What’s in Your Earbuds? Podcasts for Pastors

Post Author: Erica Schemper

Listening to podcasts

Listening to podcasts

Ministry is a profession with an odd combination of hours spent alone, intense one-on-one time with a few people, and at least one day a week of full-on engagement with a crowd. When we deal with the crowd, it might consist of research scientists, plumbers, some college professors, stay-at-home parents, and a few artists.

Given those unusual parameters, it’s no surprise that clergy people are often great lovers of the podcast. A podcast can be more than just noise in the background during that time alone; it can also be a way to hone our skills as preachers and story-tellers and to feed our curiosity and add to our knowledge about the world around us.

Fidelia’s Sisters asked young clergywomen what podcasts (besides the ever popular Serial) they are listening to. The answers went well beyond preaching and religion podcasts. Many are, of course, radio episodes re-packaged as podcasts, but we’re counting them in. So, from our ears to yours, a few recommendations.

The podcast is a great format for storytelling.

This American Life: the mother of all modern long-form storytelling reporting programs. Weaving together a few thematically related pieces, some episodes make you cry, others make you laugh, and many do both.

The Moth: real people telling their real stories in front of a live audience.

StoryCorps: collected stories recorded in special “booths” around the country, usually one real-life person interviewing another.

Selected Shorts: famous actors reading the best stories out there.

The Writer’s Almanac: a daily reminder of the best parts of your college literature course, with a poem in each short daily episode.

Snap Judgement: a weekly program with a theme, told by a more diverse array of voices and perspectives than many other story-telling format podcasts.

Welcome to Night Vale: broadcasts from a fictional radio station, in a small town where odd things happen.


Sometimes what you need most is a hearty laugh. And sometimes, it’s the comedians in our culture who say things that are just this side of prophetic.

WTF Podcast: comedian Mark Maron interviews other actors, comedians, and musicians. Not always safe for the office, but often quite honest conversation.

WireTap: each episode is an adventure through the brain of its host, Jonathan Goldstein. Hard to explain, but sort of a version of This American Life, hopped up on existentialism, and with a recurring cast of characters.

The Bugle: a news review starring comics John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, covering world news with a satirical twist.

Comedy Bang Bang: an eclectic assortment of comedian guests, hosted by Scott Auckerman.


And then, there are podcasts that provide context and commentary on current events and the world around us.

On the Media: a weekly radio show on, well, the media. It deals not just with the news, but how the news is covered.

Tavis Smiley: weekly longer format interviews with great perspective on racial issues in American culture.

Double X Gabfest : female reporters from the online magazine Slate chat about a topic in the news.

BackStory: a group of historians take current events items and explain the historical context (going back centuries if necessary).

Planet Money: NPR’s long-form coverage of financial news, which assumes that the listener is intelligent, but perhaps not trained as an economist.

Film Spotting: a weekly, hour-long, public radio movie review show. (One of the two co-hosts, Josh Larsen, is also the editor of an online magazine about Christianity and culture: it’s fun to listen for his faith perspective to inobtrusively sneak into the film reviews.)

More Than One Lesson:  Movie reviews from a more obvious Christian perspective.

Women’s Hour: Daily hour of news coverage from the BBC highlighting women’s issues.


Some podcasts just help us get our minds out beyond the doors of the church.

RadioLab: delves into a scientific topic (everything from biology to sociology to physics) and does so with story-telling and a sense of wonder.

Freakonomics: researches questions in the same vein as the best-selling book of the same name.

Lexicon Valley: a podcast from Slate that explores the origins of words.

A History of the World in 100 Objects: review world history with this series in which each episode uses an important artifact as a teaching tool.

99% Invisible: a podcast that tells the stories behind the designs we encounter in everyday life, it covers everything from architecture to pinball machines, to shipping containers and fonts and lightbulbs.

The Longest Shortest Time: stories and commentary about a variety of parenting topics, particularly focused on the early months and years.

Criminal: stories about crime and things done wrong from a variety of perspectives.

Stuff Mom Never Told You: an offshoot of the How Stuff Works podcast, but about women’s issues.

Dear Sugar: an advice column podcast hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond.

Death Sex and Money: a show about the things that are left out of polite conversation (which, it turns out, we clergywomen often have to talk about with people).

Help us add to this list. What are the podcasts that think every clergy person should check out?


Erica Schemper is a PC(USA) pastor serving an ELCA congregsation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Podcasts get her up and down the hills while she’s out running or pushing a stroller.

Image by: Garry Knight
Used with permission
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