How I use the iPad, and why it's great for pastors

There’s plenty of debate about whether or not the iPad’s a big deal.  But as a pastor, it’s been a pretty big deal for me.  Here are 9 ways I use it to do ministry that have made a significant difference:

  1. Teaching notes.  Sometimes I need nothing more than an index card for sermon notes.  Sometimes I need page after page.  The latter creates problems.  It means I’m stuck in one spot, referencing notes that have to stay right there, which means I do too. But with the iPad my notes are portable, whether I’ve got one page, or one hundred.
  2. That whole “in season and out” thing. I recently went on a ministry trip to the UK with one of my heroes.  I knew I’d be speaking several times…but I didn’t know when, to whom, or how often.  With my iPad in tow, I literally had hundreds of sermons ready to go.  No scrambling to find a printer, no force-feeding an irrelevant message to fit an audience because it’s all I had prepared, and no panicking about a change of context.  All without using a laptop that needs a stand, and a good charge, and looks pretentious. My iPad (with case) looks like a standard folio, and wasn’t distracting (even at the peek of iPad craze in a country that didn’t yet have them available).
  3. Interactivity. My iPad is starting to change the way we do church.  This past Sunday we did live sermon Q&A, and my iPad was at the center of it.  We had people text questions to the church’s phone # through Google Voice.  The texts populated in the Google Voice inbox, which I read from my iPad.  I could read them privately, determine which were most important/relevant, edit for content (if someone used potty language–they didn’t), and ignore the texts sent by pranksters who just couldn’t help themselves (we did have some of that!).  Best of all, it was anonymous. People could ask questions without fear of looking stupid, or something coming out wrong.
  4. Illustration. This coming Sunday I’m using my iPad as a telestrator to illustrate a point.  This is something we’ve been trying to figure out how to do since thee day I got an iPad.  Fortunately, thanks to a nifty little app called Air Sketch, and the functionality of Pro Presenter 4, it’s actually pretty simple.
  5. Mobility. I wrote about a third of this week’s message sitting in the shade on a park bench downtown.  Inspiration just comes easier outdoors…and interaction with real people comes a lot easier when I’m not sitting in my office.
  6. Organization.  It’s a frantic world, and pastor’s aren’t above the fray.  This job has forced me to be more organized than I care to be.  Paper organization methods don’t work for me, never have.  Desktop applications don’t work for people on the go, and the iPhone interface was just too small for me to make it work visually (smart lists are complicated, things would get buried 6 screens deep before I could get what I needed–my brain couldn’t keep track).  For me, the iPad hits the sweet spot–now I can actually follow through with the GTD method that I’ve been in love with, but always seemed out of reach.
  7. Reading.  I’ve read more in the last three months than I did in the last year.  The interface is beautiful and simple, the highlighting and note-taking functions make my workflow far faster (specifically: getting info from the book, and into a message), and my library is always with me.  This is probably the biggest single impact of the iPad on my ministry.
  8. News.  Karl Barth said we should live “…with a Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other.”  Those are important words for preachers: awareness, and relevance go hand in hand.  My iPad makes this easier than ever.  Much has been said about the iPad’s ability to make news consumption fun and simple so I’ll save you the speech.  Suffice to say, the iPad and some of the amazing news apps (Reuters and BBC are my faves), along with RSS readers like Reeder, make getting the news you want from the sources you want, super easy.
  9. Meetings/counseling.  I have meetings all of the time…like everybody else.  Having a portable note-taking solution is huge!  In a formal meeting (where note-taking is expected) it goes way beyond a note pad, because you have access to all of your files and the internet for reference/research.  It’s creepy to take notes in an informal meeting, but as soon as they’re done I pull out my iPad and make a note of what I want to remember from that meeting.  And in counseling, where notes are expected, the iPad is awesome because it’s far less obtrusive than a computer, it sits on your lap or desk like a notepad.  For premarital counseling we use Prepare and Enrich, and the rather large digital reports it generates can sit silently on my lap for reference without causing distraction.

There are literally hundreds of other uses, some professional, and some personal.  These are the ones that have made the biggest impact on the way I do ministry/business.

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23 Responses to “How I use the iPad, and why it's great for pastors”

  1. Cliff Diamond October 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    I bought an iPad a few weeks ago. Sounds like you carry it with you all the time, what case do you use with it?

    Any suggestions on apps for prayer list? I search on iTunes but the actual prayer apps look a little childish.

    Cliff

    • Chad October 17, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      Try mypraypal.

  2. aaron October 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Cliff,
    I use the basic apple case. It’s sleek and subtle, and keeps it scratch free, too I’m a fan. it doesn’t work with the ipad dock, which is crazy, but I cut a part out of it to force that functionality.

    no suggestions on a prayer app. Maybe try Simple Note or Evernote…they’re free and you could use their tags to keep it all straight.

  3. Kent November 30, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    Have you seen the iPad app from Logos Bible Software? You might find it useful for reading, research, original language study, etc.

    http://www.logos.com/iPad

  4. Rodlie January 9, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Appreciate you sharing your experience. I don’t have an iPad yet. I plan on getting the iPad 2 when it comes out. I can’t wait to use it for preaching and to have all my Bible studies and sermons in one place. Seems like it will make a lot of things quite easier :)

  5. aaron January 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Rodlie,
    can’t wait to see what iPad 2 has to offer. At this stage, waiting for the upgrade makes a ton of sense.

  6. Thurland Brown February 6, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Wondering what apps you find most helpful for a preacher. I have lots of news apps and bible apps, but thinking more of functionality – like word processing.

    • aaron February 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      Thurland, I prefer pages for word processing that requires any formatting at all. However, for brainstorming and churning out content i use an app called plaintext. It’s 4.99 I think. Simple, stable, and the sync actually works! Also, I’m really excited about what the upcoming omnioutliner app will do. it promises to be a great tool for sermon prep, and because it will likely be extremely robust, should be able to handle some heavier stuff like series planning, and preaching calendars.

  7. Thurland Brown February 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Thanks Aaron
    The plaintext has a free version Comes with ads, so I am trying that out. Looks good.

  8. Keedai April 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    How do you use airsketch with propresenter?

  9. Shenley Redlinghuis July 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Hi Pastor Aaron, thank you for insight. Im looking for your assistance.Im Certainly not the most computer literate minister out their. I have an ipad 2 I would like to start preaching off it but also with the functions to edit, add on my sermons.Of course having my KJV bible all in a click from each other.

    Your suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank you
    Shenley Redlinghuis The “Evangelist”

    • aaron August 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

      PP4 has a built in web-browser and has the ability to display live web content. the feature is called “Web View.”
      Air sketch works by creating a unique web address and displaying your content from your iPad to that address.
      if you set up Air Sketch, and then direct Web View to the web address created by Air Sketch, you’re in business! What’s happening on your iPad will be happening on the big screen.

  10. Matt August 19, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    What process did you use in PP4 to get the whiteboard on the output screen? Was it a button like the “live video” button? I mean it sounds like Air Sketch wirelessly connects the iPad and the Mac that you are running PP4 on, but how do you get what is on the iPad screen on your PP4 output screen? We are trying to showcase our new check in software to our church body, which we can do on the iPad, but want to put it on the big screen in the auditorium during a service so showcase it. I hope that makes sense. We plan on using Air Display or something like it. Thoughts?

    • aaron August 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      Matt, PP4 has a built in web-browser and has the ability to display live web content. the feature is called “Web View.”
      Air sketch works by creating a unique web address and displaying your content from your iPad to that address.
      if you set up Air Sketch, and then direct Web View to the web address created by Air Sketch, you’re in business! What’s happening on your iPad will be happening on the big screen.

  11. aaron August 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Matt & Keedai,
    PP4 has a built in web-browser and has the ability to display live web content. the feature is called “Web View.”
    Air sketch works by creating a unique web address and displaying your content from your iPad to that address.
    if you set up Air Sketch, and then direct Web View to the web address created by Air Sketch, you’re in business! What’s happening on your iPad will be happening on the big screen. FYI, using an ad-hoc network for this is a good idea.

  12. Anthony WS October 28, 2011 at 2:44 am #

    Can you control PowerPoint/keynote presentation from your iPad while simultaneously reading your message notes?

    • Steve Swisher April 10, 2012 at 11:29 am #

      A guy in my church is working on creating an app for pastor’s preaching notes that will also allow you to control keynote/powerpoint. It will ready sometime next month. He is looking for people to help Beta test it. Go to PodiumProApp.com if you are interested in doing the Beta test.

  13. Pastor Fisher February 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Great recommendations. Not re-hashed listings from other sites or pastors. Thank you for the ideas.

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