By Y Bonesteele
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –– The Lifeway Bible Studies Podcast launched in February 2021 in the midst of a pandemic, bringing ease and efficiency to engaging God’s Word for those still under lockdown.
More than ever, people are listening to podcasts in their cars, at the gym, waiting at appointments, walking and jogging. And the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the audio platform’s everyday use, especially for Christians desiring to listen to sermons and devotionals when they were unable to go to church or to their small groups.
In a season where believers needed more biblical encouragement, the Lifeway Christian Resources Adult Ministry team started looking at its large library of video-based Bible study content. With the permission of individual authors, they took the audio portions and made them available via podcast.
The Group Answers Podcast, designed to train and encourage small group leaders, hosted by Chris Surratt and Brian Daniel, soft-launched the Lifeway Bible Studies Podcast as bonus episodes on their podcast in January to give those already listening a taste of what was to come. The response was extremely positive, launching with 400-500 downloads a week.
“Making Space” by Jeff Vanderstelt was the first study turned into podcast episodes, helping listeners glean wisdom from Proverbs and from Jesus’s example. Dr. Tony Evans’ “Horizontal Jesus” followed it, focusing on learning how Jesus empowers His church to be His hands and feet in the world today.
“People are enjoying these shorter podcasts. If they want a quick devotion or just a supplemental Bible study for their day, they could listen to one on their daily walk, on the way to work or wherever they are,” said Chris Surratt, small group and discipleship specialist for Lifeway. “It’s just that easy, so people are really grabbing onto it.”
This new podcast can be a tool for individual or group discipleship, says Surratt. Individuals can listen for their own enrichment or group leaders can direct their members to the podcast episodes, leaving more time during meetings for discussion. Also, individuals can use the podcast to disciple a new believer, invite an unbeliever into a personal discussion about the Bible, or start a new Bible study group.
“The hope is to expose more people to Bible studies. If they stumble on it through the Group Answers Podcasts or somewhere else, they get 15 to 20 minutes out of their day where they’re listening to amazing Bible teaching,” said Surratt. “If we can expose people to more of the Bible, we can continue to help them grow in their walk with Christ.”
Looking toward the future, the Lifeway Adult Ministry team has had many discussions on how to take their library of video-enhanced teachings and adapt it creatively in a digital landscape. Over the years, they’ve shortened content to make it easier for people, especially the younger generation, to digest.
Going back 10 years, Lifeway video and audio content were on average about 30-40 minutes long. Today, they range around 12-20 minutes. Surratt adds, “With this TikTok, 2-minute generation coming up, I can see information being created in even smaller bites.”
Surratt predicts digital methodologies becoming even more interactive, with one-stop-shop capabilities where people can access and send portions of Scripture, Bibles studies, podcasts, videos and more as they comment and discuss together in person or virtually. “I see that as the direction we’re going and that’s not a shock. We’re definitely having those conversations already, looking toward culture and tech trends to further develop Kingdom growth.”
Y Bonesteele is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.