12 June 2012
Whose Sermons Are These, Anyway? (Social Media and Pastoral Transition, Part 3)
I started a sermon blog in 2006 for myself as a way to easily search and sort my sermons using categories and tags. It turned into a useful service to our congregation, and eventually, with the ability to share them through social media, to many people beyond Redeemer.
I called the blog Sermons at Redeemer, and included this explanation, “Our sermons at Redeemer are our weekly blog. They are our reflections on the ways God is at work in our lives, our church, and our world.” We included sermons by our deacon and guest preachers.
Now that it is time for me to move on I’ve been wondering: whose sermons are these, anyway? They live on the church blog and I wrote them on the church’s time. They represent my intellectual work but they were inspired by experiences within the congregation. Should they remain on the blog, be deleted or live somewhere else?
Not a New Question
This is not a new question for preachers. Throughout the history of the church, great preachers have published collections of their sermons. The difference now is that anyone preacher can publish online and the act of publication and proclamation are nearly simultaneous with sermons being preached and posted often in the same day. Historically, these preachers have published those sermon collections in their own name, so I think there is a historical precedent that sermons remain with the preacher.
But I would make a distinction here. It seems to me that the question is not about who “owns” these sermons, as if anyone were getting rich on old sermon posts. Rather, how are they best curated in a digital environment when the relationship ends?
Here are my thoughts:
- These sermons may not continue to reflect the theological convictions or the mission of the congregation. They do, however, reflect my ideas, beliefs, and intellectual development.
- Simply, I am no longer Redeemer’s pastor. I’ve removed by biography and pictures and videos of myself from the church website. Don’t sermons fall in a similar category?
- These sermon posts need to be curated over time. Comments need to be answered. The content and design will need tweaking and software updating. This will probably not happen in the congregation. I have a greater investment in those sermons and their on-going availability.
- These sermons are no longer useful to the congregation. Most people read the sermons the week they come out. No one sifts back through old sermons. The only people using it are probably desperate preachers. If the audience for these sermons is now my colleagues, then I should be the one to administer the posts.
A Blog of my own
Given these thoughts, I have created my own sermon blog as part of this website. I imported all my old posts from the Sermons at Redeemer blog and deleted my posts there. Sermons from our deacon and guest preachers remain on the Redeemer blog.
In retrospect, I wish I had posted sermons in my own name, on my own blog from the beginning. It would have saved me the trouble of exporting and importing the posts. However, I am grateful that these sermons were able to generate some interest and visibility for the congregation. For the time we were together it was a good model, but the historical precedent holds, even in this digital age: the sermons stay with the preacher.