A Guide to Sermon Transcription for Pastors or Preachers

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  • Rose recently lost her husband and doesn’t know how she’s going to make it through the week.
  • Marco is in the midst of a bitter divorce and is feeling isolated and directionless.
  • Jerry wants to understand what the church believes about life after death, but he’s not ready to attend a service and meet people yet.

If you are a pastor or preacher, the odds are high that you’ve shared a sermon or two that could help individuals in these types of situations and more. However, these individuals may have not been in attendance the morning you preached the message most relevant to them. Or perhaps they were in attendance but left the church thinking, “That sermon really spoke to me. I wish I won’t forget the part when the pastor was talking about…”

In this guide, we will discuss how sermon transcription can provide value both to you and your brethren by improving accessibility, searchability, and connectivity. Feel free to follow along or navigate to the section of greatest interest to you:

What is Sermon Transcription?

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Sermon transcription means to convert an audio or video recording of a sermon into a text document. Transcription services usually accept numerous audio and video formats - either hard copy formats like CDs and cassettes, or soft copy formats like .MP3 and .MOV. These transcripts are then generated by an audio to text software, or a human transcriber who listens to the audio file and manually types the dialogue. Alternatively, a software program can be used to generate initial transcripts for an audio transcriber to edit afterwards.

Uses of Sermon Transcription

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Ways to use sermon transcripts expand dramatically, the same way it’s being used by people with differing occupations. Here are some of the people who might find transcripts of sermon audio or video most beneficial:

  • Theology and seminary students. Students and researchers studying a particular topic or Biblical passage can access and reference their work easier using transcripts.
  • Youth leaders, deacons, pastors in training, and counselors. Sermon content can be a valuable resource for training purposes for these  professionals.  
  • Church members. Parishioners can reference sermons they have heard before or access the ones they missed.
  • Bible study leaders. Sermon transcripts can be printed, highlighted, or used to create a Bible study outline.  
  • People with disabilities. Transcriptions of sermons improve accessibility for people with hearing disabilities, people physically or geographically unable to attend services, and those who are curious but still tentative about attending a service in person.
  • You! Sermon transcripts create a catalog of your work that you can share with others or reference yourself and re-purpose for other uses.

Benefits of Having Sermons Transcribed

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While in-person attendance and viewing a sermon on video carry wonderful visual advantages, a text format offers multiple benefits on its own. The three core benefits of sermon transcripts are improved searchability, accessibility, and connectivity.

Searchability

When you transform a sermon into a transcript, it becomes much easier to search, skim, and clip key points for other uses. Keywords can be embedded within sermon transcripts, making them more likely to appear in relevant search results. People doing research or looking for specific answers via search engines often favor written content over audiovisual content.  

Another reason written content can be preferable in this context is that it is easier to skim. For instance, consider someone entering “what the Bible says about divorce” or “themes in the Book of John” into a search engine. A full-length video or audio file of a sermon is challenging to scan to find the sought-after material. In contrast, a text document makes it simpler for people to scan and discover a preacher’s interpretation of Bible passages.

Transcribing sermons also allows you and others to clip and repurpose content. For instance, members of a grief group could search for relevant clips from sermons and compile them into a Bible study or devotional. You could search sermons for excerpts if you’re writing a book, speaking at a conference, or leading a retreat. Sermon transcription creates a searchable catalog that you and others can readily access and utilize.    

Accessibility

By making your sermon transcripts available to others in print or online, your message becomes widely accessible. For parishioners, sermon transcripts may be a convenient or helpful format that enables them to examine sermons in greater depth at their own pace. Many find that they retain a message better when they read it than when they simply hear it. Sermon transcripts can be highlighted, printed, and easily used for note-taking purposes. Text can also be enlarged for people with poor eyesight and is an excellent alternative for people hard of hearing.

Improved accessibility also benefits people who cannot attend services first hand or for whom it is difficult to do so. People who are hospitalized, in elderly care facilities, or who have moved away but value your preaching can still be reached. Sermon transcription also improves accessibility for those who are simply curious but unwilling to attend church.

Increasing your sermons’ level of accessibility also benefits people doing theological or religious research or those studying to enter church ministries. Seminary students, deacons, youth leaders, counselors, pastors-in-training, and others with religious vocations all benefit from having a larger set of content to tap.

Connectivity

A church’s website promotes connectivity among its members and the wider community. Sermon transcription opens up new opportunities to build and strengthen those connections and grow your church’s presence online. This expands your reach locally, nationally, and possibly internationally.

Sermon transcripts have a flexible format that can foster connectivity in other ways too. Print documents are an easily shareable file type, allowing people to forward or send links to family and friends in just a matter of few clicks! You can even have these translated into other languages too, to reach new audiences internationally. Sermon transcripts are also useful for video captioning footages of your bible lectures.

For example, consider an English-speaking pastor who wants to reach a community’s Spanish-speaking population. The pastor could have his or her sermon transcribed and translated into Spanish. This could then be distributed in Spanish or used for captioning or subtitling audiovisual materials.

Getting a Transcription Service vs. DIY Transcriptions

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Deciding between outsourcing your sermon transcriptions to a transcribing service and doing your own transcription comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each option against your needs and wants.

Benefits of Transcription Services

Using a sermon transcription service has three key benefits: improved transcript accuracy, saves your time for more pressing tasks, and fast turnaround times. A professional human transcriptionist can deliver greater accuracy than a program. This is particularly true if the audio file is low quality - contains specific jargon, contextual content, or speakers have accents that are challenging for a program to comprehend.

Choose a transcription service offering state of the art features that heavily impacts the accuracy and overall quality of transcripts. In events where the transcriber is not confident about what the speaker uttered in the recording, the transcriber can input links (i.e. ListenLink) on the unintelligible parts of the transcript. You can then easily listen and review those parts with a simple click and add or edit content as needed yourself. Gone are the days when you have to re-listen to the whole recording to look for specific parts.

General transcription services are powered by trained human transcriptionists with vast experiences of serving clients around the globe, which only guarantees you only the highest quality transcripts delivered to you quickly and conveniently. They can have a sermon from Sunday morning available to read and post to a website as soon as later that day. DIY transcriptions require a much greater investment of time and the cost of foregone opportunities to use your time elsewhere.

Benefits of DIY Transcriptions

DIY transcriptions carry the core benefits of saving money in the long term and maintaining complete control over the process. You may be able to achieve complete accuracy since you delivered the sermon yourself. If you have experience doing sermon transcription yourself, then the DIY method might be the most beneficial to you.

While you won’t necessarily need top-of-the line equipment, DIY transcriptions do require a significant upfront investment. You will need most of the following tools:

  1. A high-speed Internet connection.
  2. A reliable computer with word processing software.
  3. Audio playback software.
  4. A digital foot pedal for playing, pausing, and rewinding audio.
  5. Quality headphones and/or good external speakers.
  6. Transcription workflow software.
  7. Text expander software to increase your efficiency typing commonly used words and phrases.

Alternatively, you can invest in a digital dictation recorder and use a dictation recorder management software to transcribe for you. Some transcription software programs will learn how you speak over time and progressively make fewer errors the more you use them. However, no software is perfect. Using automated transcriptions will require you to spend some time editing your sermon transcripts to ensure accuracy.

Ways to Share Your Sermon Transcripts

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Sermon transcripts can be used as stand-alone resources within your church, or they can be adapted and combined with other outreach tools for greater impact. Following are ways to share your sermon transcripts and extend your reach:

  • Website

Posting links or attaching sermon transcripts to your church’s website is the place to start. Not only that it’s easily accessible for the members of your church, soul searching people may also get a good sense of your religion’s beliefs just by reading sermon transcripts. In addition, text documents like transcripts are helpful to SEO strategies as they can be indexed by search engines unlike audio and video files.

  • Social Media

Social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter are sites where you can share links of recent transcripts to. You could also repurpose them to create daily content for your church’s social media pages to increase engagement. This helps you stay connected to your audience whilst saving time and maximizing resources.  

  • Blogging

Writing blogs is a great way to introduce yourself to people outside your immediate sphere of influence, maintain connections with an existing audience, and distribute valuable information. The most appealing blogs contain actionable content that leaves readers with a clear sense of your preaching. Sermon transcripts can be easily adapted into a blog post, either by excerpt or file attachment.  

  • Vlogging

Video blogging or vlogging is steadily becoming the most popular type of blogging as visual content is proven to engage and keep the audience interested more than a written format. Use transcripts to easily generate video captions or subtitles to make your vlogs accessible to people hard of hearing.   

  • Podcasting

You could host a podcast to reach people in an audio format. Like blogs and vlogs, you can re-purpose your transcript’s content to improve your religious episodes.

Conclusion

The oft-repeated mantra that “content is king” was originally coined by Bill Gates and has only become more relevant since he first articulated it back in 1996. As a pastor or preacher, you are immersed in the role of creating valuable new content consistently. Why not grow the impact of the work you’ve already done by having your sermons transcribed and sharing them widely? Sermon transcription enhances your content’s searchability and accessibility, and increase the quantity and quality of your connections.

 

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