To a world with an estimated 750,000 podcasts, U.S. Mennonite Brethren are adding a voice. LEAD Pods—a podcast by and for U.S. Mennonite Brethren—are the newest addition to USMB’s Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) initiatives designed to resource USMB churches.
The LEAD program already includes LEAD Coaching, LEAD One events, LEAD Cohorts and LEAD Consults, and LEAD Pods are designed to enhance the LEAD lineup of resources, says USMB national director Don Morris.
“There seemed to be a need, a missing part of the puzzle, for those of us who do something really well or innovative to have a platform for sharing that with the larger MB family,” Morris says. “I believe one of the best ways to do that is through podcasts, where people can listen when they’re doing other things like working out or driving.”
Podcasts are original audio shows that provide information or dialogue on a wide variety of topics. Podcasts allow listeners to tune in on their own time, and Morris says LEAD Pods provide an opportunity to learn from the USMB family.
“It’s something new that I believe truly came from the prompting of the Holy Spirit,” Morris says. “To see the talented people in our midst that got excited about it, too—that confirmed it for me that this is something that can be very useful for our MB family—sharing ideas and getting better at certain things together.”
Choosing a host
To get the ball rolling, J.L. Martin, USMB social media coordinator, met with Matt Ehresman to learn about what it would take to start a podcast.
Ehresman has served as media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kansas, for nearly seven years, where he oversees graphic design, video, web design and social media. After his conversation with Ehresman, Martin says it was clear Ehresman was the choice to serve as the host of LEAD Pods.
“Matt is very knowledgeable about all things social media and technology,” Martin says. “He also has a great voice to listen to and is a lot of fun. In addition, he asks great questions, which make the podcasts flow smoothly. He has already done a great job editing and putting together a very professional podcast through episodes that have already been released.”
Ehresman and his wife, Tillie, have been married almost eight years and have a “self-proclaimed ‘princess ballerina’” 2-year-old named Heidi. Ehresman is a published author, he enjoys working on a 3,000 piece Avengers LEGO set in his free time and says he is excited to host LEAD Pods.
“I love podcasts,” Ehresman says. “These days I find that I rarely listen to the radio or music while running or driving; I’m almost always listening to podcasts. I never want to stop learning, and I think podcasts also have a powerful way of helping people feel connected. In the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, I haven’t physically met the hosts or guests on the shows, but I feel like I know them. We spend a lot of time together. I hope the LEAD Pods eventually feel like that. I hope the listeners feel like they get to know the leaders we have on the show and it can be a way for us to increase our impact, together.”
The creation of a podcast
Ehresman records podcast episodes from his home, where video conferencing technology allows him to have a conversation with a guest in a different location without leaving what he describes as the “very glorious ‘studio’” in his basement.
“Since we record over Zoom, we can interview people all over the country—or world—and we aren’t really limited by geography,” Ehresman says.
The process goes like this. Once Martin has contacted potential podcast guests based on feedback from USMB staff and others in the USMB family, he schedules a Zoom meeting for Ehresman and the guest before handing production to Ehresman.
“Once we have a guest lined up, I record a conversation with them over Zoom,” Ehresman says. “When we’re all done, I throw that recording into my computer and splice it together with our background music, introduction and closing. A few clicks here and there and soon it’s sent out to our various podcast providers.”
LEAD Pods are designed to be accessible to a broad audience within the USMB family.
“We determined that these podcasts should be for a larger audience than just our MB pastors,” Morris says. “Most of the topics covered will appeal to everyone in the church. If we do have a topic that is audience-specific, we’ll let people know as that podcast is put out.”
Episodes will cover a variety of topics, Morris says, including enhancing one’s prayer life, spiritual development, spreading the gospel, relational evangelism, how to help a church become a “house of prayer” and learning to live life with the gospel as the constant backdrop.
Ehresman hopes the show appeals to a wide variety of listeners.
“My goal is to make the content relevant for anyone who may choose to listen,” Ehresman says. “I suppose most people listening will be leaders in MB churches, but it certainly isn’t limited to only pastors. I think we’ll cover topics that will be helpful and meaningful to Christians wherever they live and whatever their role in the local church looks like.”
Where to find LEAD Pods
In addition to an opening “teaser” episode, the first two episodes are “Praying during COVID-19” with guests Stephen Humber and Kelly Pankratz, who serve on the Multiply mobilization team, and “Becoming a House of Prayer” with guest Esther Leonard, prayer ministry pastor at Mountain View Church in Fresno, California.
“I think the show will really be helpful no matter what age or stage you find yourself in,” Ehresman says. “I know I’ve been challenged and encouraged by the guests we’ve had so far. Plus, since most of our guests come from an MB background or context, I hope we all feel an automatic bond since we have a similar starting point.”
A new episode will be released every two to three weeks.
“We know people have access to all kinds of presenters and podcasts—there are tons of podcasts out there to choose from,” Morris says. “This isn’t some new concept. But, this is us—this is MBs sharing ideas with other MBs, and hopefully beyond that as well. ‘It’s the best of us to the rest of us.’
“My hope is that (LEAD Pods) will make a tangible difference and help us to do kingdom work at a higher level,” Morris says.
Janae Rempel Shafer is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Shafer is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Shafer graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She and her husband, Austin, attend Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas.