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, or the Kindle version ($28.80 at, 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.


Conducting a wedding with an iPad

I’ve already gone on record as to why I didn’t think that I would preach with an iPad anytime soon. So perhaps it might seem hypocritical of me to announce that I recently conducted a wedding ceremony using only an iPad. I’d like to say that my motive was to better inform you, my readers, by pushing the limits of the iPad’s use in pastoral ministry and reporting back my results. But my choice really came down to what was most practical. And isn’t that what you’re looking for anyway: Is the iPad practical for a pastor?

I knew in advance there would be no altar or table set up for the ceremony. That meant no place to set down any books or papers. I’d have to juggle everything (hymnal, Bible, sermon notes, marriage vows) in my hands during the wedding. It occurred to me that I could put everything I needed into a single document that I could scroll through during the service. So I typed in the words of the ceremony, the responsive readings, the Scripture lessons, prayers, etc. One bonus was that I could put the names of the couple where the blanks normally are in the agenda, guaranteeing I wouldn’t draw a blank or call the groom by the wrong name (wouldn’t be the first time). I cut and pasted my sermonette right in the middle as well.

My next question was what file format to use and what app to display it. I thought about converting the file to PDF and displaying it in GoodReader.  But I liked the way the document looked fullscreen in Pages, and it scrolled well too — only up and down rather than side-to-side. Locking the screen meant that its orientation wouldn’t be flipping on me either. It was a breeze to sync the file on my laptop to the iPad though iTunes.

The ceremony was held 150 miles from my parish at a scenic ranch/resort not too far from the Sequoia National Park. It was an outdoor wedding — normally not a big deal, but this is central California in August. I was concerned not just about the heat, but also the glare from the sun. Fortunately, when I cranked up the brightness level on the iPad, I had no difficulties reading from it. As long as great drops of sweat didn’t fall on the screen, I’d be all right. I was glad I hadn’t used PDF, because as the afternoon grew hotter, I trimmed a few sentences here and there from the ceremony and from my sermon.

The wedding ceremony went without a hitch (well, except for the one that was planned). No one passed out from the heat. I decided to keep the iPad in the Apple case since it was less likely to slip through my sweaty fingers. Also I didn’t want the Apple logo on the back to look like a product placement. Scrolling through the service went smoothly.

But yes, I did have hard copies of everything nearby just in case. This isn’t my first rodeo.

Now I have a template for the next time I want to perform a wedding using just my iPad. For a church ceremony with the altar and lectern nearby, it’s less inconvenient to switch between hymnal, Bible and pastoral agenda. But this worked so well, I might not go back to the “old-fashioned way.” Have you used a tablet computer to conduct a wedding or other religious ceremony? Share your experience in the comments below.

Update: I assumed this was true, but here’s proof that I am nowhere near the “cutting edge” use of technology. This couple had an “iPad wedding” a year ago.

iPad justification

OK. So I was one of those who pre-ordered the first iPad and had it delivered to my parsonage door on the very first day that it was available. I’m not an Apple fanboy, I swear. And I don’t consider myself to be on the cutting edge of technology (well, certainly not bleeding edge anyway). Even though many previewers weren’t even sure what to make of the new device, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this Apple tablet was going to be a game changer. The iPad possessed all the features I never knew I needed until Steve Jobs pointed them out to me in his keynote.

Two obstacles stood between me and the coveted iPad. 1) How was I going to scrape together the money to buy it? and 2) How was I going to convince my wife to let me buy it?  You can guess which was the higher hurdle. Read more of this post