Hosting LEAD Pods has been rewarding for Ehresman

LEAD Pods host looks back on 100 episodes

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Matt Ehresman, staff member at Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas, is the host of LEAD Pods.

By day, Matt Ehresman is communications and online engagement director at Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas. By night, Ehresman is the host of LEAD Pods, the USMB podcast that this month releases its 100th episode.

While Ehresman’s work hosting, editing the interview and preparing the episode for launch doesn’t necessarily happen in the evening, balancing his full-time job with his podcast work keeps him busy. So, CL editor Connie Faber was pleasantly surprised when Ehresman so quickly and thoroughly responded to her email invitation to talk about his experience hosting the twice-monthly podcast.   

Why do you think listeners enjoy LEAD Pods? Is there something unique about this podcast?

I think LEAD Pods is unique since it was designed to specifically serve our USMB churches. We tackle a lot of the same topics that are discussed on larger church leadership podcasts, but we do our best to do it through a Mennonite Brethren lens, both theologically and in ways that make it practical and realistic for people living and working in an MB context. ​​

Who is the podcast intended for?

Our target audience has always been MB leaders—both pastors and lay leaders. I imagine a vast majority of listeners work on MB church staffs, but I’ve also heard from others who are volunteers or active church attenders.

What feedback do you get from listeners about LEAD Pods?

Several people have told me they appreciate the casual, laid back, conversational tone. That’s definitely my style, and those are the kind of podcasts I’m personally drawn to. I hope it feels like you’re listening in on conversations between people you know and respect, and I think we usually accomplish that goal.

What has been a highlight for you in working with LEAD Pods?

Even though I’ve been a part of the MB denomination most of my life, I quickly realized how much I don’t know about our history, our traditions and the inner-workings of USMB life. It’s been so fun and rewarding for me to get to have conversations with our pastors and leaders from literally around the world. I definitely feel way more connected to our family of churches now, and I hope listeners get that same sense as they listen.

​It’s a huge honor for me to get to be a part of this. Very few podcasts make it to 100 episodes. I’ve seen stats that say only 11 percent of podcasts make it to 50 episodes. Especially with numbers like that, I honestly feel blessed with the opportunity. When we launched this in 2020, I think all of us involved really didn’t know what to expect or how long this thing was going to last, but it’s been so rewarding and personally I’m really grateful. I hope it blesses and encourages those who listen on a regular basis.

What changes, if any, do you anticipate for LEAD Pods going forward?

I’d love to see LEAD Pods continue to work hand-in-hand with Christian Leader, and I think we could probably make some strides in that area in the future. I’d love to see us collaborate a little closer on big stories and take advantage of our largest communication mediums so we can continue to share stories and resources as effectively as we can.

​I doubt we’ll pursue this right away, but more and more podcasts are beginning to include video. If it’d be helpful to our audience, I could see us experimenting more with video episodes so people could watch on YouTube or social media if that fits their lifestyle and preferences better. We briefly tried that last year, so maybe that’s worth revisiting in the future.

What has been challenging over the past four years?

It can be a grind to continually come up with new topics and new guests. Cranking out an episode every other week on top of my other responsibilities can be a challenge. I’m really grateful for J.L. Martin who does a ton of work behind the scenes contacting guests, scheduling Zooms and coordinating our advertisers. Listeners hear my voice, but this definitely wouldn’t happen without J.L.’s hard work.

What have you enjoyed most in your work with LEAD Pods?

I’ve learned so much about Mennonite Brethren church life and I’ve met so many awesome people. I’ve also learned a ton about podcasting in general—how to edit, best practices for interviews, how to use mics and take advantage of Zoom—all things that honestly I didn’t have much experience with before starting LEAD Pods. I’ve learned a lot!

Is there a topic or podcast that unexpectedly garnered significant feedback, either positive or negative?

One of our goals has been to interview primarily MB guests, and that has certainly been true so far. But I also think Mennonite Brethren have a lot to learn from faith leaders in other traditions and from other backgrounds. Some of my favorite episodes have been from people outside the MB family because they bring unique perspectives we may not otherwise encounter. And if we do bring in non-MB people, they are typically experts in their fields, so I usually come away feeling like I learned a lot. It can be a somewhat delicate balance to include Mennonite Brethren and non-MB guests, but I hope we continue to handle that balance well.

​​I got quite a bit of feedback on both of the episodes we did about AI–both the interview with Jason Moore as well as the episode I did where I interviewed Chat GPT. I think we tackled that topic early when people were still learning about AI and Chat GPT, so it was fun to be talking about it as many MB leaders were experiencing it for the first time.

It was also an honor to talk to MCC folks directly involved with the Ukraine relief efforts last year. It was beneficial for us to hear directly from people on the ground working to help refugees and serving directly with those affected by the war.

That’s another big benefit to the podcast platform compared to other news media. Christian Leader does a fantastic job addressing current events, but the realities associated with physically printing issues and mailing them to people’s homes can make it difficult to address topics in a timely manner.

Another of my favorite episodes was in February 2021 when Don Morris, Tim Sullivan (Board of Faith and Life chair) and (Wichita attorney) Lyndon Vix addressed issues related to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol Building and discussions about free speech just weeks after those events took place in Washington D.C. I’m grateful the MB family has an outlet to let our leaders speak to us quickly and directly in situations like that.

One hundred episodes into LEAD Pods, what surprises you about this project? 

As difficult as it can be to “keep the machine running” and release at least two episodes every month, I’m a little surprised that we still have plenty to talk about! There are still MB leaders we want to speak with and topics we haven’t addressed yet.

Even 100 episodes in, we have a lot of ground to cover. From my perspective we haven’t really lost steam or momentum at all. Who knows how many more years or episodes we have left, but at least as far as I’m concerned, we’re far from finished. Our tagline has been “to increase our impact together,” and I hope we keep doing that!

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