Pastoral productivity with an iPad

Productivity and the pastoral ministry

Productivity has been important to pastors since the time of the apostles. Of course, Paul was more likely to call it faithfulness or diligence rather than “Getting Things Done” (or GTD). That’s because the apostle entrusted the results of his labor to the Lord. But there’s no denying that the greatest missionary of the first century worked hard at performing the tasks that he had been given by virtue of his divine call. He taught young pastor Timothy to do the same: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching…. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Tim 4:13,15). Is it blasphemous to wonder how much more productive the apostle Paul would have been if he had had an iPad and a slew of productivity apps? Perhaps. But I’m not Paul and, I’d venture to say, neither are you.

Advantages of tech tools for productivity

The hectic pace of modern ministry often proves a challenge for the chronically unorganized. Rookie pastors quickly find themselves overwhelmed if they don’t choose some system to keep track of their appointments and other duties. A pocket calendar or handwritten to-do list have worked for generations of pastors, but computerized versions have certain advantages.

  1. A paper calendar can’t give you reminders. Unless you remember to check it regularly, it can’t let you know that you’re running late for an appointment. If you don’t like being beeped at by a machine, you can change the alert to something less intrusive. But at least you won’t be late.
  2. Syncing to the “cloud” means you can have all your notes wherever you are. If you make a new entry in your address book on your iPad, you’ll find the same information on your hard drive when you get back to the office.
  3. Syncing to the “cloud” allows you to share your calendar with others. Whether it’s your wife or your ministry team, sometimes you need others to know what your daily plans are. And in the ministry those plans can change in a hurry. Changes you make to your agenda on your tablet or smartphone can be immediately and automatically synced with a master calendar.
  4. Details can get lost in a stack of paper. But you can simply search on your tablet for whatever you’re looking for: a telephone number, address, or calendar event.

Productivity apps for pastors

The built-in Calendar and Contacts apps on the iPad may prove to be sufficient for your mobile productivity needs. But Apple’s Calendar app doesn’t currently do tasks, only appointments. Fortunately, there’s no lack of to-do apps in the iTunes store. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know which of them will best meet your needs without trying them.

If you want a barebones task-management app with no syncing, you could use Things which has a simple design and allows you to categorize by project or tags or both. Or you could just type quick notes to yourself in a slim app like Simplenote.

Zenbe Lists allows you to create lists with checkboxes that you can sync and/or send by email to others. Might be useful for sending a meeting agenda in advance to members of a team.

If you want more power, however, for your task management, you should consider Todo or Omnifocus. Both of them give much more control over your to-do items, including synchronization and nesting tasks (for projects). Neither of them are cheap, but I have not regretted my investment in Omnifocus. Its design and user interface truly help me get things done on a daily and weekly basis.

Mindmap tools such as MindNode or iThoughtsHD can be invaluable in organizing your thoughts, plans, and anything else that you can visualize.

No substitute for self-discipline

In the end, the iPad is no substitute for self-control and discipline, which are fruits of the Spirit. If you find yourself easily distracted, the iPad can inflame the problem with the many games and other time-wasters that you can download onto the device. But if you are a self-disciplined pastor who is looking for a tool to organize your tasks and increase your productivity, you will find plenty of apps to help you on the iPad. God’s blessings on your ministry!