Streaming sermonsPublished 11:42am Thursday, October 24, 2013
Dan Mueller is not a techie.
The pastor at Hilltop Celebration Church, he has learned how to text in the past few years and certainly understands the way the world is moving.
But Mueller, a self-described “old-school-type preacher,” needed some prodding from younger members of his congregation to adopt new technology in the church.
“It brought us up-to-date with the 21st century,” he said.
Thanks to these changes, Mueller said he feels Hilltop Celebration has been able to reach a wider range of people than with just Sunday services at the church. The online sermons have been used for congregation members who are unable to attend Sunday services, those who move out of town or congregation members passing the sermons on to other people in their lives.
In fact, Mueller just received an email from a former congregation member, now in North Carolina, who watched one of the online sermons and got a lot out of it.
In the past, the church made CDs of the sermons and sold those to congregation members. But sales were low and making the CDs was a larger time commitment, so the decision was made to switch to online sermons.
People can still request CDs for a low price but, since the sermons have gone online, Mueller said these CDs have not been in very high demand.
The church began uploading sermons to its website a few years ago. There are sermons on the website from 2011 and, despite gaps in the online sermons which Mueller attributed to switching to a new sound system, the church has been consistent with uploading a sermon on a weekly basis.
“They’re uploaded probably within 20 or 30 minutes,” he said.
The sermons are also available on iTunes, but Mueller said church staff have not tracked the number of subscribers because finding someone to devote that amount of time has been a challenge.
Mueller’s son Jeremy plays a large role in updating the website and maintaining the content. A high school congregation member, Shawna Zielinski, uploads the sermons to the website and creates the powerpoint Mueller uses in his services.
Hilltop Celebration is one of several Fergus Falls churches that has been posting audio sermons online. Life Church has sermons online as far back as 2009 and Mueller said they have been on the cutting edge of technological advances in Fergus Falls. When they were looking for a new computer, Hilltop Celebration sent a group to Life Church to study their setup and get their staff’s opinion.
To Cyndal Preston, a Life Church employee, the spread of online church content is probably inevitable.
“With technology evolving, I wouldn’t be surprised if more people did it,” she said.
But Hilltop Celebration has done more in the past few years than just post its sermons online. They have a brand-new soundboard and an iMac computer, as well as a new, more powerful projector. The projector is used to display a powerpoint along with Mueller’s sermons, and he said the quality is much better than it used to be.
More updates are in the works as well. Mueller is hopeful the church will record his Sunday services on video by Jan. 1 or next spring at the latest. These videos would be posted online with the audio sermons and perhaps played on local television if Mueller can get that worked out.
Adopting these new technologies was not about appealing to a younger section of the congregation, Mueller said. In fact, there has been a wide age range of those who have used the online sermons.
Rather, these upgrades were about giving congregation members as many chances as possible to hear the church’s message and feel part of the group.
“We were trying to make them available for people that couldn’t make it,” Mueller said. “But then people kept saying, ‘So and so needs to listen to this’ or ‘So and so needs to listen to that’ and it just kind of grew from there.”