Ever thought about doing a little iPad sermon prep?
A lot of preachers carry around an iPad or some other tablet these days for checking email, surfing the web, playing games, streaming video or taking notes. Many of us also use them for simple Bible study on the go. However, can a preacher study and prepare an entire sermon or Bible study using no other device than an iPad? In other words, from start to finish, ignore their laptop or desktop computer and commit entirely to iPad sermon prep?
If you’ve ever been tempted to retire the laptop and get out of the office, this is for you. Let’s look at the following:
Tools needed to use an iPad or other tablet for reading, studying and preaching the Word of God
Apps that will help the preacher study, organize and then write their sermon/Bible study
Tips for doing all of this well
So grab your iPad and read on…
Accessories Needed for iPad Sermon Preparation
First, grab a Bluetooth keyboard if you’re serious about iPad sermon preparation. Some people may want to use their iPad’s software keyboard, but typing on a screen doesn’t work as well as typing on a physical keyboard. Connect your keyboard to the iPad using Bluetooth. It’s simpler and easier than trying to connect one using USB. Also, the battery on my iPad doesn’t run out that fast and I never turn Bluetooth off.
You can choose from three styles of keyboards.
Keyboard case integrated with your iPad case.
Full-size case that the user carries along with their iPad.
Small, foldable or roll up keyboard.
Each comes with strengths and weaknesses. According to Gear For Gaming, the case approach gives us an all-in-one package to carry around. However, the user’s still holding the keyboard when they’re not using the case. We’ve got a recommendation that fixes this problem.
Using a full-size keyboard gives the user a better typing experience. We’ve got two recommendations that feel great while typing and let the user hook up to three different devices. That lets you type on a tablet and a phone and then put it on the desk at home and use the same keyboard with your desktop. We’ll explain how this works later.
Taking along a full-sized keyboard means less convenience and portability. It’s too many things to carry. A laptop with a keyboard attached might work better. Still, read on because we’ve got a couple of suggestions that are still very portable.
The final option is smaller than a full-sized keyboard. These are small foldable keyboards that often fit in your pocket. They are hard to type on quickly.
First, look for a Bluetooth keyboard and second decide which of three styles you think you’d prefer. The best keyboard cases come from Logitech because they’re thin and light. They usually feel great while typing.
Logitech just released the Logitech Blok case. It looks a lot like Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with its kickstand back. The keyboard fits on the tablet along with the snug and thin case. When it’s time to type open it up and even detach it so the screen’s not too close. This also means you can remove it while using your iPad as a tablet only.
People who prefer a full-sized keyboard should look at the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard ($69) and get a carrying case for it or get one that will hold both the iPad and the keyboard.
Logitech also makes a great nearly full-sized keyboard. It’s the Logitech Easy-Swtich Bluetooth Keyboard, model K811 for $100. It connects to 3 devices. It has a selector switch for Android, iOS and Windows. However, it also connects to an Apple computer and comes with an Apple keyboard configuration with the COMMAND and OPTION keys and shortcuts for iPad.
A third keyboard option also fits the “full-sized” mold. The Microsoft Universal Mobile Bluetooth keyboard is my favorite of the bunch because it’s small and less expensive than the three of the above options at only $79.95. It comes with its only carrying box and unfolds when we’re ready to type on it. It also connects to multiple devices at once.
Since I hate the tiny fold up keyboards and the roll up keyboards, I don’t have a recommendation. You can find these usually for $20-$50 at Amazon or your local office/electronics store.
My friend Antoine Wright of Mobile Ministry Magazine and a co-host of Theotek Podcast would scream at these suggestions. He’d wonder why not forget the keyboard and just use a stylus. Draw and write notes. And I agree with him.
A few great options let you do fine-tipped drawing and handwriting. The larger tipped stylus that most people use are terrible. I hate them and never use one. But these feel more like writing with a real pen.
Get a good Bible study app. That’s obvious, but remember that not all Bible apps do the same task. I always prefer full Bible study apps over the simple Bible readers. The best Bible apps on the iPad don’t necessarily do the best job of supporting advanced Bible study.
Each of these coms with strengths and weaknesses. The best option usually depends on what the preacher uses on the computer. Logos users should use the Logos apps. Olive Tree users should get their app. You get the idea. However, try downloading all of these. Each offers a free version and you may get some good content. That’s especially true if your desktop application doesn’t offer a good iPad app, like Bibleworks or PC Study Bible.
In addition to Bible study apps, look for a good word processing app and maybe a presentation app. Do you use Microsoft Office on a computer? Then give their iPad apps a try. To get the full experience the user will need an Office 365 subscription. Office 365 costs between $60 and $100 per year or less if you shop around.
Apple makes Pages and Google offers Google Docs. Each comes with strengths and weaknesses, so try them out and see what you like.
Some people prefer one of the many note taking or mind mapping apps for taking notes on an iPad while studying their Bible app. Also, do forget that some of the above Bible apps have great notes features that you can write in instead of using a separate app.
Here’s a list of great note taking apps.
Evernote – ubiquitous note taking and syncing app.
iA Writer – be sure to get the cheaper of the two. The $20 version doesn’t add enough to make it worth twice the price. It handles mark down, something my friend Wes Allen, a fellow Theotek co-host, will love.
Don’t forget hand writing or digital inking as a writing tool. There’s a bunch of great apps that let the user write. Here’s a list of my favorites.
Tips for Using an iPad while Preaching or Teaching the Message
Once you have a good keyboard and/or stylus, your preferred Bible study app, a good word processing too, handwriting app, or mind-mapping tool, here are some tips for effectively doing Bible study and writing on the iPad.
Learn to multitask. Apple gives iPad users two ways to switch between apps. Use double tap or the swiping gestures to go back and forth between apps. In iOS 9 on iPad Air and iPad Air 2 users can dock a second app by swiping in from the right side of the screen.
Write in the Bible app’s notes feature if you want side-by-side user environment. I mentioned this above. This might not be the best way to write your preaching notes so when finished copy and paste the notes to a word processor for formatting.
Copy and Paste Bible text or quotes from the app to the word processor. To preach or teach from an iPad get in the habit of copying the text of the Bible into the word processor so there’s no need to deal with turning pages in a physical Bible.
Use Mind Mapping apps for a different approach to sermon or Bible study notes. Mind Mapping refers to using visual organization of ideas. Get an awesome stylus to draw a circle on the screen of your inking app. Then write your Big Idea in the center. If you don’t know what a “Big Idea” is, then stop what you’re doing and read Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson. If you still don’t understand, then get The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching by Keith Wilhite and Scott Gibson. If you still don’t understand then go back to your seminary or Bible college and ask for your tuition money back.
Sources for Illustrations. There’s a wealth of great content online for teaching and preaching, from online Bible study sites to news sites that offer useful illustrations. Use Wayne McDill’s tool for finding illustrations from 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching. Avoid the canned sermon illustrations books and sites that become out of date soon after they’re published. Also, look at PreachingToday.com for som great up-to-date illustration material.
Remember visuals. People learn better when we combine at least senses in the teaching or preaching experience. So look for ways to include the sense of sight, smell, touch and even taste while teaching or preaching. Take note of them when you think about your sermon’s Big Idea and concepts. In ascending order of effectiveness from the least effective to the most effective senses for memory are hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. If someone hears you preach and sees an image, they will remember what you say longer. Add one of the other three and they may never forget it.
Use a presentation tool. The iPad offers a great collection of presentation tools from Keynote and PowerPoint to Prezi or Haiku Deck. Go here to see a great list of alternatives to Keynote and PowerPoint.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.