Jeremy Sarber, Reformed Baptist pastor

 

Odds and Ends

Churches Need a Sermon Transcription Service

When I began transcribing my sermons, I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know, my transcripts would reach more than three times as many people than the audio recordings of my sermons.

Podcasts may be all the rage, but I’ve discovered that written content is still more effective. At the height of my podcasting endeavors, my sermons were downloaded 1,200 times per week. But that number pales in comparison to the volume of eyeballs perusing the transcripts that I’ve made available online.

Inspired by notable preachers of history (Charles Spurgeon, for instance), I began hiring someone to type my Sunday discourses. The investment proved worthwhile.

In the past, I’d preach a sermon, upload the audio, and hope that people would listen. I might share a link on Facebook just to be proactive. Then, nothing (or almost nothing). On a good week, the stats might climb as high as twelve or fifteen downloads.

So I learned everything I could about podcasting. I studied the most popular podcasts in iTunes. I added music and edited the audio to give it an air of professionalism. I even hired voice-over talent. After doing everything that the experts suggested, weekly downloads rates did increase. One successful relaunch later, I suddenly had the ears of more than a thousand people.

Why stop there? I thought. The message of Christ is too important to leave any opportunities on the table. Not everyone prefers audio, so why not offer written transcripts as well? More times than not, I’m prone to skim a transcript when available rather than listen to a full sermon, and I’m not alone.

I turned to freelancers for help. Professional transcription services charge between $2-6 per minute of audio which was too pricey for me. Plus, I preferred a flat rate if possible. Knowing what I would pay each week would help me to stay within budget.

Eventually, I did find someone to work with but only after several failures and much wasted money. Accurately transcribing sermons is a particular skill which many transcriptionists don’t possess. To get it right, they have to know the Bible as well as the art of preaching.

My timing was perfect. Despite my best efforts, the podcast was losing steam. Many listeners dropped off, which is to be expected, and gaining new audience members proved difficult. Within weeks of publishing my transcripts, however, website traffic increased. Hundreds of visitors became thousands. It was the beginning of a steady stream of new readers.

Why? How? you ask.

The explanation is simple: Text-based content is more valuable than audio.

My primary traffic source became Google. People searched for topics that I had preached, and search engines were now pointing them to my website. It should come as no surprise that Google can’t search audio files. Those 4,000-5,000 words that I spoke every Sunday were useless to search engines until I began publishing text-based versions.

By the way, rumor has it that Google prefers long-form content. You might as well forget about pithy, 300-word blog posts. They want to serve their users articles with substantial meat on the bones. Sermons are ideal. The average sermon is 37 minutes in length or nearly 5,000 words.

Furthermore, search engine traffic is priceless compared to other sources. No one who enters my website through Google is forced to be here nor did they feel semi-obligated to visit because they saw my link on Facebook. Rather, they were actively seeking my content.

Speaking of Facebook, I’ve also discovered another advantage of sermon transcripts: repurposing. For instance, I can share excerpts on Facebook or quotable quotes on Twitter. I can send entire sermons to my email list. I can publish them in church newsletters. I’ve even considered using them in printed material to distribute throughout the local community. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Today, releasing audio recordings of my sermons are a low priority for me. Once my church’s new website is complete, we’ll make them available again, but transcripts will remain my focus for reasons I’ve already stated and more. (Did I mention that church members are utilizing them during their personal Bible study throughout the week?)

If your church doesn’t offer sermon transcripts online or elsewhere, it’s worth considering. Personally, I no longer employ a freelancer. Instead, I started my own sermon transcription service called Pastor.ink. Once I realized the headaches of finding quality transcriptionists at a reasonable price, the launch of Pastor.ink was almost inevitable.

Through the month of May, all of our packages are 50% discounted when you use the promo code “COL32324” at checkout. We’d love to help your pastor reach more people with his sermons.