Digital Parish: 5 steps for starting a church podcast

You've got a world-changing message. Let's get that message out to people through a podcast. Millions of people are regularly listening to podcasts, and utilizing the medium helps our churches and ministries meet people where they are.

Rev. Ryan Dunn shares his experiences and discoveries of starting and maintaining multiple podcasts--including Pastoring in the Digital Parish.

The Episode

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Show Notes 

Statistics about podcasting were pulled from Buzzsprout.

Ryan's at-home equipment:

  •  Audio-Technica ATR-2100 microphone
  • Zoom Podtrak P4 digital recorder and mixer
  • Editing software is Audacity

Sites that offer free licensing are Incompetech ( and DigCCMixtr ( licenses music tracks for a small one time fee.



This is Pastoring in the Digital Parish, your resource and point of connection for building digital ministry strategy and bringing your congregation into the digital age.

My name is Ryan Dunn. I’m a digital communicator, church volunteer, ordained clergy-person, and a podcast enthusiast.

I’ve written articles about starting podcasts. I’ve done training sessions on starting podcasts. And, as I endeavored to start a sermon podcast for my little church here in Nashville, I realized I’ve never done a podcast episode about starting a podcast.

So, let’s rectify that on Pastoring in the Digital Parish. In this episode, we’ll cover a few quick but compelling reasons for your church to have a podcast, and then get to the nitty-gritty procedures of producing a church or ministry podcast.

We’re going to break this down into 5 key steps to getting started. You can skip to whatever part of the journey you’re on…

FIRST, we’ll explore the reasons a church podcast makes sense.

SECOND, we’ll explore the format of podcast that is right for your ministry.

THIRD, we’ll cover the necessary equipment you’ll need to record your podcast.

FOURTH, we’ll get to editing and production.

And FIFTH, we’ll get to the important details for delivering your podcast to the masses. That’s hosting and distribution… and STUFF.

Let’s let it roll on Pastoring in the Digital Parish!


Why should a church have a podcast? In true pastoral fashion, I’m going to answer that question with a story. And if you’ve listened to this podcast like, at all, you know I’m from the Methodist tradition. So I’m reaching into Methodist history for this story…

On April 2, 1739, John Wesley committed an act he previously thought vile. At 4PM, Wesley stood roadside as wearied miners undertook their commute home, and Wesley committed field preaching. 

Said Wesley of the experience: "I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he (Whitefield) set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life - till very lately - so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order.”

In spite of Wesley’s previous thoughts, field preaching soon became the chief medium through which the Methodist movement spread. Wesley himself noted that he was often out and about preaching sermons at 5AM, assumedly to reach workers headed to their places of employment. The practice of field preaching was all about meeting people where they were.

Today, 53% of the American population has listened to a podcast in past month. 26% of the population listens to podcasts weekly--that’s nearly 87 million people who are, at least once a week, listening to one or more episodes of a podcast. (Statistics from )

There’s growing opportunity for the church to bring our messages of hope and transformation to people where they are through podcasting. And the good news is that, much like Wesley’s field preaching, it’s relatively easy to bring our message to this media. 

For me, that’s a fairly compelling WHY for a church podcast. If you believe your church carries a message that is meaningful for your community, it makes sense to reach out through podcasting media.


OK, so if you’re now convinced it’s time to do a podcast, let’s talk about what that podcast might look like.

Wrapped into this is the question addressing WHO your podcast is for. I want to push you to answer that question a bit more specifically than “anyone” or “everyone”. As they say in the writing world, “if your book is for everyone, it’s really for no one.” Same is true for podcasting. Take a stab at defining your audience.

Your church podcast might be for members who aren’t able to regularly participate in weekly worship. It might be for people in your community who are interested in issues of social justice. It might be for a more general population of people who feel like life is missing something and are curious about spirituality. Or it could be for people who have been hurt by the church.

I mentioned that this episode was inspired by my own quest to start a podcast for my church. We’re doing a sermon podcast. And the audience is people who have heard about some of the interesting things our church is up to in the community and thusly want to know a little more about who we are and what we believe.

The WHO is the determining fact of the WHAT. So when you define who your podcast is for, you can more easily discern what it is that you can offer them.  At my church, we primarily communicate our values and ideas through Sunday sermons. So sharing those sermons will help the audience of the curious learn more about us.

You may discern an that interview-based podcast might best serve your audience. Or, like this episode, an informative monologue might hit the mark. 

The format of your podcast dictates what gear you will need. Interview formats necessitate equipment allowing for recording multiple inputs. Cohosted formats require multiple microphones and, possibly, a means for recording from separate locations.

Will your podcast involve a cohost? Will you be hosting interviews? If so, will interview subjects join you in person, or will they be recorded remotely? Will you be doing a more journalistic podcast that includes audio clips from the field?

You don’t need to have all these questions answered before you begin. But having ideas of what content you hope to present will help with obtaining the right equipment.


Let’s talk equipment.

At its simplest level, a podcast requires two things: a microphone and a recording device.

You may have this stuff in place already. If you're doing a sermon podcast… like we’re doing with my church… you’re probably already recording this stuff. In our case, we do a livestream of each worship service. That means I can download the recorded service from YouTube or Facebook and then cut it up and convert the audio to what I need.

In fact, let me just tell you how I’m doing this. I’m downloading the file from YouTube… as I mentioned. I’ll then trim the file down to the sermon in a video editor. I use iMovie… because it’s free and meets the need. If you’re a Windows person, there are free video editors out there… I just don’t know enough about them to recommend one. ANYWAYS… I do this portion of editing in video because having the visual cues to define where the sermon begins and ends saves me a whole lot of time. 

Once I cut down the file to just the sermon. I convert it to an audio file. THEN I drop it into some audio editing software… often referred to as a “DAW… D-A-W” in the biz. That stands for Digital Audio Workstation. The particular DAW I use is called Audacity. It’s free… which was the big selling point for me. And it’s actually a really, really capable DAW. It has all the features I’ve ever needed to clean up rough audio and make a good sounding episode. I’ll talk more about that when we get to editing, though. In the meantime, just know that you’ll need a DAW. I use Audacity. Some podcast hosting services offer editors on their platforms. Our friend Dan Wunderlich uses Garage Band to do his podcasts.

There can be a little bit of a learning curve on these systems. I suggest starting at the most accessible point. So, go free and easy.

NOW, if you’ve determined that something like an interview-based format is best for you, then some other equipment is going to be required. You need a mic and a recording device.

Let’s talk microphone, first. These days I record all of my podcast episodes in my home using equipment I bought myself. The mic I chose is an Audio-Technica ATR-2100. It’s a really versatile mic. It has both XLR and USB outputs, so I can plug to a traditional mic system OR I can plug it straight into my computer. It is a dynamic microphone… meaning it’s not overly sensitive. That works for me because I’m in a studio type setting. If you ever watch the videos of these episodes, you can see I’m right up on my mic. If I backed away from my mic, that would really play the volume level.

This works for my context, because I’m recording one voice on my end and I want to cut out any extraneous noise. So with a dynamic mic, you’ll get a clear recording of my voice right up by the microphone… but you’re also unlikely to hear my dog Jackie barking downstairs at the neighbor washing his car.

A lot of podcasters use condenser mics. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why they do. A condenser mic is a great room mic. Sooo, if you’re going to have a panel of people talking and just one microphone, then a condenser mic is appropriate. But if the purpose of your mic is just to pick up one voice, a condenser mic is not the right way to go… because, it will pick up your voice alright… but it’s also sensitive enough that it will pick up Jackie dog barking at the neighbor. And maybe even catch the neighbor’s music, too.

Dynamic mics are meant to pick up one source. Condenser mics pick up multiple sources. For some reason, a number of mics marketed as podcasting mics are condenser mics… which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. BUT, if you want to record multiple voices on one mic or not have to have a mic right up in your face, then maybe a condenser mic is for you… just make sure the whole neighborhood is quiet.

Besides a mic, you’ll need a recording device. Many podcasters use their computers as recording devices, and they work well for formats with a single host and remote cohosts or guests. Dan Wunderlich records his shows on Garage Band. Audacity can also be utilized for audio recording--and it is downloadable for free.

However, utilizing an external recording device allows for more flexibility and security. Popular recording devices include the Zoom H4N, Zoom H6, and Tascam DR-40.

Let me take you through my “studio” set up. The mic is an ATR-2100 microphone plugged into a Zoom Podtrak P4 digital recorder. For interviews, I connect with guests either via the Zoom meeting app OR, more frequently, an online platform called Riverside–which is paid service that is a lot like Zoom, but has extra features for podcasting and simply records more securely and with better quality. These are on my computer which is plugged the Podtrak recorder, as well. In this way, the Podtrak becomes a mixer for me. 

And I can also record both on the Podtrak and on the meeting software, like Zoom or Riverside. I almost always record in both places simultaneously, and this has saved me from losing material a number of times. The last time I didn’t record in both places was for this podcast… and I ended up losing the episode. Lesson learned.

If you’re going the cheap, minimalist route, you can probably skip getting an external recorder and just record right on your computer. All you’ll lose is the mixing capability and the security of a back-up recording.


OK, so once you’ve recorded, now what? Well, you need to put the polish on the content through editing.

Let me take your through my editing process for both my church’s sermon podcast and for this podcast so you get an idea of what is involved in each style.

On the sermon podcast, I download the video from our church’s livestream. I cut it down to the sermon in a video editor. Then I convert that edited video file into an audio file. Your video editing software may allow you to export audio files… or you can use a converter like dB Poweramp. 

Once I have that audio file, I drop it into my DAW… which again, stands for Digital Audio Workstation and, in simplest terms, is audio editing software. My preferred DAW is Audacity. 

Once the file is in the audio editor, I record a donut… which is just me jumping on the mic to say something like “This is the sermon from Glencliff UMC on Sunday in which Pastor Lovejoy reveals the joys of constancy and God’s disdain for Beatle boots…” I’ll drop a little music in there, too.

I don’t want to get too much into content in this episode… but I will offer that it’s a good idea to tailor these donuts each episode… just to give the listener a specific hook or reason to keep listening.

The audio recorded from the livestream may not be of the highest quality. So I do try to dress it up a bit. Within the audio editor, I’ll run the sermon audio through a compressor effect, and then I’ll run it through loudness normalization. This evens out the levels and brings the whole recording up to a comfortable listening level. What we don’t want to do is have someone listen to another podcast at a normal level and then flip over to ours and either have their eardrums bleeding or having to crank the volume up to 11 in order to hear what we’re saying.

For this podcast, the process is pretty similar to the sermon podcast. The difference being that I am likely working with more tracks. Instead of a single sermon recording providing the meat of the episode, I have overlaying audio tracks from my mic and from the guest’s mic. I’ll run the compression and loudness normalization effects on the guest’s file. Then I’ll go through and see if there areas that need cleaning up. Sometimes their recording includes a buzz that, with the help of technology, can be filtered out. OR, they might have a compressor mic that is pickup traffic sounds when the guest isn’t speaking. We can mute those.

I might also edit down or mute parts where the guest and I talk over each other… or if there’s a pause that is a little too long I’ll cut that down.

I’ll also add in my donut and music. 

Speaking of music: Intro and outro music go a long way in making a podcast sound professional. The best practice is to use licensed music. Sites that offer free licensing are Incompetech ( and DigCCMixtr ( licenses music tracks for a small one time fee.

Once you’re edited, it’s time to export and save the whole file as an mp3. Certain podcast distribution apps, like Apple Podcasts, only accept mp3 or m4a files. So it’s pretty industry standard to just save your final podcast file as an mp3. Depending on your audio editor, you may need to run the file through a converter in order to get the right file type.


Awesome. You’ve recorded some great content. You’ve edited into something pretty slick sounding. You’re ready to get this good news to your specific audience. Now what?

You need a podcasting host. A podcast host is a place to store and distribute your podcast's audio files. The service will provide a podcast RSS feed (basically a listing of all your episodes) that you will submit to Apple Podcasts and other podcast directories.

Here at United Methodist Communications, we host do our own podcast hosting. This means we have control over everything… where our files are, how they get distributed, etc… The rub is that none of our process is automated. So self-hosting has the benefit of complete control, but it comes with the cost of having to manually navigate the podcast posting process.

And here’s how that goes: First, we have to get our edited episode mp3 onto the internet. So we upload the file to one of our servers. Then we have to let podcast distribution services like Spotify and Apple know that we have an episode out and where they can find that episode file. This notification system is called an RSS feed. Initially, someone (in this case, our web developer Lane) had to go to each podcast distributor to create a podcast channel and supply them with our RSS Feed.

Now, when we release a new episode we have to create that RSS feed notification. We use Wordpress to do so. We build an episode post which includes the URL of our audio file and then the Wordpress post is the trigger for our RSS feed. Which then triggers the podcast distributors to update our channels on their sites.

It’s a bit of work, but we never have to worry about someone else removing our content and we have complete control over where our podcasts go.

If that sounds like some work, the good news is that there are hosting services that automate this process for you. Anchor ( is a free hosting platform. Other platforms include Libsyn, Transistor, Blubrry and Buzzsprout. All of these services supply podcasters with an RSS feed. They will also distribute your RSS Feed to the various distribution points for you. They generally offer some reporting stats and metrics, too. Which is nice.

The drawback, of course, is that your material is hosted and stored on their servers. And here’s an example of how that can be a bit challenging. A few years ago, I did a podcast as a passon project or hobby. I used one of the paid hosting services for hosting and distribution. I mothballed that podcast after a couple years–actually, I did that in order to start this podcast. To this day, I’m paying a small amount each month for the hosting service to keep my mothballed podcast–it still gets like 20 listens a month. But, if I cut my subscription, the host will delete my podcast. Now, I can download all those episodes and move them to another hosting system and keep the podcast alive in perpetuity… but that’s a process I’ve yet to undertake because it’s lengthy. That’s just an example of the rub of having someone else control your content.

That said, I’d be willing to bet that about 98% of the podcasts out there use an external hosting service… and a majority of them do not have issues.

For our church podcast, we’re using a fee service because I started this with no budget. So far it’s working fine. AND there is always the opportunity to go to a paid service. We don’t have the resources to do self-hosting.

I will offer this word of caution:  do your checking around. One of the free ways to get hosting is to use an audio host like Soundcloud. Soundcloud is very cool… but, what I’ve discovered is that the RSS feed that it creates is not accepted by some pretty big platforms. For example, I want to have our church’s sermons playable on smart speakers. It was a goal to be able to say “Smart speaker, play Glencliff UMC”. Soundcloud is not compatible in that capacity. 

It’s actually creating a bit of an issue for the work I do with the Rethink Church website because we do audio recordings of all of our articles. We’ve been hosting those on Soundcloud. It would be fantastic to set up a smart speaker skill that plays our audio articles when requested. If that’s a dream you might have… then Soundcloud is not the answer.

But once you’ve found the right hosting system for you… then it’s time to upload and promote. Making the podcast discoverable is probably the biggest challenge of podcasting. It takes time. Unless you’re able to start with a launch that has a lot of promotion dollars behind it, expect a slow burn to your podcast growth, as opposed to big bang flash. 

[Music in]

That’s going to put a wrap on this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish!

If you want to learn more about podcasting, then we have some relevant episodes: 

In September of 2021, I did a bonus episode for International Podcast Day called “Building community around your podcast”. It’s only 12 minutes long…and it really dives into getting people to listen to your podcast.

So then, go check out: “From passion to podcast to faith community” from March of 2022.

Again, I’m Ryan Dunn. I’d like to thank,  the online destination for leaders throughout The United Methodist Church. They make this podcast possible. And of course, they host our website:, where you can find more online resources for ministry.

If you want to connect: check out our Pastoring in the Digital Parish group on Facebook. You can also send me questions and ideas for future sessions at [email protected]

Another session comes next week. In the meantime: Peace!

On this episode

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.