New iPad or old?

MacLife has a good rundown of the differences between the iPad 2 and the new iPad that was introduced this week (not called iPad 3). Their bottom line?

The iPad 2 remains a really great tablet. If you don’t plan on using the cellular network, sticking instead to Wi-Fi, the iPad 3’s 4G capabilities are wasted on you. If you don’t care about shooting photos or videos with your iPad 3, its fancier camera is wasted on you. That leaves you with a better processor and a very beautiful high-res screen — for some this will be worth the upgrade, but for many, it won’t.

My main reason for wanting to upgrade from my first generation iPad to the newest version is primarily about storage. I have the same problem that the author of the article above has: with 16GB I often find myself swapping in and out apps, videos, photos, and other files, since not everything will fit at the same time. The new iPads are available with 32 or even 64GB of storage, but you can only find the iPad 2 in the 16GB size. If you’re fairly sure storage won’t be an issue for you (and for many it won’t be), you would likely be served well by an iPad 2 and an extra $100 in your pocket.

PastoralCare app updated for iPad

I’ve written before about the excellent and highly practical PastoralCare iOS app. It offers a wealth of resources for the busy pastor on the go: rites for every official act a minister may be called to perform, and devotional materials such as Scripture readings, prayers and hymns to be used in a wide variety of settings.

When the app was released late last year, it was formatted only for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I’ve enjoyed having the app on my iPhone for those times when there arose an unplanned opportunity for ministry and I didn’t have any printed resources with me. And the backlit screen works even better than a book when in a dimly-lit room.

Now, as promised, PastoralCare has been updated as a universal iOS app — which means native resolution for the iPad and perfect for use in front of the congregation or in a hospital room. This app should be one of the first that a pastor downloads if he is serious about using his iPad for ministry purposes.

PastoralCare is available for $19.99 in the iTunes app store.

The publishers of PastoralCare are the same that brought us the worthy PrayNow app. Both of them serve well as devotional apps for pastors and laity alike.


Using Apple’s iBooks Author in your ministry

Last week I wrote about getting your personal documents onto a Kindle or your iPad’s Kindle app. At the time, I assumed that all e-books were more or less equal. That is, since it’s all just text, it doesn’t much matter what device you read it on. And then Apple’s announcement last week changed everything. Suddenly an e-book is not just a long string of text with the occasional static picture thrown in. With the iBooks 2 app, electronic books can become truly interactive and multimedia experiences. And even more incredibly, the (free!) iBooks Author tool allows absolutely anyone to publish them. Video, audio, interactive links and more can be easily added to text, creating an immersive reading experience.

Clearly the news last week had far-reaching implications for the world of education. Even K-12 institutions will be able to upload their content to iTunes U which was previously limited to colleges and universities. Hardcover textbooks that used to cost students hundreds of dollars at times will now be produced electronically for a fraction of the price. Backpacks that previously were loaded down with a ton of books now only need to carry an iPad (although suddenly the 16 GB version seems a tad limiting).

But I read the reports on the iBooks Author app with dreams of what I could do with such a tool in my ministry. Remember, you can disseminate your iBook creations through iTunes, but you can also simply create documents to be downloaded from your website or handed out on a CD. Here are some ideas that came to mind while brainstorming.

  • A catechism instruction book with your PowerPoint slides built in and links to
  • A book of your personal sermons, complete with audio and/or video of the day you preached them.
  • An intro to your church for prospects, with an interactive map, welcome video from the pastor, tour of the chancel, etc.
  • Bible study “textbook” for your Sunday morning classes, with links to supplemental materials on the internet.
  • Or record a Bible study series and, when it’s done, create an iBook version with text and video for those who could not attend.
  • A worship manual for the altar guild or worship committee, with how-to videos on setting up for communion, etc.
  • An interactive Bible History book for use in Sunday Schools, parochial schools, and homes.
  • An outreach tool with the “way of salvation” clearly laid out through a combination of text and videos.
  • A virtual trip to one or more of our church’s world missions with video of  local worship services and interviews with the missionaries.
  • A book of devotions prepared by the pastor. Could you include audio of the church choir singing? (I don’t know about the copyright laws on that one.)

My plan is to adapt my Interactive Passion History site for the iBook layout, if I can get my hands on some good art to accompany it.

Of course, as inspiring as this authoring tool is, it’s clearly limited by the fact that it only works on iOS devices. That’s unfortunate. Apple’s decision is obviously meant to drive their hardware sales rather than purely out of a desire to improve education.

But perhaps enough of your target audience already owns an iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch to make it worthwhile. They seem to be everywhere these days. If you decide to try the iBooks Author, let me know how you intend to use it in your ministry.

Customized church apps

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlights the use that a growing number of churches are making of mobile apps. Much of the same content that churches currently offer on their web sites (sermons, devotions, calendars, pictures, and social connections) can be squeezed into one single app that the members (or prospects) can take with them anywhere. Members can listen to audio from last week’s message or interact with others through built-in social media on their smart phones or tablets like the iPad.

No programmers in your congregation? You can use the services of ROAR or The Church App to set it up for you. Just be prepared to pay several hundred dollars for the initial set up and a few hundred more for an annual subscription. Maybe this idea is for mega-churches and entire church bodies more than for little neighborhood churches like the one that I serve. Fortunately, my denomination (the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) already offers a very attractive and useful app available for iOS and Android.

Although there’s no doubt that a mobile church app could add to opportunities for parishioners to be connected to the Word and to each other during the week, there’s also the possibility that it could distract from face-to-face ministry.

If you could design a mobile app for your church, what features would it include?

Kindle Fire vs. Apple iPad

The tablet market is starting to heat up. Amazon has introduced a new tablet called the Kindle Fire, priced at a much more affordable $199 (compared to the latest generation iPad which starts at $499). Andy Ihnatko from the Chicago Sun-Times says in his review that the “Kindle Fire is no iPad killer – but it is a killer device.” In other words, it’s a great gadget in its own right, but it has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. A pastor who is in the market for a portable device will have to determine which has the set of features (including price) that line up with his needs.

The iPad clearly shines in the number and quality of both native and third-party apps — many of which I’ve talked about on this blog. The beauty of Apple’s tablet is in its versatility and its smooth performance of a wide variety of tasks. The Kindle Fire only runs a limited number of Android apps. It clearly was made with content consumption (as opposed to content creation) in mind.

But if that’s all you’re looking for — a handy device you can use for reading books, watching videos, listening to audiobooks, etc. — you’ll probably be happy (and $300 less poor) with the Kindle Fire. Of course, if you limit your needs even further to just reading books, then save yourself an additional $120 and just buy a simple Kindle. Pastor Paul McCain has a good argument for investing in the Kindle platform if your primary interest is reading. But if you need a device that offers more (e.g., word processing, PowerPoint presentations, media creation and manipulation, data recording, etc., etc.,) then you’re going to have to start saving up for an iPad.

Check out the video below for a visual comparison of the two tablets.

Celebrate the Lutheran Reformation on the iPad

Here are some ways to use your iPad to celebrate Reformation Day, October 31.

  1. Rent or buy the Luther movie from the iTunes store. (I still prefer the black and white version.)
  2. Listen to the “Here I Stand” speech read by Max McLean.
  3. Read Luther’s Works (currently on sale) and writings by other reformers on your Logos Bible app.
  4. Download the Book of Concord app.
  5. Read Luther’s German Bible.
  6. Watch video podcasts on the Lutheran Confessions from iTunes U.
  7. Listen to hymns written by Martin Luther.
  8. Read Luther’s 95 Theses. Just don’t try to nail your iPad to the church door.


October is clergy appreciation month

According to Hallmark, Clergy Appreciation Month was established in 1992 “with a mission to uplift and encourage pastors, missionaries and religious workers.” Since Hallmark first offered cards and merchandise specific to the occasion ten years later, it’s possible that the origin of this “holiday” wasn’t commercially motivated like so many others. At any rate, there’s no doubt that your pastor could use some extra encouragement this month. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Pray for your pastor every day this month. Ask him if there’s anything specific that you can pray for.
  • Go the traditional route and send him a card. But make sure to add a handwritten message telling him how you appreciate his ministry. Mention something specific that he did for you or your family.
  • Stay awake during his sermon! Value the time he spends preparing to serve you with God’s word.
  • Give him a gift card for a restaurant so he can take his wife out for dinner, or for his favorite Christian bookstore, or for iTunes so he can buy apps for his iPad.
  • Bring in a guest preacher to give him a Sunday off and let him sit and worship with his family for a change.
  • Shake his hand, give him a hug, look him in the eye and express your thankfulness for what God does through him.
  • Buy him an iPad (or a Kindle, I suppose). Then point him to this blog so he knows how to use it in his ministry!
  • Try this list of 52 ways you can minister to your pastor.

(If you’d like to support this blog (and my ministry), consider making purchases at the iTunes store or at using my affiliate links on this site.)

Thank you, Steve

Rarely does a person change the world in the way and to the extent that Steve Jobs did. Many of us have benefited greatly from his vision. Apple computers, iPods, iPhones and iPads may be just “under the sun” blessings, but we are to be thankful for them as well.

This Stanford address is brilliant commentary on life and its value, while stopping short of full Christian truth. As a friend observed recently, after reading Steve Jobs’ speech, he couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words to the teacher of the law: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 12:34 NIV)

Some insightful columns on the life and work of Steve Jobs:

Update: The highly popular and exclusive Steve Jobs biography is now available in the iBookstore and on