Now that I’ve used my iPad Pro for a couple of years, people ask me if it’s really a good tool for writing sermons and doing digital Bible study. The answer is and resounding, “Sort of!”
The iPad Pro works great for people with simple needs and some complex needs depending on your chosen Bible study software and app. iOS Bible study apps reached a maturity level in recent iterations with great original language tools, awesome library organization and decent layouts. No Bible study app provider takes the Apple Pencil seriously with my dream of writing in the margins or freeform drawing and highlighting. In fact using the Pencil creates a challenge for highlighting in some apps. It’s supposed to mimic using a finger, but doesn’t sometimes.
Studying the Bible on iPad Pro
Bible study apps on iOS work great. The best options include the following:
You’ll find dozens of other apps in the Apple App Store, but the top four will certainly give you what you need to do advanced digital Bible study for sermon prep. The second tier will work great if you already own them and feel familiar with the tools.
Choose a text – read it in context and then select the beginning and ending of the passage or pericope.
Familiarize yourself with the text – re-read it repeatedly in multiple translations
Take notes – record your observations of what you already know and then ask good interpretive questions of the text like “who, what, when, where, why and how”.
Study the key words – search the bible for the Hebrew or Greek root, then look them up in lexicons, grammars, Bible dictionaries, and atlases, recording the answers in the notes created in step 3.
Consult commentaries – by this step, you should already know what this passage teaches. Consulting commentaries can help confirm or correct your self-discovery. It also helps you find things you weren’t thinking about as you studied.
I’m creating a video series on YouTube that shows how to do this with Logos on a desktop. The principles apply to the iPad apps somewhat.
Your Bible app will need the following features to do the above steps of study:
Display multiple Bible translations and it’s helpful to show them all on one screen.
It’s helpful if the app will show you the pericopes from the modern translations (section titles), but don’t let them force you into following them since experts disagree how to divide the passages into pericopes.
A notes feature with formatting and the ability to link to a verse, not just a word.
Hebrew and Greek tools like looking up words using things like Strong’s numbers and preferably the ability to search by root words.
A great tool that will find all your reference works for you like a digital assistant that stacks all the lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries, etc.
Parallel windows of at least two or more books open at a time.
An export feature to copy passages to a word processor.
I use Logos since that’s where most of my library resides. However, I prefer the Olive Tree user interface the most. Only PocketBible will show more than 2 books on-screen at a time in 3 or more window panes.
Writing Sermons on iPad Pro
The Apple App Store on the iPad Pro boasts dozens if not hundreds of options for writing your sermons. Some of the above iOS apps include sermon document creation within the app, like the Logos Bible Study app.
While the Sermon Editor shows your sermon created in the desktop app, it’s read-only now.
Bible study apps often come with a Notes tool. Users could simply write their messages inside the notes, however, I don’t recommend that either. Get one of the great word processing apps or writing apps instead. Which one depends on how you work. Here are some recommended apps for the writing process.
Microsoft Word iPad App
Users of Word on a desktop or laptop should probably also use the mobile Microsoft Word for iPad app. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber you’ll get automatic sync between the computer program for Windows or Mac and your iPad app. I have a template set up with all the formatting I like and even have some basic tools in the template like an outline. It has some styles set up and a list of things I want to write down before I actually begin the writing process. These include the passage’s picture of God, sins dealt with, solution to the sin problem and subject/complement as well as the purpose for the message.
Pages for iPad
I’m not a big Pages fan, but plenty of people who own a Mac and an iPad prefer it. They come free with both machines. It has all the tools most preachers or teachers need. You can even create a template of sorts like I do in Word.
I used to use Evernote all the time. It’s a great tool for recording and saving content for later use. It’s billed as an organizer and planner, like an old notebook with calendar, contacts and notes.
Writers can use it to write with formatting. Create a template to use like I do with Word. Evernote backs up every document instantly. You can create folders for all your sermons organized the way you’d like to by date, location of preaching, subject, book fo the Bible and more.
Scrivener’s a useful writing app that’s primarily designed around longer format writing. However, you can use it for shorter things like sermons and Bible studies. We did a show on the old Theotek Podcast about how my friend Wes Allen uses it. We’re not doing Theotek anymore, but the show’s still there. See how he uses it to write sermons.
Mind Mapping Apps
I don’t use mind mapping apps, but a lot of people do. Consider using that for your sermon prep. Search the app store for a good one. With Apple Pencil, mind mapping works great on the iPad Pro.
Tips for Writing on iPad Pro
Just a couple of tips for people who wish to write on their iPad Pro. Open your Bible study app and then open your writing app. Arrange them side-by-side so you can see both.
Get a good keyboard. I prefer the Apple Smart Cover. It connects to the iPad Pro 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch magnetically. It folds so you can use it as a stand with the keyboard ready for typing. You can also fold it to use it as a stand when you’re not typing on the iPad. Logitech also makes a nice cover for the iPad with an integrated keyboard. I wrote about them both when I was at GottaBeMobile.
When I write my sermons I use color-coded text to help me quickly tell what I’m looking at. For example, Headings are larger font green text. I put the Bible passage text in the document and make it bright red. Quotations from other people are bright purple. Transitions from one point to the next are bold, italics text. My font is 14-point so I can see it better.
Preaching from iPad Pro
The workflow for preaching from iPad Pro depends on what apps you’re using. Here’s how I work.
Save my Word document to OneDrive and close Word so that it’s fully synced up on Sunday morning.
Open Word on Sunday and turn it to landscape.
Tap the button in the upper corner that puts the iPad in a special mobile view to make things easier to see while preaching.
Some people prefer to have their Bible app open next to the document. Others also control a presentation from their iPad while they preach. I do this during a Wednesday Bible study. I open Keynote first and then I open the Word document to the right quarter of the screen in that special mobile mode.
While I’m teaching with Keynote, I use my Apple Pencil to annotate the text of the Bible. Sometimes I put blank slides to use as a whiteboard.
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.