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A while back I began an interview-style youth ministry podcast called 10-Minute Training.  Now that I have published about a dozen, I feel ready to share the process here.  Keep in mind that there are many ways to do this.  Mine is focused on making the least amount of work for me without giving up the ability to edit the podcast afterwards.

I am sure I don’t need to give you ideas on using a podcst in your ministry, but just in case, here are a couple:

  1. Daily/weekly devotion or thought for students
  2. Daily/weekly Bible memory verse
  3. Rebroadcast of your message
  4. Youth volunteer training/tip
  5. Parent update

This will be a series of posts.  Part one will focus on describing the gear and basic schedule, part two will look at the setup and actual recording, and part three the publishing.

The Schedule

I don’t have the kind of time every other week to devote to recording, editing, and publishing the podcast.  So in order to limit the weekly work, I schedule a couple of half days of recording every six months.  I schedule the interviewees a couple of weeks before the recording date and get a basic outline of their training piece via email.  Usually, I am able to get about 30 minutes of content in each one-hour session which is three podcasts.  By doing it this way I cut the weekly work down to about 10-30 minutes depending on how much editing is required.  If you end up doing it this way, I will give some tips for things you can do while recording that will make the editing easier months down the road.

The Gear

I say work with what you’ve got.  If you are starting, you may not need to buy anything, but I found a couple of purchases that streamline the process for me and bring the quality up a bit as well.

  1. Shure X2u ($99 on Amazon) – I reviewed this in an earlier post.  This alows me to take any mic I have and turn it into a USB mic that can be recorded in my audio recording program.  Though your built-in mic will work, this will make you sound professional without spending a fortune.
  2. Skype (Free) – This is what I use to get the audio from the interviewees.  I also pay for a Skypein number so that people who do not have Skype can use a regular phone to call me on Skype. The cost for that is about $18 a quarter.
  3. Garage Band (Free with Mac) – I have access to high-end audio software like sountrack Pro, but have found that this is simple and quick to record and edit something as simple as a two person interview.  It also has built in EQ and Compressors for podcasting that makes the mic and Skype audio sound a lot better.  If you are on the Windows side of things, Audacity is a great free option.
  4. Wiretap Anywhere ($129) – This is a bit of a splurge, but worth it if you can swing it.  Wiretap anywhere will take audio from any program or hardware device on your computer and convert it into a virtual sound card that allows you to record those pieces of audio on separate tracks.  I tried several methods to get this working when I was researching and found this to be WAY above everything else in reliability and usability.  This gets it all into Garage band live eliminating any later steps/synchronization.
  5. Squarespace ($10+ per month) – This is a content management system/hosting solution that I use for our youth site.  It makes publishing the podcast content and feed as simple as posting to your blog.  Pricey if you are only using it for your podcast, but worth it if you are shopping around for web hosting/authoring.
  6. Macbook ($999+)  Even the most basic macbook will do the job.  I will hold back my fanboyness here, but I think that for most youth ministers the ease, quality, and price of  creative tools (most need no more than those included with every mac) along with stability makes it a no-brainer.

My advice with this sort of gear is to go as cheap as possible at the beginning.  If the podcast does well, you can always add sound quality later.  As far as I am concerned, the audio quality cannot make up for poor content, but great content can go a long way towards overcoming less-than-professional audio quality.

I confess that I still haven’t seen the movie about facebook written by one of my favorite scriptwriters Aaron Sorkin.  I have read several reviews, and was struck by Lawrence Lessig’s insight into what amounts to a fundamental shift that has been created by the internet.  This shift has a lot to teach us about our students and our ministry.

Lessig explains that the movie missed the whole point and magic of Zuckerberg’s story.  He says, “what’s important here is that Zuckerberg’s genius could be embraced by half-a-billion people within six years of its first being launched, without (and here is the critical bit) asking permission of anyone.”  I agree.  As a person who spent his adolescence in a world where the internet was just beginning to take shape, I am constantly surprised by the total lack of limits (both good and bad) that the internet provides.

I have seen this first hand (tough not nearly as lucratively as Zuckerberg!).  I have a personal blog where I post thoughts on faith, ministry, and the future of the church.  It has regular visitors from 23 countries!   I’m just some punk youth pastor sitting on a chair at home drinking sweet tea!  I love writing it, but never thought I would have that type of audience when I started posting on it years ago.

What this means for our students is that they live in a world where they do not have to get corporate financing, a publishing contract, or a record deal to make a serious attempt at their dreams.

I think that is something that we MUST capitalize on as youth ministers.  I don’t mean having a blog or a Facebook page, but helping set youth free to do something about their faith.  Instead of encouraging them to engage in the 1950s passive learner model of sitting and listening every time we get them together, we need to be giving them the kind of permission with their faith that the internet gives them.  We need to be giving them permission to fulfill Jesus’ dream of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

I think the key to getting those students engaged is to follow the lessons from the internet:

  1. Start small and close to free.  What can you and your friends do in your spare time to make a difference?
  2. Make it social.  A cople of people working together have much more insight and potential than a lone ranger.
  3. Release the beta.  Launch sooner than later.  If it is overwhelming, make it smaller.  If something non-essential is going to delay the launch, do it later.
  4. Remind them that when Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew, he is both asking us to go, and giving us authority to go… just like the internet.
  5. Allow comments.  Find ways to get other people to tell you how you are doing, and what you could do better.
  6. Tap into a social network.  Students have a limited network on their own, but when they have adults on the team, they  have access to a much broader network of people and resources than they did on their own.

These are a few.  I know there are more.  Instead of resisting the internet’s no-limit posture, let’s funnel that power into the true hope for the hopeless.

Ever wonder if you have an unidentified proclivity for eschatological global domination?  Simply type your name(s) into the name box on this site and it will let you know if there is a way to make your name add up to 666.

I got bad news… my last name contains 666.  If you put 100 for A, 101 for B and so on, it will add up to a total of 666.  It’s good to know I’m not alone.  Other names with 666:

Bush
Rush
Moses
Paul
Kennedy

Check your name. Its a simple JavaScript hosted on Open JS.

Zumocast is focused on helping you play/display the media you have on your computer to your iOS device.  After installing the app on your computer and iOS device and registering with Zumocast, you are able to do some incredible things.

You can watch any video you have on your computer on your iOS device.  When I say any, I mean ANY;  it even transcodes formats that are not viewable into viewable formats/resolutions.  It works over 3G or WiFi (though beware of your caps).  If you are about to get on a plane, don’t worry, all you have to do is click a download button and the item begins downloading in that appropriate format! (subject to the 10MB 3G cap)

More of a music person than a movie person?  Music works much the same way though for some reason it will not download.

Then, of course, you can view photos.  But that is not where the viewing stops.  I tried Word, Pages, Excel, PowerPoint, Keynote, PDF, RTF and all opened perfectly for viewing.

As far as I can see there are only a couple of disappointments.  Why it doesn’t allow you to download the music is beyond me, but I understand having a healthy fear of the RIAA.  It is also irritating that the desktop utility installs with a default to prevent your computer from going to sleep.  While I am sure that is the best thing for ZumoCast to operate, I am glad I looked before I walked out the door tomorrow morning with a dead laptop.  It would also be incredible if you could make some simple changes to text documents.

The best part of this incredible app is that it’s FREE and cross-platform.  Zumocast supports windows, mac, and iOS.  They are working on an android version as well.

Youth ministries have a bad reputation for being underfunded and understaffed because they often are.  That probably translates into you needing to do everything from fix the hole in the wall that happened during a wild game of pin the pool stick on the Jr Higher last week to installing a new hard drive in the Pentium II youth machine.  If you don’t know how to do everything, you will at some point need to use MonkeySee.

MonkeySee is an online repository of free how-to videos that range from how to select home theatre system speakers to how to apply a french manicure tip.  So, next time you have to install a new dishwasher after trying to clean the uncleanable after a youth event, go to MonkeySee.com.

It is frustrating to have to allow some app to compress you video or image files before you can upload them to your intended destination. Also frustrating is the cap on “over the air” uploading from your iPhone even when it is connected to WIFI. To top it all off, I like to have my video residing natively on YouTube and Facebook, but hate having to go through the painful uploading process twice. PixelPipe solves all of those problems.

PixelPipe focuses on one thing: publish photos, video, audio, text and files on over 100 online destinations. Basically that means it will put your media on every blogging, social media, and online storage site you can imagine.

Once you register for an account, you set up “destinations” like YouTube and Facebook and it adds them to your list of destinations.  Then, once you are ready to upload, you select the media you would like to upload, click upload and it does the rest (one upload to multiple destinations).  It has a 250MB cap which should make most of your HD clips uploadable; though, if you have edited them into a snazzy video, it may exceed the limit.

Its one flaw is its UI.  Once you fire it up, it is not obvious how to go about selecting which destination you are uploading to at that particular moment (you have to go into settings>edit destinations and then select “enable default” or “disable default” in a drop-down next to each destination).  It is this kind of unfriendly UI that would make you think twice before buying it, but is worth putting up with in this free version.

The bad UI aside, this app should be on everyone’s iPhone who does ministry as it allows you to easily upload media to lots of locations on the spot without having to wait until you get back in the office and have the time to sync it with your computer.

We just recently used this to upload videos of our kids on a mission trip every day while we were on the trip, and got rave reviews about our communication from parents as soon as we stepped off the busses.  Do yourself a favor and try PixelPipe out today.  There are versions available for tons of phones and operating systems (iPhone, Android, Nokia, Palm, IM clients, Windows, Mac, and Linux).

This past tuesday I got an email that told me I would be one of the lucky few to receive my iPhone 4 the day before it was released. I was more than a little bit pumped about that fact and waited somewhat patiently for it to arrive. Now that I’ve had it for a week, I feel fairly prepared to answer the question of whether or not you should rush out and get one.

The Basics
The phone is a substantial upgrade from the 3G, but far less of an upgrade from the 3Gs than apple would have you believe.

Topping the list of upgrades is the phone’s camera. Not only is it now 5 megapixels for stills, it added an LED flash. Video taken with the camera is now HD quality and can be illuminated by that same LED in dark situations. I will say that the camera quality is by far the best phone camera I have ever seen. It is on par with any 5 megapixel point and shoot I have used, and the video coming off is just as good, if not better, than any of the Flip models. AND, there is a smaller, lower quality camera that is front facing which will enable you to do easy self-portraits, video chat and FaceTime.

FaceTime is Apple’s video chat service that is built into the phone app, but it only works on WiFi.  In my tests it is good, but nothing to run out and buy a phone over.   As you can expect, it all depends on the quality of your WiFi connection.

One of the biggest updates is the processor. The iPhone 4 now has the same processor in it as the iPad which makes a noticeable difference in app performance and load times. It also ensures that when apps are running in the background that the rest of the phone doesn’t slow to a crawl.

The other big update is the display. It will blow you away. With a pixel density higher than the human eye can perceive at a normal distance, Apple’s “retina” display looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. Perfect shading, incredible viewing radius, and brilliant colors make it the stand out feature for me. I can’t wait until my laptop has one!

Good, Bad, and Ugly
All of those improvements are welcome and follow along with the rest of Apple’s excellence in implementation.  When you combine the video features with the $5 iMovie app, it becomes incredibly compelling.  I have been shooting short clips at our youth events, editing them in about two minutes with iMovie and uploading them to faceboook immediately.  That will rock your face off!  It will also allow you to make parents really feel like they know what’s going on at camps and retreats.

Though the phone is very attractive, it is glass on both sides, and that is a problem.  It will crack if you drop it on the right place at the right speed.  Since the screen is fused to the front glass, replacing the iPhone’s front glass will probably mean replacing the whole glass, screen, digitizer combo.  Pretty, but expensive.

There have been tons of reports about the iPhone 4’s antennae being able to be messed up by holding it a certain way.  That is 100% true.  Ask anyone with an iPhone 4 to hold it by cupping the bottom (usually using your left hand) and you can watch the bars drop to little or nothing at all.  However, you can do this same trick with the 3G or the 3Gs if you hold them properly.  It seems to be more pronounced with the iPhone 4, but is remedied by using a case that covers the edges (which you will need because of the glass design mentioned in the previous paragraph).

Should I Buy One?

Assuming you’ve got the dough, I would say it depends on two factors: what you are using now, and how much you want to use video.  If you, like me, had and liked the 3G and it’s time to upgrade, do it.  You will notice an amazing performance boost along with the incredible new features we discussed here.  If you really want to use video to up the communication in your ministry, do it.  The tools this phone has video-wise are incredible and will be worth every cent if you utilize them to communicate with your kids/parents.

If you have a 3Gs, I’d caution you to be careful.  This is not as much of a performance boost as you might need to justify the expense.  You can probably just update to iOS4 and download the iMovie app.  If you have a 3Gs or an 3G and will have to pay full price because you are not eligible for an upgrade, PUT THE CREDIT CARD DOWN AND STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!  If you are patient there will be another revision next year, and you can save yourself about $400.



I’ve been involved in a project to provide free Youth Ministry resources online at umyouthpastor.com for a while now.  We thought about doing a training podcast for a while, but wanted to make sure that we were adding something worthwhile rather than just creating more work for ourselves.  After consuming a lot of podcasts, I realized that what I wanted was a periodic training/idea podcast that was short and to the point.  That is where the idea for 10-minute Training (itunes link) began.

Each episode is an interview with a talented youth minister about a specific topic covering everything from having hard conversations to indoor game idea roundups.  Every episode then concludes with a resource recommendation from the guest.  All in about 10 minutes.

I love and listen to tons of long-format podcasts like the SYM podcast (iTunes link), but know very few people who are both entertaining enough to listen to for that long and experienced/talented enough to have that much quality content (Doug and the gang are some of the few in youth ministry).  The point of the podcast is to get you some usable information or idea as quickly as possible, or as the tagline suggests… we get to the point so you get the training. Check it out by going to the website or subscribing via iTunes.

For long-term mac users, this may seem ridiculous. For those converts from the PC universe, be prepared to have your world rocked.  Spotlight is Apple’s search feature built into OSX, and if you’ve converted from a PC throw all ideas about how search on large file systems works out of the window.

Without going into mega-geeky details, the way that the Mac formats hard disks allows for incredibly quick search (instantaneous in comparison to the PC).  Just click your little magnifying glass at the top right of your screen, type what you’re looking for an voila; (in 1-2 seconds) it’s there!  Emails, applications, text files, images… everything!

And here’s the best part: it searches the contents of files as well as filenames!  There are lots of other tools that seek to improve on spotlight.  I’ve tried them, but keep coming back to spotlight because it is so solid, and it’s on every mac at which I sit down.

Peter Krough has written an excellent article on backup in which he suggests the 321 system.  It says that you should have three copies (one primary and two backups) on two different media with one off-site.  Not only is this incredibly easy to remember, it really helps me sift through the myriad of backup solutions to get what I need and not a lot more.

For my on-site backup, I have mentioned before that I like to use Chronosync to automatically backup selected files whenever I mount a specific hard disc or thumb drive though Apple’s Backup (free with Mobile Me) or Time Machine will meet most mac user’s needs.  On the PC side of things, I have heard good things about Paragon Drive Backup and NovaBackup.

For offsite backup, I use and am really satisfied with Carbonite while Chris has written a bit about his preferred offsite backup service: Mozy.  Both are great and both support Mac and Windows.  The point is that you need to have your mission critical files and irreplaceable memories (photos, videos) stored somewhere that fire or flood will not cause you to lose money or memories.

I think Peter Krough said it best in his article, “There are two types of people, those who have experienced hard drive failure and those who will.”  Do yourself a favor and get your 321 system in place today.