By Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is an author and new church planter in Pueblo Colorado with his wife, Amy. His podcast can be found on iTunes, or by visiting his website at www.christianpiatt.com.

When I first heard of podcasting, I thought it was pretty cool. Immediately, I went online and set up free subscriptions for way more of my favorite shows than I can reasonably listen to, but as a junkie for free information, I couldn’t pass it up!

How great would it be, I thought, if I could do my own podcast? But surely it’s way too complicated and time-consuming to manage myself, right? I had received a book on podcasting a while back, but I was too intimidated to get started. For months, it remained no more than a good idea in the back of my mind.

Then, because of a series of curious circumstances, I ended up with a credit of a couple hundred bucks at my local music store, which is a dangerous thing. I wandered the aisles for a while and came across a cabinet of digital recorders. The price tags ranged from $200 to $350 bucks, and given my experience with digital recording gear, I assumed these were mediocre gadgets at best.

Turns out that digital recording technology has come a long way both in quality and affordability. Next thing you know, I’m on my way home with a little portable unit, complete with built-in microphones, cables and headphones. At home, I did a few test runs, speaking and playing into the recorder, amazed at the quality of this little machine that ran off of four AA batteries.

Maybe this podcast thing is not such a crazy idea after all.

I got online and found links to Audacity, a free audio mixing software program. Surely, I figured, this thing is lame. I mean, who can get anything decent out of some freeware? But the more reviews of it I read, the more convinced I became that it could at least handle my basic needs.

Next, I’d need a host site – somewhere to put my podcasts online so people could find and play them. Again, after some browsing, I found Podbean, one of many podcast “hosts” who offer free basic packages to get you started. Like others, they charge for premium services and extra memory storage, but I could get started and see if this podcasting thing was right for me without signing up for some pricey membership.

As a fan of National Public Radio, I had a fantasy of making my podcast sound like “This American Life,” so I’d need some sound clips to break up the narrative. I found more than I could use in three lifetimes at FreeLoops.com and The Freesound Project.

Outfitted with all the necessary gear, now I needed some interesting content. I started by narrating a few chapters from my newest book project, followed by a memoir-style account of my own faith journey and some spoken word clips. But what about ministry? Could I use podcasting to get the word out about our church on a local scale, or maybe nationally? That’s when I put together the “Big Fat Jesus Head” series I did with my wife.

I was getting some decent traffic from friends and people I told about my new project on Facebook, but I wondered if there was another way to get my work in front of people who liked podcasts, but who might not know who I was. That’s when I learned about Podcatchers, which are online services that serve as a clearinghouse and search tool for the thousands of podcasts out there.

In a few months, I’ve gone from this podcasting thing being an intriguing but daunting idea to having almost 600 hits on my first handful of episodes. Even better, when people search my name on search engines, the podcast is yet another thing that pops up. My literary agent was thrilled too, because that book project she was promoting for me found a foot in the door when a publisher showed interest in listening to the first few chapters online.

Next steps include recording Amy’s sermons, archiving personal stories from members of our church, concerts and interviews with other activists, artists and various people of interest. Aside from being a great tool for non-readers to get your message, there’s something deeply personal about hearing someone’s story or message in their own voice.

Now that I got it going, I have to wonder why it took me so long to come around. Turns out even we tech-heads have our hang-ups about new technology. But like anything else, it’s just a new tool at my disposal and, once I learned how to use it properly, became another avenue for personal expression, publicity and connection with people regardless of place or time.

Even better, it’s broadening our circle of people who hopefully will get some benefit from the ministries we’re doing here in Pueblo. If what Amy preached about Sunday can help someone in Nebraska a month from now, it just extends the life and scope of our ministry.

If you ask me, that’s technology at its best.

To sign up for Christian’s E-newsletter, “Faith Portals,” visit www.christianpiatt.com, or email him at cpiatt@christianpiatt.com.

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