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.

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?