Using An iPad In Ministry

When the iPad was launched, I mocked it. To me, it was merely an electronic toy. It was just about media consumption. Moreover, why had Steve Jobs chosen a name for a product that made it sound like Apple was joining the tampon industry?

But I have changed my views. It all began back in late May, when I attended the New Wine Leadership Conference. Among a few thousand delegates in the Harrogate International Centre, many were using iPads or other tablet computers productively. I tweeted throughout the conference from my smartphone, but it’s small and it wasn’t practical to bring my laptop from the B and B: the battery would have given out too quickly, anyway.

Soon, I began to hear stories of friends putting their sermon notes on their iPads. The morning I had to print off sixteen sheets of A4 for one act of worship, this became attractive. It also dawned on me that I might be able to access other documents online during meetings if I stored them in the cloud. The children would love me to buy one for the games, too, but that really isn’t the most important consideration.

I won’t be buying one just yet: a large car bill last week has definitely delayed the decision. But I’ll lay out my thinking so far in a moment, and I’d be interested in your opinions. Do you think a tablet is useful for a minister or not? Why? Is it just a toy for the rich? If you do use one, what tips would you offer and what apps would you recommend?

My thoughts, then: firstly, operating system. Despite using an Android smartphone (iPhone contracts were just too expensive), I don’t want an Android tablet. Since my phone was upgraded to Android 4.0 a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich, it has become too flaky. Numerous apps seize up. I can’t be doing with an unreliable tablet.

Realistically, then, that leaves me with a straight choice between an Apple iPad and the forthcoming Microsoft Surface. So my second area of thought is around the pros and cons of these two tablets, based on my perceived needs. The disadvantages of the iPad revolve around the lack of additional connectivity and expandability. There is also a question of compatibility with Microsoft Office files since we use Windows PCs at home, although I know you can use third-party services to get around that. The iPad’s advantages include the maturity of the platform, the huge range of apps and its general reputation for reliability.

As to the Microsoft Surface, we do not yet know everything about it, despite the spectacular launch presentation for it back in June. Its advantages include direct compatibility with Microsoft Office and the inbuilt keyboard, cover and stand – no need to buy additional accessories. Disadvantages revolve around some of the unknown quantities: will it have 3G connectivity? I shall need that. What will the price be? How many apps (and of what quality) will there be in the Microsoft Store? Early reports suggest that at present there are only about 2,000 – a hundredth of what is available for the iPad. And we don’t know how it will fare in hands-on reviews by technical experts.

That’s my summary. What do you think? Bring your experiences to bear on this matter.

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on September 30, 2012, in ministry, Web/Tech and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I have an android tablet (running ICS) that I use a lot ministry-wise. I preach from it, I load the powerpoint presentations on it (so I can see them ahead of the congregation), I use it to access documents in meetings, to get at my diary, email… I expected to continue to use my laptop a fair bit but it’s mostly replaced it. So, to summarise, I do think it’s useful for a minister.

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  2. I recently got a google Nexus 7, and I’m very happy with it. It comes with a £15 voucher for the Play store, so I was able to install OfficeSuite pro. It only has wifi, but thethering to my phone works very well when necessary.

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  3. Michele Terracini

    Hey Dave… Someone in my church gave me an iPad last year to use for preaching. What a gift. The first time I used it in church my hands were shaking, now I love it. It’s fantastic. I use it all the time, wouldn’t be without it. Don’t want to go back to paper notes.

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  4. I know it has been more than 2 month since you typed your article. I use an ipad. It is amazing. It is so useful and i can almost completely ignore my computer. It has great study apps: like Logos Bible, Glo Bible, Accordance (if you like the Original language tools). I use them all the time in my study, and i just had my first child, so i can sit down and hold him for hours and read while he sleeps and plays without having to move over to my laptop. I also use the app LogMeIn ignition. They have a cheep and expensive app. It allows me to do things i can’t do on my ipad still on my ipad, because it connects to my PC and i can actually use my PC Remotely. I use DocumentsToGo and i am very happy with it. I can download docs to my iPad or i can access them via Dropbox, or GoogleDocs (i use both for some reason.) I am starting to preach from it because it will allow me not to print as much paper but also because i can change the size of text when it is too small without reprinting and re-highlighting. I am using PDF Expert at this point. But i am just starting to do this. I print my doc to PDF and then i highlight and add notes to it with PDF Expert and then i slide pages back and forth as i preach. Of Course there are also so many additional productivity apps that i just can’t live without. I do my mail on it, i do contacts, I use dunnit for tasks though i mainly do it on my ipod. I use Scanner Pro to scan documents to send to people. I would rather email a scanned doc than try to snail mail anything. On top of those apps i use so many more that are useful for particular situations. I find that the ipad is easily the most useful tool i have in ministry. It is almost like going from using only paper to using a computer. Now about what to get a iPad, a Microsoft Surface, or a an android. I am sure that these apps or comparable apps will be available in all of these platforms. I find the iPad is more stable. so if you get an android you might hold off updating the OS when new ones come out. Just give the apps the time to update before you update. I don’t know anything about the Surface but i would imagine that it will also work fine.

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    • Jon,

      Thanks for such a detailed comment, and don’t worry about the time lag, because so far I still haven’t been able to afford a tablet! I’ve ruled out the Surface now, because it is wifi only and I’ll need more connectivity than that, but that’s as far as I’ve got since I posted this!

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