Originally created 07/15/06

Churches begin podcasts to spread message of faith



At first, he wasn't sure people were listening, but now the Rev. Brent Garrard knows they are.

Feedback on his 2-month-old podcast has been trickling in from other pastors, church members, friends and even young MySpace.com members, who have discovered the weekly entry from his In Focus Church in Evans and asked to list him as a friend in their online social network.

Only a handful of Augusta-area churches are trying podcasts, and his might be the newest and quirkiest.

Instead of sermons, In Focus is following a talk-show format filled with box office buzz, weird news and some sound effects, the Rev. Garrard said.

"They (the shows) are 35 to 45 minutes, depending on how goofy we get," he said.

The unscripted podcasts also have some solid moments, such as raising the importance of family time, but he and his sidekick, 19-year-old staff member Stephen Lechner, spend at least half the program on nonsense, said the 36-year-old minister.

When reports surfaced in June that pelicans were getting drunk on toxic algae, they did a takeoff on an OnStar caller reporting a bird crashing into a windshield, said the Rev. Garrard, who said his second career choice would be a comedian.

He leaves the PowerPoint presentations and webmaster duties to Mr. Lechner, who also approves or disapproves friend requests from fans on MySpace.

"We don't endorse MySpace. The pop-ups are questionable," the Rev. Garrard said. "But we wanted to put something out there that is worthwhile."

Most people pick up the In Focus podcast through the church's Web site, which also is a host for iTunes, an MP3 store.

"You could download it (the podcast) and listen to it while you are jogging around the block," he said.

Millbrook Baptist Church in Aiken and Stevens Creek Community Church also have iTunes on their Web sites so viewers can pick up their podcast sermons.

They have been at it longer than In Focus. Millbrook started just before Easter.

"There are quite a few pastors around the country who are doing it, but not around here," said the Rev. Michael Chandler, the administrative pastor.

Virtually anybody with an MP3 player can pick up the program anytime, anywhere, making podcasting a great tool for evangelism and ministry without tying up a lot of the church's Web site, the Rev. Chandler said.

At the same time, podcasting cuts down on the number of copies of sermons on tape or CD that the church has to produce.

Stevens Creek Community started podcasting sermons in the spring and has also found it an efficient, cost-effective way to expand its ministry.

It allows families on vacation and those out of the country to stay in touch with the Augusta church by listening to the sermons, said the Rev. Marty Baker, the founding and lead pastor.

"We are sensitive to the people in the culture. Stevens Creek is all about making the Bible relevant to the culture," Dr. Baker said. "This is truly made for us."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND


Podcasting can refer to either audio or video files or the method of delivery.


You don't need an MP3 player to pick up a podcast. A computer with an MP3 store, such as iTunes, will do; iTunes is a free download and available on host sites.

ONLINE EXTRA


To check out Augusta-area church podcasts, see:


- infocuschurch.org/podcast.html


- stevenscreek.net


- millbrookchurch.org/templates/css/details.asp?id=32368&PID=316283