Growing in relationship through conversation: A podcast journey

Rev. Ryan Dunn and Dr. Michelle Maldonado during their first podcast episode as co-hosts. (United Methodist Communications)
Rev. Ryan Dunn and Dr. Michelle Maldonado during their first podcast episode as co-hosts. (United Methodist Communications)

The Compass Podcast tackles tough questions about faith. Episodes walk through meaningful spiritual practices and meditations and explore conversations with special guests about how they are encountering spirituality in surprising ways.

This year, the bi-monthly podcast is celebrating 100-plus episodes. Though the podcast debuted in October 2017, there wasn't initially a consistent schedule. The podcast's architect, the Rev. Ryan Dunn, says there was a learning curve to getting started in a new medium. Now on a steady path, it continues to evolve to meet listeners' needs.

"We're still learning so much! Learning in regards to podcasting but also in regards to correlating faith to everyday life. It's funny, we do end up revisiting topics pretty consistently, but each time we end up learning something new," said Dunn, Minister of Online Engagement at United Methodist Communications. "It's a reminder that when it comes to faith, we're never really 'done.' We're always growing."

A new co-host adds a new perspective
The milestone episode introduced a new co-host, Dr. Michelle Maldonado. Together, Maldonado and Dunn go on a journey with their guests to creatively answer the old question: "How goes it with your soul?" 

"Our format has pretty much stayed the same … we're seeking to have a conversation that inspires people to recognize the movement of the Divine in their lives," said Dunn. "But Michelle's life experience and background are a lot different than mine. I'm Gen X, and she's Millennial. We grew up in different parts of the country. She has a journalism and communications background, which is sure to bring a lot in relation to show prep and conversations. Since our goal is to tie the spiritual to the everyday, this variance in what our everyday experience looks like will add a lot in terms of new perspective."

The new role excites Maldonado, Director of Seeker Advertising and Communications for United Methodist Communications.

"I was nervous at first because I am an introvert, but it has been fun getting out of my comfort zone and trying something different," said Maldonado. "I am really looking forward to the great conversations we will be having with guests on the podcast."

Conversations are the key
Dunn says the Compass Podcast conversations have allowed him to chat with some of his "spiritual heroes."

"People like Greg BoyleKate BowlerDan HaseltineShane Claiborne and Brian McLaren all influenced my faith journey long before I actually got to have conversations with them. It's inspiring for me to learn about what actually inspires their perseverance and hope," he notes. "But, probably more importantly, the quest to find and share new voices has led to meeting amazing people I might not have otherwise ever come across."

"I would like listeners to know that we truly do care about them and their spiritual needs," adds Maldonado. "We do our best to make sure we have the best edifying content."

Upcoming topics will explore how individuals' lives can disrupt cycles of brokenness, including environmental degradation and systemic racism. In addition, there will be practical ideas for integrating spiritual practices in daily life in the form of contemplative practices, prayers and meditations, as well as immersive experiences into some unique expressions of church.

Find more United Methodist podcasts
The Compass Podcast is just one of the podcasts produced by United Methodist Communications to meet the needs of various audiences. Get Your Spirit in Shape features casual conversations with United Methodist bishops, leaders, authors, pastors and others who offer spiritual nutrition and exercises. Pastoring in the Digital Parish delivers community and resources for leaders adjusting to ministry in digital space. The MyCom podcast teaches communities of faith how to effectively find their audience and share their story with the world.

In 2022, Dunn organized the inaugural United Methodist Podcast-a-thon, of which the Compass Podcast was a part. Looking ahead to planning the next podcast-a-thon, Dunn notes that "there are a number of great United Methodist podcasts, and we want to take part in fostering a sense of community and connection." Check them out at UMC.org/podcasts.

*Brenda Smotherman is the Senior Public Relations Manager at United Methodist Communications.


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