This is an updated repost of my blog article that was nominated for the top blog post in student ministry last year.
I get asked all the time what I do to teach from my iPad. There are pro’s and con’s, tips and tricks, but there’s no “OFFICIAL” way to do it. There’s also no super quick, effective way from what I’ve found. My process is specific to using an iPad, but I feel like it transfers well to other tablets. It’s also specific to my iPad, a 1st Generation iPad.
Below, you’ll see an overview of the method I use, but I’d love any feedback I can get!
Here’s my process. It’s not perfect, it’s probably not even efficient, but it’s what I do.
As I make notes, draft ideas, etc, I usually do so in my Moleskin. No…that’s not an app. BUT, there’s just something about brainstorming on those pages I can’t get away from.
I use Microsoft Word and type out a Sermon Outline. Complete sentences not required. Sometimes I may have a bullet point that’s a paragraph, others may be an acronym. I don’t run spell check, grammar check, or anything. The main purpose of this document is to hammer out a flow of the sermon. Often, I’ll leave my introduction (the Andy Stanley “Me, You” if you will) for last. If it still doesn’t “feel right” after I’m done, I’ll print this document to mark up.
Microsoft Word, new document! This is my manuscript. I try and script every word I say, including transitions, jokes, illustrations, and anything else except any opening or closing prayer. At the end, I have a full script for whatever I plan on saying. It’s a hassle, yes. But, if I ever go back and want to rework or redo a sermon, I don’t have enough faith in my brain to know what “- story about such and such” means, much less how it applies and flows with a sermon. So I made the decision to have a full “intended script” of any message I give. It also allows me to flesh out my thoughts and flow for any talk.
Final document in Microsoft Word. This is my preaching outline. Typically, this will run anywhere from 1-4 pages. When it’s “game time,” this is the document I’ll have with me on my iPad. My introduction usually just gets a couple words, only one bullet point. I’ve memorized it and by this point (thanks to brainstorming, outlining, and manuscripting) I am familiar enough that I don’t need extensive notes. By this time in the process, I’ve spent enough time preparing for the sermon, I know where I’ll need “trigger words.” I try and keep my outline as minimal as possible. I’ve found for me, if I preach from a manuscript or from an extensive outline, I become too dependent, which hurts my credibility with whoever I’m speaking to.
Formatting wise, I set all my margins to .25. I also set the background of the page to dark blue. This prevents that awkward, weird tablet glow on my face if I’m teaching in a low light situation, and it helps the words “pop” a little more.
IMPORTANT! Here’s what you need to do so that when you save/print as .PDF, it’ll show up with the background like you need it. Open up your printer settings within Microsoft Word and make sure “Print Background Colors and Images” is selected.
Key points get the bold RED treatment. These are sentences that may be on ProPresenter, or anything I am trying to drive home. This could be a simple phrase I want them to know, a key part of the passage, or whatever. I don’t bold everything I need to say, or else everything gets bolded and the text color goes to red!
Scripture passages get their text changed to yellow. I still take my Bible up with me and read from that. It adds to the credibility of whatever I’m saying, and communicates the value of my students bringing their Bible as well. That being said, I want my preaching outline to have the text of the verses for two reasons. 1) Just in case a bookmark falls out, I don’t have to thumb through pages in the Bible to find it again, killing momentum, flow, and the emotion/impact of the moment. 2) If I’m ever asked to teach impromptu, I have on my iPad any number of sermon outlines, and I can pull it up (even on my iPhone) on demand. That’s never happened, but just in case.
Structurally, the preaching outline varies. It totally depends on what is going to best serve me while I’m in the pulpit.
I save the outline as Preaching Outline. At this point, here’s how my file hierarchy looks at this point.
Then, I save the Preaching Outline as a .pdf file (in addition to the Word file). That file gets thrown into my DROPBOX account.
When it comes time to speak, I open up my DropBox app and load the Preaching Outline.
I lock my iPad in portrait mode when I speak.
Here are a few suggestions, tips and tricks I’ve learned the hard way.
Open up GENERAL SETTINGS and change “Auto-Lock” to “never.” This prohibits your iPad from going to sleep on you while you preach. First time I spoke using my iPad, I didn’t do this. Awkward.
Equally important, remember to change it back to your preferred setting AFTER you speak, or it never turns off.
Under “Settings” turn on Airplane mode. Be sure you’ve loaded your preaching outline first, though. This will disable Wi-fi and 3G, saving you battery power. More importantly, it prevents any push notifications. One time, I had an adult volunteer live-tweeting quotes and passages from a message. It was REALLY encouraging to know that adults were tuned in. BUT, He tagged me, as well as the ministry (both of which are on my iPad). So, every time he tweeted, I got two push notifications. A little distracting.
I keep the brightness to about 50% and volume to Mute, just in case.
When I use my iPad, my goal is not for students to say, “OH how culturally relevant is my youth pastor! He uses an iPad! He probably knows what angry birds is!” I’d love it if no one knew I was using a tablet to teach. I use a music stand as a podium and my iPad is in a leather case from Pottery Barn. Before I go onstage, I open the iPad, load the outline, and have it ready to roll!
What about you? Have you switched to preaching from a tablet? What apps and/or process do you use?