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 BibleGateway.com.
  • 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.

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Sending personal documents to Kindle

My wife just got a Kindle Touch for Christmas and she loves it. It’s lightweight, the screen is perfect for reading in daylight, and it came practically preloaded with a bunch of books. Well, Amazon doesn’t actually ship their Kindles with books, but because I had been using the Kindle app on my iPad for the last 20 months, all the books that I had collected or purchased during that time were ready to be downloaded into her Kindle registered under my Amazon account.

On my iPad, I prefer the Kindle app to Apple’s iBooks for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that whatever books or documents I have registered with my Amazon account are available to be read on any device that runs the Kindle app (read: just about anything your heart desires, including but not limited to PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Android devices). That, of course, includes the line of Kindles themselves.

I read a lot on my iPad, both professionally and for leisure reading, and I was perfectly content with the Kindle app — except for one feature. I admit to having Kindle envy, not for the lighter weight or the e-ink display, but for the ability to email any document to be immediately available for reading. The Kindle app is great for books, but I wanted to be able to add my own custom content or documents in other file formats.

If you’re like me, I have good news and better news. The good news is that last month Amazon added that “e-mail document to Kindle” feature also to users of the iPad app. Just make sure your iOS app is uploaded to the most recent version, open the Kindle app, and touch the little “i” icon on the bottom right of the screen. You’ll see your own personal “Send-to-Kindle E-mail Address” which will work for that particular device (but also be available in your other Kindle-app-ready devices). Each file is limited to 50 MB, but the list of formats supported is fairly generous:

  • Microsoft Word (.DOC, .DOCX)
  • HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
  • RTF (.RTF)
  • JPEG (.JPEG, .JPG)
  • Kindle Format (.MOBI, .AZW)
  • GIF (.GIF)
  • PNG (.PNG)
  • BMP (.BMP)
  • PDF (.PDF)

The even better news is limited (so far) to Windows users.  You can now download a free “Send to Kindle” application for your PC which will allow you to send any document (in the above-listed file formats) with a single click from Windows Explorer or through the print menu of your software. Again, this works for both the regular Kindles as well as any device with a Kindle app.

This is a wonderfully convenient way of making all sorts of documents available for reading on your iPad: sermons, devotional materials, Bible studies, study notes, and much more. I used to think that I would be asking to borrow my wife’s Kindle from time to time, but instead my iPad has increased its usefulness to me.

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?

So you got an iPad for Christmas. Now what?

Congratulations, Pastor, on receiving an iPad for Christmas. Whether you bought it for yourself or received it as a present from members of your family or members of your congregation, you might be wondering today, “This is so cool! Now how do I use this thing? I’ve heard it might be useful for my ministry.”

Many of us have found the iPad to be a highly practical tool for our ministry in a wide range of situations. You’ll notice that there is much you can do just with the apps (short for “applications”) that come loaded with your new tablet, like Maps, the Calendar, Notes, and more. But soon you’ll want to visit the iTunes App Store where you’ll find thousands more to download. The apps range from free to considerably more than free, but the majority can be had for less than five dollars. Quite a bargain when you compare to computer software prices — especially when you may find yourself using the iPad apps even more frequently than you use your “real” computer. Some of my most used apps include Keynote (for presentations and slideshows), OmniFocus (manages my productivity), GoodReader (for reading PDFs), PrayNow (an excellent devotional resources), and Calvetica (a substitute for the built-in Calendar app).

On this blog you’ll find short articles on some of the practical uses for the iPad in your ministry, such as data collection, productivity, preaching, media-enhanced ministry, managing your library, and even conducting a wedding.

The best thing about the iPad is that there is no one right way to use it. Modern tablet computers (like the iPad and others) are just as versatile as desktop or laptop computers — and maybe even more so, due to their portability. So be creative! And share with us (in the comments below) the new uses you find for the iPad in your life and ministry. And congrats again on your new iPad! I’m sure you’ll love it.

PastoralCare devotional app

The one tool a pastor always has with him as he makes visits is a Bible. These days, you might even consider leaving the Good Book at home and simply using one of the many Bible apps that are available for your smart phone or tablet. Now another very useful resource has been prepared for use on your iPhone or iPad: The Lutheran Service Book: Pastoral Care Companion.

The app is iPhone-only for now, but of course it also works on an iPod Touch, and the publishers say that the app will soon be upgraded to work natively on the iPad as well.

The PastoralCare app includes resources to use in many different ministerial tasks. Bible readings, hymn verses and prayers are given for the many different situations a pastor might normally find himself in: ministering to prisoners, the sick, the elderly, the lonely, and the dying; but also rejoicing with those who are celebrating a new birth, an anniversary, or other blessed events.  There are rites for conducting weddings, funerals, and more. You’ll also find prayers for your devotional time, and even a dynamic calendar of propers (designated readings for each Sunday in the liturgical church year).

This is an excellent resource that I’m glad to have with me no matter where I go (well, as long as I have my iPhone or iPad, which means everywhere but at the gym). You can purchase the book ($32.40 at cph.org), or the Kindle version ($28.80 at amazon.com), but this iOS app is a real bargain ($19.99 in iTunes).

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

 

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.

A pastor’s continuing education with an iPad

The need for ongoing growth

I’m a big believer in continuing education for pastors. One of my first posts on this blog was about using the iPad (exclusively) for two weeks of classes that I took this summer at my old seminary. Although I haven’t made it back for what our seminary calls “Summer Quarter” every year, there’s no doubt in my mind that the expense and effort are well worth it. When I was a student, our seminary professors made it clear that although the training they offered was sufficient to prepare us for the pastoral ministry, our skills and ability to serve God’s people with the Word would quickly stagnate and even decline if we didn’t find ways to grow spiritually and professionally throughout our lives. There are many different ways to plan for pastoral growth, but here are some suggestions for how to use your iPad for continued education.

1. Take a class on virtually any topic.

iTunes U offers a growing list of lectures in many different disciplines. Pastors young and old might benefit from a  review of Greek grammar or of elementary Hebrew or of the principals of Biblical Hermeneutics. Or you might expand your understanding of how the secular world thinks with courses like Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason from Oxford University or The Story of Psychology from Missouri State. Or any of thousands of other courses in the areas of business, health & medicine, history, the fine arts, and more. (Note that I don’t necessarily endorse the content of all these links, but they are places to start looking for items that you might find useful in your own situation and ministry.)

2. Read books, essays, and monographs.

Any sort of reading can be helpful to a pastor in his ministry. It’s important to be well-read and able to converse on a wide range of topics. Of primary concern, of course, is growth in theology and Biblical subjects. Although the Religion sections of the iBookstore and the Amazon Kindle library are limited, elsewhere on the Internet there are many essays and monographs that can be downloaded as PDF files and read in an app like GoodReader (or even iBooks).  The seminary I attended has an online essay file on everything from Abortion to Zwingli. I also try to scan in papers and essays as soon as I return home from a conference so that the information is easily retrievable for future study.

3. Learn a foreign language.

The Church today continues to follow our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” These days, however, we find all nations right in our backyard and down the street. Many pastors see a ripe field for evangelism all around them, if only they could communicate in their neighbor’s language. The iPad can help with apps for learning foreign languages. I’m currently trying Living Language – Spanish which comes with 11 free lessons and the option to purchase more.  The popular computer program Rosetta Stone has a free iPad app — but it only works if you purchase their pricey subscription plan.

Update: Apple just added (or I just discovered) a handy link for many of the top apps for learning languages in the iTunes store.

4. Record yourself preaching.

With the iPad 2’s built-in camera, it’s easy enough to set it to record yourself preaching — either in a service or in your study. You can then review the video yourself or share it with a brother in the ministry that you trust to give you helpful feedback.

5. Learn to play an instrument.

In the right hands and with the right apps, the iPad itself can make some decent music. Apple’s own Garageband includes lessons for playing piano and guitar. Another app called Learn Guitar has three hours of video to help the beginner do just what the app’s title suggests. Many, many others are available on the iTunes App Store.

Just do it

Whether he wants to learn a new skill or grow in your appreciation for the truths of Scripture, a pastor can find a number of apps for the iPad or iPhone that can help him. Whether he can find (or make) the time is another question! What tools do you find essential for a lifetime of learning in the ministry?