As with so many creative ideas today, “The Salvation Army Plugged in Podcast,” originated from the need to reach others during the COVID–19 pandemic.
Plugged In is hosted by Matthew Luhn, divisional Music & Gospel Arts director, and Captains Loreita and Nate Hinzman, divisional youth secretaries in Massachusetts. In 2021, while in–person gatherings were forbidden due to COVID– 19 restrictions, the trio hosted a weekly online Sunday school called “Mass Chaos.” When face–to–face gatherings returned, people recognized Matthew and the Hinzmans from their Sunday show.
Says Matthew, “There’s great value in creating a local online presence. Because of “Mass Chaos,” people knew us from stories we shared without ever having met us. Now, we wanted to create a way to unclutter people’s lives, provide a sense of community, and bring the Gospel in enjoyable, digestible pieces.”
The Plugged In Podcast team discusses local ministry, tells stories from their past, and welcomes guests. Matthew says that, though there is a loose outline for each episode, each host comes prepared with a topic that the others do not know about.
“As the show has gone on, we’ve settled into our roles. Loreita and I play off each other. She’s sort of my folly, while Nate is more of the quirky one,” says Matthew.
Those quirky topics lead to a unique, captivating ministry. For example, a conversation about the strangest places where the hosts have ever fallen asleep segues into Nate telling a story about the biblical character Eutychus. Neither of the other hosts could recall ever learning about him. As Eutychus sits on a third–story windowsill to listen to the Apostle Paul preach into the night, Eutychus goes to sleep and falls out the window to his death.
Paul, upon seeing this, brings Eutychus back to life through the power of God. After carrying Eutychus back to his home, Paul then goes back and continues the sermon. Captain Nate says that the story is not a warning to never feel tired or sleepy in church, but rather a reminder to always look for what keeps us awake spiritually. We can all get distracted and lulled by daily life, but even when we fall asleep, God will be there to wake us up and heal us.
“Nate is an incredible speaker of the Word of God,” says Matthew. “And he tells it in a way that’s relatable to an audience.”
That audience is mostly young adults from the corps, as well as people who work at the camps, in the music programs, and with the volunteers. Many of them say that the “Plugged in Podcast” is perfect for their commute to work or to church. “Even officers have mentioned to us how relatable and funny we can be,” says Matthew. “That was a big surprise. I really thought Army officers might have brushed off listening to a podcast.”
One of the recurring segments of the podcast is called “So Stinkin’ Proud Of.” Here the hosts talk about young people who are doing work that is worthy of recognition, whether it be in school or for the Army. The segment made listeners reach out to the people mentioned and encourage them. That recognition for those “doing the most good” is what Matthew wanted the most from doing the podcast.
“Even though a million people aren’t listening to us, and audiences are always a moving target, we’re good with that,” says Matthew. “Every time we record an episode, we end with, ‘That’s the most fun we’ve had all week.’”
HOW POPULAR ARE PODCASTS?
There are over 3 million active registered podcasts, available in more than 100 languages.
Podcasts are most listened to among people between the age of 12 to 34. Fifty percent of that age group listens to podcasts every month.
South Korea has the highest number of podcast listeners globally, with 53 percent of the population having listened to one. Other countries with high numbers of listeners are Spain, Ireland, Sweden, and the United States.
Chile is the nation with the fastest–growing podcast audience at 84 percent.
A listener in the United States will enjoy an average of 8 podcast episodes per week, and 79 percent listen to podcasts on their smartphone.
The United States podcast industry is valued at $2 billion. It is expected to double by 2024.
Comedy is the most popular podcast genre in the United States, followed by news, true crime, sports, and fitness.
The most listened to podcasts worldwide are “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “The Daily” by The New York Times, and “This American Life.”