10 Tips for Preaching from an iPad

Like many pastors, I was trained to preach from either a manuscript or notes. One of the great gifts that I’ve received was all of the hand-written sermons my Grandfather had prepared over the course of his ministry. His “sermon barrel” was filled to the brim with messages from over 60 years of preaching. It’s a treasure trove of spiritual wisdom and insight that is life-giving in every way. I also have a sermon barrel, although my sermons are entirely digital. And while my sermons don’t have the personal connection like my Grandfather’s hand-written sermons do, they achieve the same effect.

Because all of my sermons were written on the computer, in order for me to preach from them, I had to print the sermon out. For years, I would print out the sermon, and then carefully tape them together into a sort of book that I could flip through as I preached. I would trim the booklet so it would fit neatly into my Bible so that when I started preaching, I could simply open my Bible and go. I’d even write out the scripture verses so I didn’t have to be flipping through my Bible while I preached. It was a time-consuming process and there was always a concern that I would lose the sermon booklet somewhere or worse that I would forget or duplicate a page.

Many years ago, I made the decision to start preaching from an iPad. There was obviously some challenges to this, but for the most part, it’s made it much easier to deliver the message. Over the course of the years, I’ve learned a few things that help make the transition from preaching from a physical document to a digital document easier:

  1. Convert the document to a PDF before putting it on your iPad so that as you are referring to it – you can easily adjust the font size. You can also change font colors and highlight or markup the PDF easily to assist as placeholders and way-markers throughout the message. Also – as a PDF – you can easily adjust the layout so it works best for you.
  2. Save the PDF into a folder in Dropbox or Google Drive and make sure that folder is setup so that it is available offline. You need to be able to access the PDF quickly and easily without having to think about it.
  3. Make sure you have a charged iPad. I have an iPad Pro and if I have at least 15% – I can make it through about a 20-30 minute sermon. I’ve also used iPad Air’s and iPad’s – and those take a little more battery, but it’s relatively comparable. That said – having a full charge eliminates any frustration.
  4. Along with making sure the iPad is charged, make sure that you’ve closed out of all of your apps except for what you need. Those eat up battery life and you don’t really need your Hulu account open when your preaching.
  5. Cases are primarily going to be a personal choice. For me – I use the Magic Keyboard case from Apple so that I can leverage the iPad as a true laptop alternative. Which means – when I want use my iPad – I oftentimes just pull it out of the magnetic keyboard case and set it on top of the case – which grips the iPad just fine so it doesn’t slip or move. You can also get a flat case for the iPad. Just pick something that works best for you.
  6. Make sure you are using a current update of the iOS software and that your iPad is backing up to iCloud.
  7. Along with that – NEVER UPDATE ON A SATURDAY NIGHT OR A SUNDAY MORNING. That’s just playing with fire and you WILL get burned.
  8. In Settings, do the following:
    1. Turn on Do Not Disturb so you don’t get interrupted
    2. Under Display & Brightness, change the following:
      1. Set brightness where you want it.
      2. Change Auto-Lock to Never (It’ll drain your battery – but it’s worth it)
      3. Turn off Lock/Unlock
    3. Under Notifications, change the following:
      1. Show Previews: Never
      2. Turn off Announce Messages with Siri
  9. Make sure your hands are clean. Nothing worse than having a sticky finger from a donut or a wet finger from coffee/water that makes the iPad stick or not work. I always keep a micro-fiber rag close by so I can easily wipe the screen down if that does happen.
  10. Lastly, remember that it’s technology – so it will fail you. If it’s too hot and in direct sunlight – the iPad will turn off, if it’s too cold, it’ll take longer to scroll and won’t respond as well. Just do the best you can with it and if and when it fails – just keep pointing people to Jesus and you’ll be fine.

Exploring Church Budgeting Alternatives

When it comes to discussing church budgets, it’s often a difficult process. No one really wants to talk about money and the ones that do often seem to have only one way to budget.

What if Budgeting could look different? What if budgeting could be centered more around how to use the financial resources to accomplish the goals of the organization rather than simply paying bills and making ends meet? There’s four basic types of budgets that are worth exploring.

  1. Zero-based budgeting
    Every ministry of the church starts with zero and must justify every single expense. No expenses are automatically okayed and every budget must go through a cost containment analysis to weed out the extras and focus on the essentials. It’s basically a bottom-up budgeting and is extremely time-consuming.

    There are a few churches using this, but because it is so demoralizing and it restricts the budget so significantly, it’s not used widely. Only in cases of a restarts and other restructuring efforts is this appropriate.
  2. Incremental budgeting
    We spent X amount on children’s ministry last year so we’re going to spend X amount +/- a % amount (determined by last year’s income) on this year’s children’s ministry. This is how most churches seem operate. It’s good and it’s bad for a variety of different reasons.
  3. Activity-based budgeting
    We want to have a really good worship experience and to accomplish that we need to invest in our creative team and their needs. That’s going to cost the church XXX amount of dollars and so that’s how we budget for it. Again – lots of churches operate this way – for good and bad reasons.
  4. Value-based Budgeting
    We want to have a church that is focused on connecting with the community. Because of this – every item in the budget must focus on the community. No single item should cost more that the value it adds to the community. Every budget item should be focused on the community. And because the community needs are ongoing, every effort must be made to avoid unnecessary expenditures that don’t deliver value for the community.

If you’re goal is to set a 3-5 year budget – then you really need to consider value-based budgeting. It’s provides the only option that, in my opinion, a healthy mission-centric church should consider. Money isn’t the focus – accomplishing the vision according to the values (mission) of the church is.

Thoughts on being Tracked…

I thought maybe I’d comment on this just because this is going to be a sensitive subject for many and it’s going to become even more sensitive as time goes on.
 
First. If you have a cell phone of any type. You are being tracked. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smart phone, it doesn’t matter if it’s the oldest cell phone ever made, if you have one and you use it, you are being tracked. It doesn’t matter if you turn it off after every use, the minute you turn it back on your location is triangulated by the cell towers and your location is being recorded.
 
Second. If you are on Facebook, even if you are using it only on your computer, you are being tracked. If you are using it on your phone, then every move you make is being tracked. If you log out and then login every time you use it, which would be a great practice to get into, it still has embedded cookies into your computer that track every website you go to.
 
Third. If you have an email address by any provider, you are being tracked. If that email address is connected to your phone and you receive email updates, you are being tracked.
 
Fourth. If you purchase anything online, look at any shopping website such as Amazon.com or Walmart.com, what you are looking at is being tracked and used to create predictive analysis of your behavioral patterns which are then used to market items to you that match your behavioral profile. This is happening right now and most people aren’t even aware of it.
 
Fifth. If you drive a car, no matter the age, no matter the model, no matter how fast or how slow you drive, you are being tracked. There are cameras everywhere documenting your every move. You are seen every time you go into a store, every purchase you make, every location you drive by.
 
All of this is happening with or without your permission and most likely without your knowledge.
 
So then… what should we do?
 
Should everyone create posts like the one you shared? It might provide some personal assurances, but in the grand scheme of things, your permission to record or not record your every move, doesn’t really matter. Whether you post this or not, you’re still going to be monitored and tracked and watched.
 
In reality, there’s really only two choices that you have if you wish to not be tracked and monitored.
 
The first choice is to abandon technology all together, slip out of your home in the middle of the night, walk to some hidden and unknown location, and spend the rest of your life hiding from people and living off whatever nuts, berries, and animals you can collect and trap with whatever tools and resources you brought with you. Even then, you’ll have to constantly be on the move and be vigilant in covering your tracks to ensure no one spots and reports you.
 
The second choice is to recognize that you have been given the opportunity to truly live your life above reproach. Everyone is watching, so what will you do? I hope the answer will be that you will be gracious and kind to everyone you encounter. That you will treat people with fairness and honest. That you will be kind and considerate to those less fortunate to you. And that you will be bold and ferocious in dealing with those who marginalize and take advantage of the least in our society.
 
Now… some might say that there’s a third choice to be made. A choice to live caught in the absurdity of fear and paranoia. A choice to live angry and frustrated and scared and offended. A choice to hate and blame one group of people while turning a blind eye to the imperfections and flaws of another group of people. But that is not a choice that I would believe adds any value to life, it simply bleeds life away worrying and fretting through whatever the angst and emotion of day brings. Who would want to live like that?
 
So, I contend there are two choices to be made and I sincerely believe that one of these choices will lead you to a heavenly reward, the other one most likely won’t.
 
And I hope, that someday far off into the future, when God calls you home, that He will say to you “Well done, you lived a life above reproach. You have been a good and faithful servant even when the world lost it’s mind and fear ran rampant through streets. You stood strong in faith and trusted me. Welcome home child!” I sincerely hope those are the words you hear.
 
God Bless, stay safe, love Jesus – and… maybe just turn off the TV and ignore the news for a few weeks/months/years because that form entertainment is rarely helpful and oftentimes destructive.

Pandemic Reflections

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching and listening to the people that I interact with on a regular basis and processing how they are coming to terms with the reality of this pandemic.

My pastor friends seem to fall into two distinct categories.

The first category is built from the mindset “Once this inconvenience blows over, it’ll be back to normal for everyone.” Their timeframe is very short, sincerely believing that probably everything will be fine in another 2 weeks or so. Every time they share something, they talk about how much they can’t wait to get back together, how they are going to be running up and down the aisles and hugging and kissing everyone they can. They sincerely resent not being able to meet on a regular basis and they are extraordinarily uncomfortable with online church or any other form of church that may be different then simply coming into the church building, worshiping, listening to the sermon, and then leaving. I often wonder if quietly many of them are whispering to themselves that everything else is heresy…

The second category is built from the mindset “The church will never be the same, the old has gone and the new has come!” Their timeframe is much longer, believing that we will be in shutdown until at least June or July and that nothing will ever be the same again. They’ve adapted quickly to this new paradigm. Many of them are secretly relieved that church is no longer business as usual and they are quietly hoping that some of the “problem” Christians that attend their church will leave for other churches. They are so relieved to be rid of the routine and they are embracing and taking advantage of every single moment in this crisis to reinvent how they think about and do church.

My political friends, both conservatives and liberals, are operating out of an entirely different mindset.

My conservative friends, particularly the Libertarians of the group, are absolutely convinced that this pandemic is a direct result of the Democrats trying to destroy Trump’s chances at reelection and the economy at the same time. They aren’t buying what the news channels or experts are saying, they think the entire pandemic is a scam and they are refusing to change how they live or interact with others. They believe that the experts and reporters are grossly exaggerating the numbers and using the argument that people are actually dying from the Flu and not Covid-19, if it even exists at all. And interestingly enough, they are beginning to resent Trump for what they see as bowing to the pressure.

My liberal friends are taking the pandemic seriously. They are staying home and encouraging others to stay home. They are listening to all the news channels and experts and drawing interesting and convincing arguments about the severity of the pandemic. Like my conservative friends, they don’t believe the experts and reporters are accurately reporting the numbers, instead they believe the numbers are actually much higher then what is being shared because the U.S. responded late and there aren’t enough tests or accurate tests for everyone to be tested. Initially, my liberal friends continued to blame Trump for this pandemic, but interestingly enough, many of them are now quietly praising Trump for how aggressive he has been in responding. They still don’t like or respect him, they still think he’s a barely literate idiot, but they are appreciative that he’s doing what he can do to try and prevent the spread.

And then there are my normal friends.

They have jobs, or used to. Their kids are in school, or used to be. They have offices and co-workers that they went to and saw everyday, or used to. They had some savings, or used to. Their response to this pandemic is to just keep holding on. They are doing everything they can to hold things together. Some bills aren’t going to be paid this month, they know that. Some of them are running short on food, toilet paper, and essentials and they’re trying to figure what to do about that. They are scared and worried, but they are just trying to take things one day at a time, take care of their families, and figure out what to do next.

But my friends that scare me the most are my Christian friends.

The reason for this is because my Christian friends are also my pastor friends, my political friends, and my normal friends. They are intermingled with every group that I’ve written about. Some are pastors convinced this is temporary. Some are pastors convinced everything’s changed. Some are conservatives convinced this is a scam. Some are liberals who are taking this seriously. Some are just normal people trying to make it through another day.

What scares me about some of my Christian friends is this, through their statements and interactions on Facebook, phone calls, and other means, it’s clear that Jesus might be their savior, but Jesus is clearly not Lord of their life. They are the Lord of their life and while they are forever indebted to Jesus for His sacrifice, they’ve never truly made Jesus the Lord of their life. They are still in control of their thoughts, words, and actions, those have never truly been surrendered to Jesus.

Here’s the point I want to make. You cannot call yourself a Christian and not have Jesus as Lord of your life. It’s just not possible. You cannot claim Jesus’s sacrifice and then retain complete control over how you think or respond or act. When you claim the sacrifice, the old person who controlled everything is gone. A new person is created who has agreed to submit to letting Jesus be Lord of their life. You cannot claim to be new and still live like the old – it’s just not possible and people see right through the hypocrisy.

So this is a wakeup call both for me and for others. Who is really Lord of your life? I hope you say Jesus and I hope that the Lord will grant you the wisdom and discernment to move away from the things you are attempting to control and serve Him faithfully and without question.

Trying ideas on…

I like to try ideas on.

I like to take an idea, an opportunity, a possibility, a whim, and try it on for a few days just to get a sense about what it might be like if it was real, if I actually followed through, if I made the decision to pursue this. This idea of trying things on works both in deciding TO do something and in deciding NOT TO do something.

I like to try on things like “I’m taking this new job” or “I’m moving to this new place” or “I used to skateboard when I was a kid, I could go down to the skatepark in the early morning and become an awesome skateboarder again” or “I could just ignore everyone and everything and never, ever risk again.”

Now, there’s some value to trying ideas on. You get a sense of the excitement of what might be. You can discover how you might feel about things. You can begin to address some of the fears in a relatively safe and rational environment.

But the problem with trying ideas on is that sooner or later you have to snap back to reality and come to terms with the fact that you still haven’t made a decision. You’ve spend hours, days, or weeks fantasizing about what might be rather than embracing the here and now.

I like to try ideas on, but only for a moment, because the real adventure begins when I make a decision and follow through on it. That’s when things get real.

Gripping panic and fear

There are random moments that I find myself crippled with panic and fear. Sometimes I can go days without this happening. Other times, it happens so frequently that I spend the entire day battling and find myself completely exhausted at the end of the day.

What cripples me is an irrational thought that God might not use me again. That I won’t be given the privilege of serving the kingdom, of sharing the good news, of being fully used by God for His glory. I fear that perhaps I’ve disqualified myself somehow or someway that I have yet to fully understand or comprehend.

And yet even in the midst of these moments, I hold tight to the following truths:

I know that God has not given me a spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells me this and so I hold onto that tightly. That fear is not mine, it is not from God, and so while it may impact me briefly, it does not have a place in my life of choosing to follow God.

I know that the calling of God is irrevocable. Romans 11:29 tells me this and when panic sets in that God may not ever use me again, I’m reminded that God does not make mistakes. He called me for a purpose. He will not revoke that calling and He will continue to use me as He sees fit.

So in this battle, I find myself gripping panic and fear with the truth that God has given to me. And those battles soon end and life goes on.