iPads for Ministry

 There are many computing tools at our disposal these days. There are many types of desktop and laptop computers that most of us use. They come in all shapes, sizes and price points. Some are large and powerful. Some are lightweight and minimal. Chromebooks, MacBooks, Surfaces, and the list goes on. Then there are, of course, smartphones, that more and more people are using as their primary computing devices. This is especially true in parts of the world outside of the United States. But it is the last category of computing devices, and one brand in particular this ministry resource focuses on, iPads!

Why dedicate an entire blog post to such a narrow topic? Because I believe this particular product is both transformative, and a valuable resource in the hands of pastors, teachers and other ministry workers. I haven’t always held that belief. In fact, I had pretty much limited my iPad usage in the recent past to watching YouTube videos, brief web surfing, and checking email. Beyond that I felt that a regular laptop was much more efficient. That’s not the case today. I’m writing this blog post on what I feel could be a laptop replacement for many–an 10.5 inch iPad Pro. That is the latest in Apple’s iPad lineup, but perhaps the best device they have ever released! Here are a few of the reasons why:

  1. Form factor – At a 10.5 inch diagonal the iPad provides enough real estate for comfortable single application usage. With the upcoming iOS 11 release split screen and drag and drop will also support some light multitasking. I think that is suitable for the work of most ministry workers. While a larger screen could be helpful at times, that would infringe on one of it’s best selling points, portability. With the appropriate cover and battery life, this little device can go wherever you go. That takes productivity to an even higher level.
  2. Screen quality – This latest iPad has what Apple calls “ProMotion.” That is just Apple’s marketing term for a higher screen refresh rate. Previous iPads refreshed the screen at 60 MHz, while the new Pro doubles that. What that means is that the screen animations and movement are much more fluid and responsive. That along with a processor that in many cases is just as capable as most laptops,  you have something that most would call a laptop replacement. In fact the on screen experience is probably even better.
  3. File Management – Another thing coming with iOS 11 is a Files app…finally. Since the original iPad was launched I had been frustrated by the fact that you couldn’t get at the native file system, like you could on a regular computer. Soon you will be able to, which is a must for most knowledge workers. You’ll be able to easily access files from iCloud, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, and others through a single place. This helps you to organize the files the way you want, and find them quickly. Very helpful.
  4. Accessories – Really there is one key accesssory that makes an iPad more usable as a laptop replacement — a keyboard. While Apple’s is fairly expensive (no surprise there), it is excellent. It acts as a cover and a keyboard. The typing is accurate and smooth, and only slightly smaller than most ultra book size keyboards. It makes text entry and editing a pleasant experience. You do have to get used to no trackpad, as the screen itself is your touch interface. It was an easy transition for me, as I was used to that with my phone already. If you plan on getting an iPad Pro be sure to budget for it.
  5. Apps – Since the iPad Pro was launched a few years ago, one obvious absence has been “pro” apps. Yes, you had all the usual iPad apps, but not much for full on productivity or even media creation/editing. That is beginning to change. Microsoft has recently launched very capable Office apps like Outlook, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, etc. In my experience they do almost everything I need from them. They are stable and work well with the touch interface of the iPad. With an Office 365 subscription you are all set for any document creation, editing or sharing you want to do.

At about $650 for the base model, plus the keyboard, you are approaching decent laptops, but essentially that is what you are buying, but in a smaller, more flexible package. Battery life is excellent. Portability is unbeatable. And the app ecosystem should meet your needs for some time to come.

Application/Audience

So having sung the praises of the hardware and software of Apple’s tablet, why would this be a fit for a ministry worker. Beyond the simple laptop replace arguement, here are a few use cases where I think it makes sense for you:

  1. For pastors I think sermon prep and delivery are naturals. Depending on how you prep, word processing and mind mapping have excellent options on the iPad. For delivery having an iPad in front of you has numerous advantages, especially if you use visuals, which can be routed right from the iPad to your projectors or screens. I watched my pastor a few weeks ago work from a laptop with the screen up in front of him. There were times that most of his face was hidden from the congregation. If nothing else it creates a distracting visual barrier. Having an iPad laying flat on the Ambo/Lecturn would virtual remove that issue.
  2. Another benefit for pastors would be usage in Bible class. Yes, you can project content on a screen with it…even wirelessly with the right hardware. But it becomes even more valuable as you have the Bible available to you, which can be searched for that one verse you know applies to the congregation, but can’t remember the exact reference or phrasing. Recently I led a Bible class using a Keynote presentation, but worked with maps and virtual fly throughs in the GloBible of Solomon’s Temple, plus other online resources that I could easily explore during the class.
  3. Teachers would I think find many use cases for a portable tablet like the iPad. Again, hooked up to an appropriate wireless setup (perhaps a topic for another blog post), the ability to walk around the classroom bring up appropriate/relevant resources would enhance most education environments.
  4. There are so many educational iOS apps, the ecosystem is rich for almost every teaching discipline. It’s not just a great tool for those teaching art, or other “visual” type subjects. Just do a bit of a search in app stores for relevant tools for your area. Better yet, reach out to the WELSTech Google Group and ask what iPad apps others have been using.
  5. Notetaking is a great application for a tablet this size, whether you use the Apple Pencil, or just use a keyboard (virtual or real). I personally use OneNote, but Apple Notes app is getting better, Evernote is still good, or even Google Keep. They all work pretty well with most forms of media at this point. To have them searchable and portable I find to be invaluable. You have notes on previous meetings, visits (member or parent visits), resources, pictures, etc. To have one place for all your inputted materials is a big win. To have it with you most of the time, even better.

There are many more scenarios where an ever present data tablet that gives as much as it gets will pay for itself. I’ve said this before, don’t scrimp on your knowledge worker/management tools. They can’t stand in the way of your ministry. They need to help you be more productive and also be a delight to use. Both those boxes are checked for the iPad Pro in my opinion.

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