Preaching From The iPad

I bought myself an iPad. I could try to pretend that I bought it for ministry use or to increase my productivity. But the real reason I bought the iPad was to read comic books. DC Comics announced that they were releasing all their comics digitally on the day they came out in stores. The digital price of comics is cheaper than what I can get them for in the store and I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to store them. And so far I’m loving reading my comics on the thing.

One of the first questions people asked me when they heard I had an iPad was if I was going to preach from it. That seems to be what all the cool preachers are doing these days. So I gave it a shot. And I liked it. I thought it might be helpful to talk through my experience and how I went about preparing.

In the past I’d preach from printed A4 notes. 12 point font, double spaced. As I finished each page, I’d slide it over to the left to minimise any distraction from turning pages. So anything I did with the iPad would need to be similar to this experience.

When formatting my sermon, I had to increase the font size to 16 point. The iPad screen is smaller than A4 so the font increase was needed to make the text readable. On the other hand, I reduced the size of the margins so that the text stretched out across the screen. My sermon script is in point form, with no point being longer than the width of the page (ie no point is long enough to follow onto a second line). By increasing the font size, it has meant the sentences in my points had to become shorter. I’m still trying to work out if this is a good thing for me or not.

Once the script is finished I save the file as a PDF and save it in Dropbox. Then I pick up the iPad and open up the sermon PDF in Dropbox and send the file to iBooks. Originally I was using Stanza instead of iBooks as I preferred how the document filled the screen in Stanza. However, Stanza is currently incompatible with iOS5 and there’s no sign of an update. One of the big issues for me with preaching on the iPad was scrolling. I did not want to have to scroll from the top of the document in one movement as I knew I would lose my place. I wanted to flip from one page to the next, like I would a book.

To make sure the iPad didn’t do anything unexpected during the sermon I went into the settings and made some adjustments. To make sure that the screen didn’t rotate 90 degrees by accident, I made sure lock rotation was engaged. And to make sure the screen didn’t turn off between changing pages, I had auto-lock set to never.

Actually using the iPad in the pulpit was a great experience. I’ve recently started wearing glasses for concentration tasks. When preaching from paper, I couldn’t position the paper high enough on the pulpit so that I could read the text through the lenses of my glasses and not just look beneath the frames. The cover of my iPad is non-slip so I can position the text right on the top edge of the pulpit.

Flipping from page to page of the sermon felt natural. It removed the need to move pages, which always concerned me that I’d end up with the pages out-of-order or that I’d end up dropping them. No more with the iPad. I wondered if using the device would distract the congregation, which proved to be unfounded. Speaking to several tech savvy congregation members, who I would expect to comment on the usage, all of them replied that they hadn’t even noticed that I’d switched from paper to digital. From my point of view that’s a win.

When it comes to preaching from the iPad, I’m sold. I’ve done so a number of times now and I think it’s the right preaching tool for me. Your mileage may vary. If you are a preacher and own an iPad, I recommend giving it a shot.


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13 responses to “Preaching From The iPad”

  1. Daniel Saunders (@ds_says) says :

    Great thoughts. Loved that you checked with people about whether it was a distraction, because that’s the last thing you need. Are you going to get a charger installed into the pulpit?!

    • Joel A Moroney says :

      Way I see it, if the Apple Zombies in the pews don’t realise I’m using an iPad then no one else is going to be distracted by it either.
      I don’t think there’s any need for a charger. I used the iPad for three sermons + youth group on a Sunday and it didn’t drop below about 60% battery.

      • Sam says :

        You could always keep a charged battery pack underneath the pulpit in case you ever forget to charge the iPad.. Interesting read! Great to see modern technology being put to use in a church situation!

      • Joel A Moroney says :

        iPad’s don’t really do battery packs. It’s all internal. But the power usage really isn’t an issue. Over the 14 hours I was at church on Sunday using the thing, it didn’t drop below 60% battery

      • Joel A Moroney says :

        iPad’s don’t really do battery packs. It’s all internal. But the power usage really isn’t an issue. Over the 14 hours I was at church on Sunday using the thing, it didn’t drop below 60% battery

  2. Richard B says :

    You’re using a wooden pulpit Joel (yes?) – any thoughts on whether it would be more of a distraction on a see-through acrylic one?

    Have you ever tried printing sermons in (A4) landscape format – two columns (ie. two A5 pages side-by-side)? We had a small odd-shaped lectern for a while and that worked well for me.

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab (7″) and was wondering about using that – although it may be a bit small. PDF sounds like the go.

    • Joel A Moroney says :

      Yeah, you’re right Richard, it’s a wooden pulpit. 192 years old if I’m correct :)
      I keep my iPad in a leather folder. Carrying it around, it looks no different to a folder full of paper. If you were looking through a clear lectern, I’d imagine it would look the same as if you had your paper notes in folder.
      I’ve never tried landscape format. I think I personally would get confused about which column I was in. If I was to do landscape, I think I’d have to stick to one column because of how I write my notes.
      PDF has advantages over an edit-able text because you can’t accidently type into your notes while preaching :)

  3. Stuart Pearson says :

    Am I one of those apple zombies that you speak of?

  4. Matt Jacobs says :

    I spoke at a camp a couple of weeks ago, and in my brilliance, forgot to take my notes with me. And the camp director’s printer had run out of ink, so I couldn’t print off more notes.

    So we transferred my notes to his iPad, and I did two of my talks from it.

    I found it really distracting. I kept wanting to resize my notes a bit to maximise screen space. A bit like when I read news articles on my iPhone (yup, I’m an apple zombie). I also kept getting lost in my notes (I do the landscape / two column thing and rarely lose my place).

    In fact, it felt too much like reading stuff on my iPhone, and it just felt uncomfortable for me.

  5. Matt Jacobs says :

    p.s., a key difference may be that I take a full manuscript to the pulpit, otherwise I end up rambling rather than speaking clearly and coherently. I don’t usually end up reading word-for-word, but what I say is very close to what I’ve written.

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