[Editor's Note: Chris was recently welcomed into the ChurchMag Authors Network, where we collaborate, hang-out, but mostly have fun. I recently ask this merry band of authors to share their thoughts on awesome apps for pastors. Everyone weighed-in with a list of apps, but Chris' passion could not be contained in a simple list; so he wrote this amazing post! Enjoy!]
Being an early adopter of the iPad (I think I got mine on day 3), I occasionally get asked what are the best apps for pastors, preachers, and/or church leaders.
I’m sure there are some out there that I don’t know about or use, but here’s the list of my favorite go-to apps:
Okay – this isn’t really “church-related”, but in a way it is. The moment we stop trying to learn new things is the moment we stop growing in our faith and leadership.
For features, the updated iBooks app by Apple is hard to beat. We’ve covered the new iBooks in detail on ChurchMag here, here and here, so I won’t rehash all the features in this article. However, the offering of books with digital interactive content makes for an enticing product. Still, Amazon has the selection and therefore my money. Recently I’ve gotten onto a kick of borrowing Kindle books from my library (which I can do from home, for free). This makes the Kindle app all the more reason to call it #1 for books.
For magazines, I use a combination of Zinio (an app that offers quite a few magazines available through it – I subscribe to National Geographic on it) and Newsstand (I subscribe to Writing Magazine and Wired Magazine on it). I’ve found that church magazines are surprisingly sparse on the iPad, and I can only attribute this to cost of publishing. Perhaps the primary operative for Christianity is communication, and the iPad offers a remarkable way of communicating through interactive magazines. So, I suspect the offerings will increase in the future, but time will tell.
There are a few church-related magazines that should be mentioned, though. Leadership Journal has an app for the iPhone, which means it looks really bad on the iPad. But, you can find some decent articles to read on it, and even a link to subscribe to the print magazine.
Relevant has a pretty good-looking magazine on the iPad, and if you subscribe to Relevant, it’s worth checking out.
Charisma Media Magazine is another church-related magazine, although it seems to be little more than a glorified pdf. (Again, not something I subscribe to).
Finally, I’ll give a plug for Leading Ideas, which is the branded app for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. I’ve done a good deal of leadership training with the Lewis Center, so I’m a fan of what they put out. The app, though, is simply a collection of links to the articles on their website.
Also, let’s not forget Flipboard. This one is special enough to hit my favorites bar at the bottom. It turns your RSS, Twitter, and Facebook feeds into a magazine-style reader. I can flip through hundreds of articles in minutes, and it is easy enough on the eyes that I don’t get tired doing so.
And, finally, if you want others to know what you’ve been reading (which can be useful for pastors), Goodreads is a good app to have. Think of Goodreads as Facebook for books. Instead of status updates about your life, you rate books you’ve recently read or are reading.
I’d like to see more research-related apps on the iPad, but there’s a couple that are worth noting. Wikipedia has several different apps available for it, but Wikipanion is a pretty good one. Of course, nothing beats Ebscohost for true academic research. You need an account to use it, but many seminaries offer it as a courtesy to their alumni. Public libraries also usually offer Ebscohost on their websites, but I’m not sure how well it integrates with the app. The app itself is not very user-friendly at all, though, as you have to know how to use their search terminology. Your best bet to make an effective search for exegetical purposes is to use the format SU “Book Chapter”. So, if I want to look up articles on John 6, I’d search for SU “John 6″. I’ve found it’s best not to get more specific than book and chapter, as their tagging system is usually limited to that level and not verse-specific. You can pull up the full-pdf version of the articles, though, and send it to your favorite PDF reader app. Which brings me to…
PDF-Readers and Note-takers
As a pastor, I use PDF documents a LOT! Whether it’s reading an article or making notes on something someone has sent me, the PDF format is far from dead in my office. So, it comes as no shocker that I have multiple was of viewing PDF’s on my iPad. I started out using Goodreader, which offers a good deal of functionality, including folder sorting and markup. Generally, if I send a PDF to my iPad for reading purposes only (and especially if it is something I want to keep on the iPad for a while), then Goodreader is my go-to app. However, I also do a lot of note-taking in PDF format.
If I’m writing notes from scratch, I’ll usually use PaperDesk. Combined with a stylus, it gives me a good deal of flexibility for taking notes, including easy highlighters, pen colors, and pen sizes. It also has a folder option for sorting PDF’s, making it a pretty useful app. It doesn’t replace Goodreader, though, because it is too easy to mark up a document. If it had a way to “lock” the document and prevent changes, it may well replace Goodreader for me.
Occasionally, though, I also find myself making notes on a pre-existing document. For this, Note Taker HD is the best I’ve found. The beauty of Note Taker HD is the ability to “zoom in”. If you’ve ever used a stylus on the iPad, you’ve probably found that it’s hard to write very small – it might look okay on the iPad screen, but when you send it to someone who prints it out or pulls it up on a computer, they see your writing in very large letters! Note Taker HD alleviates this by letting you zoom in an out of the document with ease. While Note Taker HD has folder options as well, I find it to be a little less user-friendly than the others, which is why it hasn’t replaced Goodreader or PaperDesk.
There are also plenty of times I find myself needing to make notes on a Word document. There isn’t an easy way of doing this that I’ve found, as the above apps are limited to PDF’s. However, Doc2PDF works great for this, as it will convert just about any document to a PDF. It uses their online server to do it, though, so be sure you have Internet access.
Finally, I find myself going to continuing education events with some frequency, where it’s helpful to not only take notes, but also record the audio for a lecture. Here, SoundNote works beautifully. It’s extremely reliable (I don’t think it’s ever crashed on me), which is critical for audio recordings. You can type notes, switch to drawing mode, and record audio all at the same time. It’s not as good as the others for stylus-use, but it gets the job done.
At last, let’s get to church-related apps. I primarily use Logos, which is a comprehensive Bible study app available on Windows, Mac, and iPad. The app is free to download and comes with quite a few books free, including a couple different Bible translations. But they also have a very extensive library of commentaries and Bible translations available for purchase. It lets you do quite a bit of exegetical work in it. The only downside is that if you’re connected to the Internet it will pull your Bible translation from their server, even if it’s downloaded locally. This can make it pretty slow to load if you’re on a slow connection. Turn the wifi off, though, and you’re good to go.
Also, the OliveTree app is pretty good for basic Bible reading as it’s quick and easy to use. Two other Bible apps worth noting are Youversion, which lets you connect to church outlines and discussion groups, and GloBible, which offers a more interactive way of exploring the Bible.
For preaching, I generally use Pages, which is the word processing app that Apple produces. There’s some other word processing apps available, too, but that one is my go-to app.
For web-related resources, Pearltrees is a good choice. Think of it as web bookmarks meets social media. It’s a graphical way of displaying your web bookmarks in “trees”, and you can check out related bookmarks (called “pearls”) that other people have posted and add them to your list. I’ve found some great online tools using this method.
For blogging, WordPress has a decent app. You can’t do great formatting with it, but if you want to jot some words down for a draft, you can save the draft to the server and pick it back up for formatting on your computer later on.
If you have an office computer that you occasionally need access to at home, Logmein Ignition is the premiere app to get. It’s costly at $30, but it has saved me multiple times. Scratch that – I guess it’s now $99!! Glad I picked this one up for $30 a while back.
Most of these apps cost money. Logmein is by far the most expensive one I’ve listed, but most will set you back some way or another. A great app to save you money is AppShopper. You can set up apps for it to watch and if the app goes on sale it will send you a notification. I’ve saved some good money on apps by having a little patience and using AppShopper.
Are there must-have apps for pastors or church-leaders I’ve missed?
[Editor's Note: So, what about the list of apps being compiled? Stay tuned! It's still coming!]