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Every pastor has thought about it: How do I take the sermon from just Sunday morning to my people during their weeks? Fortunately, with today’s technology it is easier than ever before with a myriad of ways. Many of these ways are low cost to absolutely free. Now, there are as many ways as there are imaginations, and some of those ways are even practical. All these methods will involve intentionality (that means time – whether a little or a lot) to implement consistently, effectively, and successfully.
I realize this is a technology blog but sometimes all the technology you need is a typewriter and a copier. Ok, maybe not the typewriter, just the copier.
One thing that many pastors did “back in the day” was to have copies made of Sunday’s sermon. These copies would be available for anybody just hanging out in the church office waiting to be taken home by a loving family. Some preachers might have even had it mailed out to the congregation’s shut-ins. The more ambitious would mail out a copy to every member or family who was not at church that Sunday. And the truly inspired would mail it out to every member, whether there Sunday or not. Obviously the grander the plan the bigger the budget needed, however, this was an easy option for smaller congregations.
There is actually a “modern” day equivalent of this situation. I know of some congregations that email out the sermon to shut-ins and/or those members who request it. That is an option that only cost the price of internet. It is one of the lowest cost options and it can be a great way to get email contact information from your members. So, you can file this under “the more things change, the more they stay the same” folder.
I was once part of a Bible study that met at a local diner on Tuesday mornings. The study was the same every week: preview the upcoming lessons and discuss them. Now, imagine that instead of looking forward a Bible Study looked back?! It would not be hard to do, no matter which lectionary (one-year or three-year) a church used or if they “free-texted” every week. The added bonus is that this would not have to be 100% pastor led or controlled. Members are going to talk about Pastor’s sermon. It also allows a fuller discussion of the various texts that a 15-to-45-minute sermon does not allow.
Every now and then pastors actually get a Sunday off. During one of those rare Sundays my family took a vacation up North. Actually, Chicago, but that is “north” for me! Sunday morning found me sitting in a pew at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Carol Stream, Illinois. And, after church when I was leaving an usher handed me a couple pieces of paper. One of them was a little green strip of card stock with a hole punched in it at one end. And, on the strip of paper was the theme verses for the Pastor’s sermon: “and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God” Psalm 78:6-7.
This can easily be hung up or incorporated in confirmation class or a family devotion like Faith5. And, it is taking the sermon home. Every time I look at it I am reminded of his message. And, it's done “in-house,” making it extremely economical.
Now we come to the more high tech options.
Does your congregation have a website? And does that website have an option to host a blog page? Or, do you have a professional blog? Use it! It is very simple, pick a day out of the week and post your sermon text as a blog entry. There are a couple of key thoughts here. If you are going to advertise it make it consistent. If one week you are posting your sermon text on Monday and the next Thursday and the week after that Wednesday and the week after that Friday, you will probably find a frustrated congregation. So, pick a schedule you can easily keep. Try to avoid posting on your day off if you do not have a scheduling option – you need your weekly Sabbath, too. And, I would suggest giving yourself some time to go back and edit your text, maybe pick a few key places to highlight and also find a picture or two that corresponds to your sermon or that section. If your congregation has a professional church communicator (or a volunteer one) this might be a great job to delegate to them.
Speaking of websites – with today’s templates uploading video or audio is easier than ever. While some websites do not host video directly most new templates do allow you to embed a YouTube or Vimeo video. Recording is easier than ever, too. You probably already have a sound system. Can you burn a CD of the sermon to upload as an audio file? My former congregation spent under $400 for a digital camcorder that worked well in lowlight. We placed it at the sound booth. It actually picked up sound so well that many times I did not need the audio recorded through the soundboard. I would then just use iMovie to clean up the video, insert graphics, overlay audio if needed, and then upload it to YouTube. After that I would share it to Facebook. The first week I did it, it took about ten hours. A few years later when I was leaving for another call I could do all that in under two. So, practice does help but it might also be a great thing for a volunteer or other staff to help out with. My current congregation does not have a camcorder (yet) but does record the audio. A volunteer then cleans it up and posts it to our website (which hosts audio) by Tuesday.
Believe it or not, but sermons do not have to remain sermons. Do you preach a classic three-part sermon? Or, do you have one main point but a couple of different sub-points? Your typical 4-to-5-page sermon would be a lot to read in a Facebook post. But, you know what is not? A short devotion. With a little work I am betting that you could turn your individual sermon points into stand-alone devotions. And then, with the magic of scheduling, you can set them to post during the week to Facebook. The nice thing about that? Many other social media platforms can then repost it from Facebook. For example, you can easily link to Twitter. Since Facebook is the largest of social media platforms it is a good start. If you have the time or talent (read staff/volunteers) you can even make individual posts for each platform. I would suggest that this option would need the most forward planning. You would probably need to be two to three weeks ahead in your sermon writing, minimum, at any given point. This would give you enough cushion to retool your sermon into several short devotions and then schedule them to post.
That is three low tech and three high tech options. What do you prefer? What does your church do? Any ideas that I missed? Feel free to write in the comments below!