spend a ton of time preparing their sermons, but for many of them, the sermon disappears as soon as it’s preached.
How does a pastor make his or her sermon relevant and impactful to the millennial who’s just starting to go to church, the senior Sunday school couple, and everyone else in between? And how do you reach those who aren’t able to come to church every Sunday? Can those sermons live on once they’ve been delivered?
Given the effort it takes to research and write sermons every week, we’ve compiled tips and tools to ensure those sermons are reaching as many people as possible on Sunday and beyond. In this post, you’ll find:
Why Pastors Should Make Sermons Digital
1. Sermons will have a longer lifespan
If you’re going to invest as much time as you do into your teaching ministry, you should be getting as much life as you possibly can from sermons. Making sermons and other church content available on the church website or church app means people in the community can revisit messages a week, a month, or even a year after the message was delivered.
2. People consume content differently
Not everyone in your church is paying close attention on Sunday morning. They might be sitting there with fidgety kids, or they might otherwise get distracted during the sermon. On top of that, some people listen better when they’re actively doing something, and a church service isn’t always the ideal place to keep them engaged. Providing alternative ways to get messages enables people to get your teachings in a manner and place that’s best for them.
3. You can reach people outside the church
Imagine someone coming home from a service and being so inspired by something you taught that they can’t wait to share it. Digitizing your sermons gives them that opportunity. They can email them, text them out, or share them on their Facebook wall. This gives your members the ability and agency to share your church’s messages with people who may not quickly step foot in a church.
Ultimately it’s about giving your teaching an opportunity to reach more people—and touch more lives. It’s a lot easier and less time-consuming than you imagine. In fact, there are a number of popular and easy-to-use mediums people use every day to stay informed, learn, or just get entertained. Your church can use these channels to consistently share sermons and other forms of church content.
6 Ways to Turn Your Sermons into Digital Content
1. Turn sermons into blog posts
With a robust enough sermon outline, turning a message into a blog post is pretty easy. Some people in your congregation get more out of reading than they do from listening so having written message available for your church to read and reflect on is a good idea.
Blogs are one of the most easily shareable forms of digital media and they’re perfect for making your message read a far-reaching audience. Plus most blog platforms allow readers to subscribe for regular updates; this way, you can build regular readership for your sermons.
As an extra win, you can use your PowerPoint slides as blog images! You can also get free images on Unsplash and Creative Commons.
You can easily maintain a blog using your sermon content. WordPress is an all-round blogger favorite because of its ease-of-use but you can use others like Blogger, too. The nice thing about turning your sermons into a blog is that you will be updating it weekly. That’s a lot more content than many blogs and it will definitely help you build a following.
The truth is that most sermons are really long when they’re written out. The average sermon could be broken into multiple blog posts. That’s more content that’s easily digestible—and shareable. It’s easy to find a church volunteer who can help you break those down into bite-sized posts.
Please note that you can embed videos and audio from all the other platforms I’ve mentioned into your WordPress posts!
2. Turn sermons into podcasts
Not everyone wants to sit tied to a monitor or mobile device to enjoy a sermon (or waste data streaming a video sermon that they’re only listening to). Sermon audio is perfect for a long walk, a workout, or other activities that allow your listeners to split their attention. Plus, they’re getting easier to create and share.
If you’re already recording your sermons on MP3 files for your website, or even on CDs to distribute to your congregation, you’re already on the right track to turning them into a podcast or another form of audio content.
SoundCloud is to audio what Instagram is to images. It’s a social media platform built around distributing audio tracks and podcasts. People can follow you and actually comment throughout your sermon. This can be an incredibly helpful way to really get inside the minds of your listeners and find out what is working—and what might not be.
And what would a social media channel be without the ability to share content with others? SoundCloud makes it easy for people to share your sermons on other major platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Want to get your sermons into Spotify or iTunes? How about selling a sermon series online as an album? You should check out CD Baby. They can help you get your sermons in over 95 digital stores and more than 15,000 brick-and-mortar ones. When your sermons are streamed, they’ll even help you manage your royalties.
There are tons of articles aimed at helping musicians share their content more widely. A lot of these can be adapted by churches to promote their own content, and there’s a distinct advantage to marketing your content in ways that might be outside the purview of other churches.
3. Turn them into videos
You don’t need incredible production values to create a YouTube channel dedicated to your sermons. You can get a good quality video using one camera mounted on a tripod. Plus, filming your sermons as they’re given is the easiest way to keep them alive.
Here are a few suggestions for using those videos once they’re recorded:
It’s no question YouTube has become synonymous with online video, and it only makes sense. YouTube videos get four billion views a day, and it’s the second largest search engine in the world. It’s almost insane not to be putting this powerhouse to use for your church.
YouTube is the place to be if you’re looking for a huge audience and concerned about showing up in search engines. Not only is YouTube free, but it has the best options if you want to advertise your channel—or make a little advertising money.
On the other hand, Vimeo has some great things going for it, too. The pro version ($199 a year) has a player that you can customize in a lot of cool ways, which includes embedding your logo into the player itself. The ability to customize your videos’ URLs is pretty awesome, too. You can also restrict where it can be viewed (like on your own website) or who can view it (because you can password protect it).
One of the great things about Vimeo is that subscribers are promised a one-hour response time on a weekday for any support needs. Try getting that from YouTube.
Wistia is a fantastic choice if, instead of the videos being an end in themselves, you want to use them to be part of a greater strategy for your church marketing. Being able to embed an email capture screen at any point in the video is an amazing way to capture the information of people who watch your videos so that you can engage them again. In fact, you can even place the capture at the beginning as a prerequisite for watching the video (but I’d suggest using that sparingly).
You can also embed links directly in the videos to drive viewers to other content or areas of the website. This is an amazing way to use your videos to direct the journey of your website visitors. And the analytics for Wistia videos put YouTube to shame.
4. Turn them into livestream events
Live-streamed sermons are often a lifesaver for your church community. People can rest easy knowing that if they can’t get their kids out the door in time for service or they’re not feeling well they can tune into the service as it’s happening. Plus, many people would rather tune into a live service than watch a pre-recorded video. This is also a great opportunity to minister to shut-ins and people who lack regular transportation.
You don’t have to make a big investment in livestreaming to get started. Plenty of churches have tested the water by live streaming their services through a free service like Google Hangouts or using Facebook Live. Both are easy to set up and free.
5. Turn them into ebooks
Ebooks are a great medium for publishing especially powerful, multi-part sermons. Turn a sermon series into an ebook. It’s another fantastic way to make your teaching available to the readers in your congregation or as a wonderful freebie to new visitors. The simplest and most cost-efficient way to publish an ebook is to write it in Google Docs and turn it into a PDF. Pull an entire sermon series into a one .pdf, and you have something to offer people on your website in exchange for their email information.
This way, you can add links, videos, and images to the book and make it available on your church app or website for people to download and free. You can also get free images on Unsplash and Creative Commons.
If you’re going to write your sermons out anyway, why not bundle a series together and create ebooks to share or sell on Amazon? It’s a lot easier to do than you would think. If you do this frequently, you can build interest in your church by establishing yourself as an author. I mean, Amazon has its own robust search engine serving nearly 250 million active users a year. Learn more about publishing an ebook on Amazon here.
You can even create, publish, and distribute hard copies of your book.
6. Turn them into social media posts
One of the easiest things you can do with your sermon is to pull out some of your best quotes and use them as social media updates. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are the perfect place to feature custom pictures featuring your quote. Don’t forget to watermark the quote with your church’s website link/URL!
7. Turn sermons into shareable slideshows
If you create extremely rich presentations to accompany your sermons, they might be amazing content to share as well. Why waste all that design work? There’s no reason that your presentations can’t live on to edify others either as an accompaniment to the sermon audio or video or as stand-alone content.
This LinkedIn-owned company is a powerful slide hosting service that gets 60 million visitors a month. It allows you to upload your files as PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote, and OpenDocument presentations.
One of the great things about SlideShare is the way that it pulls text from your presentation and description for SEO purposes. This means that people can stumble upon your presentations when they’re looking for similar content. It is, in a sense, the YouTube of document-sharing websites.
If your church uses Google Apps, then using Google Presentation makes sense. You can create your own presentation and link to it in the description of sermon audio or visual. The simplicity and shareability of Presentation is its saving grace.
One of the things that makes Google Presentation helpful is that you can quickly make changes and edits within the application itself. You are developing the content online instead of having to work offline and upload the content.
5 Tips for Writing Evergreen Sermons
Sermons are written and delivered to spur on life-long changes among hearers. But many people need to listen to sermons multiple times before the message really sinks in, and others have favorite sermons they like to listen to periodically.
With so many incredible platforms online to share your sermons, they can live forever. This is great news for you and the people who love interacting with your church’s messages over and over.
The challenge now is in writing and delivering messages that feel as fresh in ten years as they did the moment they were preached. Here are ten helpful tips for writing evergreen content:
1. Stay current, but think long term
A pastor needs to be able to address current events when they’re preaching. An important element in discipleship is about teaching your church how to think about current events. In fact, that might be more important than teaching them about stuff going on in the news.
That said, it can be hard to write a sermon about a current event that will be of interest in a couple of years. But here are a few suggestions for doing it right:
Avoid current pop-culture discussions and references. Although they can generate some interest on the Sunday they’re preached, they get old really fast. If you feel the need to discuss a current event, make sure there are enough details to inform someone who has no idea what you’re talking about. This will help people in the future—and people in other countries who might be listening.
Skew the sermon towards universal application instead of focusing on the specifics of a time-bound story.
2. Don’t make pop culture references in your sermon title
Writing a title that mentions Pokémon GO seems like a huge win, right? I mean, everyone and their grandma is talking about it. But it’s only going to be provocative on the morning you give the sermon (if at all). But rest assured, it won’t even be a footnote in the cultural lexicon in five years.
If you want to use that title when it’s preached, great! Just make sure you change it when you put it online.
3. Write sermons for a wider audience
It can be easy to write sermons for our home church because there’s a common language and experience that you can draw from when trying to communicate a point. When you’re writing sermons that you hope will be used for a long time to come, it’s important to not speak directly to your congregation at the expense of others.
This means that you’ll want to avoid inside jokes or stories that only make sense in your church. If you’re not going to give more details, you might want to shy away from using local haunts and stories to illustrate your points.
4. Don’t use overly-clever titles
If someone is in your church’s app looking for sermons to listen to, it’ll help if they have an idea of the content from the title. In a church setting, it can be fun and helpful to give a sermon a funny or intriguing title, but it can hurt your sermons in the long run.
For example, your church might think it’s really funny to have a sermon called “Who doesn’t love cheese?” But unless your sermon is actually about the merits of cheese, it’s not going to generate a lot of interest for your future listeners. Well…except those in Wisconsin, maybe.
5. Answer timeless questions
Even if you don’t have an online ministry, this is something you should keep in mind. People have shared many of the same questions about faith, prayer, and scripture throughout time. If you can tap into those questions, your ministry will naturally become evergreen.
The internet is a treasure trove of questions that have plagued people. Get involved in forums, read comment sections to articles and blog posts. See what resonates because of its timelessness. When you can learn to discern the questions that drive the fears, you have the raw material for sermons that will be interesting forever.
Apply these strategies in one place with a church app
Assessing the wide array of tools to take your sermons digital can be daunting. Church apps streamline the process by providing ways to share your sermons across multiple mediums but unifying them in one central location.
With your own church app, you can pull in videos, blogs, podcasts, and more to make your content as engaging as possible to your wider community at home and abroad.
If you don’t have your own church app, it’s something to seriously consider. Making your culture and content easily available to a world that’s becoming increasingly mobile is unbelievably important—and getting started with your own customizable app is easier than you imagined. Learn more here.