Justin Timberlake is no longer popular, but superhero movies are very much in fashion.
That’s the verdict from young Uniting Church’s members, who have shared their observations on what is ‘lit’ (trendy) or ‘quit’ (outdated) on a new weekly youth ministry podcast called Work Experience.
Host Bradon French, who is the Synod’s intergenerational youth coordinator, said the podcast was a valuable resource to help the Church connect with its younger members.
“In the Uniting Church, there isn’t a lot of opportunities to get experience of ministry with young people,” he said.
“The podcast is raising awareness, connecting people and resourcing their ministry practices in their local setting.”
For the uninitiated, a podcast is an audio file which can be downloaded on to your mobile phone or computer and listened to whenever you choose.
Bradon said it became evident early on that listeners wanted to hear directly from young people and those involved in youth ministry.
“Whether it’s an 18-year-old Tongan Fortnite (video game) streamer, someone from a theological faculty or youth workers in congregations, they want to hear from them,” Bradon said.
“People enjoy hearing from the breadth of the Church about these issues and hearing authentic experiences rather than just one person’s perspective.”
With more than 3.5 million podcast listeners throughout Australia, it is fair to say that podcasts are very much ‘lit’.
“Podcasts are becoming infinitely more popular as an alternative to mainstream radio,” Bradon said.
“You can find a podcast about pretty much anything you’re interested in.”
In the August series, Work Experience focused on people traditionally on the margins of youth ministry, such as CALD (Culturally And Linguistically Diverse) youth and children with learning disabilities.
“We try to be responsive to the audience,” Bradon said.
“When people ask for a particular thing or have particular issues, we try to find the right people to teach us about that.
“The September series will be looking at strategy – asking why we are doing youth ministry and how, rather than just assuming and doing it by accident.”
One area Bradon is keen to explore is how young people find a sense of belonging in the online space.
“I’d love to do more on the digital-gathering space – whether it’s the gaming church or Instagram communities,” he said.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is explore elements of life that are just normal for people under the age of 21 that the vast majority of the Church have no idea about.”
Pilgrim Theological College student Liam Miller is the host of Love Rinse Repeat, a podcast that explores topics such as missiology, Asian Christianity, post-colonialism and Indigenous spiritualty.
The podcast originated from Liam’s work as a Uniting Church chaplain at Macquarie University.
“We wanted to have content and conversations happening outside the traditional group times and hear from a variety of people,” Liam said.
“I started doing these short video interviews originally on YouTube, which I shared with our students and for a wider audience.”
Liam soon began exploring other online channels to make the content more accessible.
“If I see a video interview I’m much less likely to watch it as I have to sit on my laptop and look at it the whole time rather than being able to listen while I go for a walk, or drive my car or do chores around the house,” Liam said.
“So I started uploading some of the old video episodes in podcast form and recording new episodes.”
An episode that received plenty of positive feedback was an interview with transgender Christian author Austen Hartke.
“For a lot of people hearing that story and knowing it was out there – I got a lot of feedback from people saying they really appreciated it,” Liam said.
“I’ve also interviewed a comedian in New York who hosts podcasts about race and Hollywood. We talked about comedy and faith and how all those things intersect.”
While some episodes may cater to more theologically-minded listeners, Liam said Love Rinse Repeat aimed to reach a broader audience.
“It’s about trying to make what we sometimes see as ‘ivory tower concepts’ more accessible,” he said.
“I recently interviewed Geoff Thompson about his book A Genuinely Theological Church – for that audience it’s primarily Uniting Church people, ministers and theologians.
“But so much of the interview also had relevance to any Christians listening.”
Liam is keen to experiment with new formats in future episodes.
“I would like to do a sports fantasy draft, but with theologians,” he said.
“I like interviews, but there’s already a lot of interview podcasts out there so I’m looking at how I can break the format a little more.”
Listen to Work Experience at https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/work-experience and Love Rinse Repeat at http://www.loverinserepeat.com/podcast
Search for Work Experience and Love Rinse Repeat in iTunes to subscribe.
The Min/Max podcast – a trio of self-confessed geeks get together each week to talk about theology and pop culture.
Theosophia – a podcast dedicated to promoting women’s voices in theology.
Religionless Church – a platform for those who feel frustrated or estranged from institutionalised Christianity.
A Jew and a Gentile Walk into a Bar…Mitzvah! – A Jew and a Christian talk about faith, mental health and social justice.
Ergasia – hosted by Mountview Uniting Church minister Rev Brendan Byrne, this podcast explores faith, work, theology and economics.
Beyondering – Rev Lucas Taylor and Rev Matt Cutlet explore spirituality in the modern world.