Preaching Off an iPad

Yesterday was the first day I preached off my iPad. I got the iPad this past summer and had always thought about preaching off it. I currently use a manuscript for my sermons. It’s the style that was reinforced at Princeton Seminary, and I haven’t quite been able to shake it yet. I feel like it’s still a pretty conversational style, and I do feel the freedom to move away from the manuscript, but at this point in my preaching career, I like having the manuscript there. When I print it out, it’s normally about 5 pages, but seemed like saving paper would be a good thing.

I know there have been quite a few folks who have already blogged about preaching off an iPad, and I don’t know that I have too much to add to the discussion, but I thought I’d briefly share how it worked for me, since some folks on Twitter asked that I write a review after preaching from it.

Normally when I write my sermons, I print them out with a font size of 14. However, when preparing the sermon for the iPad, I had it set to about 18-20 for it to look right. I also decreased the margins a bit to get more on the screen. I heard some folks just opened up a document with the Pages app, but that didn’t appeal to me. In Pages, you have to be constantly scrolling down (like on the web) and I wanted to just be able to tap the screen and advance onto the next page.

As far as I understand it, that meant I would need a PDF reader. I heard that some folks use iBooks, but the app I used was GoodReader. It’s a great app, and made it really easy to just flick to advance to the next page. As Steve Lindsley mentioned, because you can fit less on an iPad screen than a full 8.5×11 sheet of paper, it does mean that you’ll be flicking more often than you’d be turning pages. And as another blogger mentioned, you can only see one page at a time, versus seeing two side-by-side.

But I actually really enjoyed the experience. I had to start numbering my pages, because I got them mixed up a couple times, and while our congregation is very gracious, it was a little annoying to do that. With the iPad, I didn’t have any of those problems and it was very easy to read off of as well.

I didn’t receive any negative comments from anyone, and a few folks who realized that I was using an iPad, thought it was pretty cool. Naturally, pastors preaching off iPads made it into the Stuff Christians Like website; the iPad is the newest gadget folks are interested in and of course pastors will find ways to use it. Some have even found even more uses for an iPad for pastors, and others are really getting into preaching off it.

If you’re going to preach off your iPad, there are a few basic tips you should remember:

  • Turn the Mute switch off: you don’t want your alarms or other alerts go off while you’re preaching
  • Lock the Orientation in Portrait Mode (unless you want to try using it in Landscape mode, though I don’t know why you would): Not an issue if you’re just setting your iPad on a stand or a pulpit, but if you’re walking around with it, you don’t want the orientation to change mid-sentence
  • Set the Screen Auto-Lock to 10 Minutes or longer: this way the screen doesn’t turn off on you while you’re preaching (especially awkward if you are preaching from a manuscript)
  • Put your iPad in a case: obviously, you’re cool if you’re preaching from an iPad, but you don’t need everyone to know that you’re that cool. I personally love the basic Apple iPad Case, it keeps the iPad very slim and makes it just look like a black notepad
  • Check out this article that offers some really good tips, as well as downloadable iPad templates for both Microsoft Word and iWork’s Pages

It’s certainly not perfect and some have commented on issues of feeling bad about preaching off a gadget that is so expensive. But if you have one, why not give it a shot. I liked it – and I’ll probably try it again next time I preach. Has anyone else tried preaching off an iPad? What did you think?


  1. says

    I think your tips sound very helpful. I saw someone give a speech off an iPad before and he lost his place. I don’t know exactly what his problem was, but I think your suggestions would help. I particularly like the idea of using PDF pages to just advance to the next page. Scrolling makes it easier to loose one’s place.

  2. says

    The preaching off an expensive gadget argument is so confusing to me. Unless you’ve been using a typewriter for the last twenty years, how is this any different than printing your sermon off of the equally-if-not-more expensive computer you used to write it in the first place?

    • says

      I imagine I could save over 400 pages of paper per year preaching off an ipad, instead of having to print out my notes. That’s not counting printing out other kinds of documents that I might refer to and I could just have on my ipad instead.

    • says

      Ah don’t mind them who are on and on about preaching from an ipad ( expensive gadget). If anything we are extremely late!! Look at Acts 10:11 when simon peter went up on the roof to pray he
      saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet
      knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth. And and also in Acts 11:5
      I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: THIS WAS A COMPUTER SCREEN OR SOMETHING SIMILAR! You know the way you are able to move multiple windows ( sheets) on your screen?, yh this was it! so ipads are great for preaching, no guilt about it . K.mbewe sheffield uk

  3. Dave Collins says

    I use Voice Memos on my iPhone to record my sermons. Is there a way to record using the iPad while you use it for your notes?

    • says

      Dave – yes, there are iPad apps that allow you to read your sermon and record audio. I think Prompster is one of them. The issue you may find with some of these apps that record audio is that you have to constantly scroll down your text, rather than the “swipe” AWC is talking about, which is much easier.

  4. says

    I created a epub by exporting my notes in Pages, then synced it via iTunes. This allows for additional annotations (though not as good as goodreader), but I do get dynamic font scaling without having to manually crank up the font size and then print a PDF.

  5. says

    I love gadgets and use my iPhone for taking notes, to-do lists, grocery lists, etc. But I just don’t get the preaching from an iPad thing.

    I’ve read a number of blog entries about it and I have yet to understand why it is better than paper. In fact, most posts I have seen throw in a couple disadvantages of the iPad vs. paper. From an outsider’s perspective it seems to be more about using a new gadget then enhancing sermon delivery.

    Am I missing something?

    • says

      Yes a lot, check it out. Borrow one , down load the free olive bible app and have a play around with it , you will be blown away trust me. However nothing wrong with using paper though. When am listening to someone else preaching, i still use my paper note book to take notes. I find it quicker to snap up scriptures as they are given. If I type I miss scriptures while trying to move from number keys to letters on my iPad, plus it tends to be a distraction to folks sat next to you.

  6. says

    My thoughts on delivering a message from a tablet or smartphone? Why not?

    I say go for it… if it suits you and does not distract from the message. There have been people talking about “PDA Pulpits” from back in the Palm PDA days. I felt very comfortable having my entire program (notes, YouVersion-powered scriptures, music etc.) all on my BlackBerry, and my current Android device is even more functional. I can literally run the entire service from my smartphone, if need be.

    Now, admittedly, serving in a small church forces me to think outside the box when it comes to technology on a budget. When you have a small budget, you tend to stretch what you can do with what you’re blessed with. Thus, getting tech devices that helped in ministry became a priority. I do most of my research and Bible study on my Android smartphone anyway, so developing my message on it was a natural progression.

    I do believe preparation is key. Even when I have everything on my device, backups to backups is the name of the game. I always have paper notes, a bookmarked physical Bible and an annotated program. I once had my BlackBerry freeze, but we had the PowerPoint work independently, and I moved seamlessly to the physical Scripture. Most folks didn’t even notice.

    Again, I say, go for it. You’ll love the untethered nature of it too…

  7. Leo says

    Good writing. Thanks! Hope some day I can do that. I preached from Kindle 3 once (just use it as a Bible) but even the page turning is not fast enough, not to mention no notes capability…

    BTW brother, I got to tell you, another pastor has an almost exact experience as you, word for word, on another site, almost 6 months after your writing. Even the picture is so similar. Check it out.

  8. Christina Graham says

    Hey Adam – thanks for the blog – I just used my IPad this past weekend for a wedding and did use IBooks as I converted the word doc to PDF. I wish I had’ve read your blog sooner as I was nervous about using the IPad and actually turned the thing off mid-ceremony. It was fine – and I kept on but it was helpful to be a part of an outside wedding and not have to deal with shuffling papers and document blowing away. I’m preaching Sunday – and I’m thinking about using it. We’ll see….

    p.s. How did you find this other guy’s blog with same info? Hilarious (that you caught it) and disappointing too (that he did it)!!!

  9. says

    I just preached from my iPad this past Sunday and it was no issue or problem for me. Someone did ask was I trying to be cool and let everyone know that I was the first to have one but I just laughed it off and proceeded. I also use my iPad to take notes and quickly get to the Bible verse of the day. the iPad is a tool that only enhances my ministry and study of the Word. I also use it to record audio and video in church. The calendar and email and all the other attributes of the iPad only simplifies my life. I still know how to pick up a hard cover bible and enjoy it also. To all-Be blessed and step out of the boat just like Peter , if you fall Jesus is there to pick you up!

  10. noell says

    I don’t own an iPad… I was wondering about the page turning, do you do that by tapping? I ask because I like to touch the manuscript as I’m preaching and I would hate to accidentally turn the page before I was ready to do so…

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