Evernote for pastors

In my post on data collection apps that might appeal to pastors, I neglected to mention one of the best note-taking apps out there. Evernote existed as a desktop program when the iPad was still just a twinkle in Steve Job’s eye. It was created to compete with Microsoft’s under-appreciated OneNote on Windows, but eventually morphed into an even more powerful cross-platform note-taking software program. When I first bought a Mac in 2006, Evernote was a lifesaver in the way it seamlessly synced my notes between the family PC and the MacBook that I used for work. Individual notes are organized in notebooks and by tags and are fully searchable, making it quite easy to locate anything that you’ve previously stored.

But Evernote is a perfect example of an app that only met its full potential with the advent of smartphones and tablets. As handy as Evernote continues to be on my laptop, I began to use it much more frequently after I installed the free universal app on my iPhone and, later, my iPad (iTunes link). Mobility is the key to making Evernote an excellent “ubiquitous capture” tool as highlighted in David Allen’s GTD productivity routine. Any note or web clipping you add to one device is automatically synced with the others the next time you open them. No matter where I am, I can easily and quickly jot down a note that I can retrieve later. Add to the mix a built in camera on the iPhone or iPad 2 along with Evernote’s image recognition feature (Premium version only) and it’s like having a photographic memory.

Here are some uses for Evernote that might especially apply to pastors:

  • Store sermon illustrations, quotes, and ideas. Quickly write (or voice record!) ideas that come to mind during the week.
  • Make prayer lists. Add names as you make your visits and pull them up when you sit down for daily prayer.
  • Keep track of receipts. Snap a picture or scan the receipt when you get home.
  • Contact details. Add a photo to help you match names with faces.
  • Collect articles to be read later. Evernote has a handy clipping tool available for most browsers which allows you to – with one click – make a copy of a blog post or news article to be read at your leisure.
  • Make a to-do list. Checkboxes can be added to any note to make quick lists of tasks or anything else.

The free version offers unlimited storage “in the cloud,” but you can only upload up to 60 MB/month. This is more than enough if you only use Evernote to capture simple text notes. The Premium version, just $5/month, increases your monthly upload allowance to 1GB and permits any type of file to be added to notes — rather than just images and PDFs.

In my opinion, Evernote is one of the first apps that a pastor should install on his new iPad.


Data collection with an iPad

Watching Star Trek in my youth, I came to think of the space-age technology used in the show as falling into two categories: 1) “that’ll never happen,” and 2) “ohhh, I hope so!” In the first category I put things like warp drives and matter transporters: “advancements” that were either impossible by the laws of physics or so complicated that they would never be developed in my lifetime. The second category was full of items that were less showy perhaps, but highly practical.  That magic combination is probably what inspired gifted men and women to develop real-world applications of gadgets like communicators, tricorders and handheld computers.

Modern tablets like the iPad have a lot of showy media features, but the reason why they are here to stay is because of the “boring” ability to get things done. That includes collecting, storing and displaying data of all sorts. Consider the following uses for the pastoral ministry:

Record keeping. A church is not a business, a pastor is not its CEO, and the “bottom line” isn’t what steers its ministry. Still, the Lord requires faithfulness and good stewardship, which demands a certain level of organization. A pastor can find help with the chore of record keeping with a number of iPad apps. Apple’s iOS spreadsheet app, Numbers, is not as easy to use as its desktop version, but it can open up Excel files and modify them as necessary. Numbers comes with built in templates which include: Checklist, Auto Log, Budget, and Weight Loss & Running Log.  Other, more targeted apps could prove more helpful. One example is Attendance. Although the main intended use is for classrooms, the app can easily track attendance at any type of event, recurring or otherwise. Read more of this post