A friend serving his first appointment stood in the pulpit to deliver the sermon. Opening his Bible, he discovered his notes were missing. Thankfully, he knew his material well enough to survive the trial by fire. A man approached him after the service with his notes in hand saying, “Preacher, I just wanted to see if you could really preach!” Before the dawn of the tablet computer, this was always a possibility, at least in rural Kentucky! Besides keeping the overzealous appraiser at bay, using a tablet for sermon notes offers several benefits:
1. Liberation from the Pulpit
Our sanctuary sports a gigantic wooden pulpit which is great for communicating authority, but seems to serve as a barrier to people in today’s culture. To connect with the congregation more effectively, I step from behind the pulpit. Managing multiple pages of sermon notes and my Bible, keeps me behind the pulpit for a much greater portion of the sermon. I now return to stand beside the pulpit only to take a drink of water. This ability to comfortably leave the pulpit behind while maintaining access to my notes with a quick glance at my tablet helps me feel comfortable and facilitates a more open posture toward people.
2. No Fumbling with Paper
Over the years I used a wide variety of sermon notes, from multiple standard-sized pages, to hand-written notes on the outline printed in the bulletin, to minimalist notes printed on half-sheets, to Post-It notes stuck in my Bible. With a tablet, I don’t need to worry about how to turn or shift the pages. Concerns about getting the notes in the wrong order disappear. Everything is kept perfectly straight and easy to manipulate on the tablet.
3. Save a Tree
Talk about paper, you’ll be saving some! When computers arrived on the scene, many touted them as a means to save paper. Unfortunately, we use much more paper because we print liberally. Tablets may actually be saving paper. The ability to view a document on a tablet coupled with the mobility of the tablet has decreased the need for printing. I don’t print my sermon to take it to the pulpit, I can easily transport it and read it on my tablet.
4. Easily Organize Multiple Documents
In addition to sermon notes I load the bulletin, hymn/song lyric sheet, prayer, and the creed as PDF documents on the tablet. There’s no need to grope through all those individual pieces of paper which simplifies not only preaching, but also worship leadership.
5. Text Messages During Worship
Receiving texts during worship was surprise hit. The potential distraction posed by text messages could be a negative, especially during the sermon. However, the ability of the media team to contact me subtly during the service is a plus. This is less distracting than one of them standing and wildly gesticulating in the balcony attempting to grab my attention. They’ve only utilized text messages on a few occasions, but I was always glad they did. Some might ask why I couldn’t read a text on my phone. I can. But extracting the phone from my pocket and reading a text during worship is obvious and obnoxious. I’m already following along in the bulletin or lyrics to a hymn on my iPad, so I’m the only person in the room, besides the textor, who knows I’m reading a text message. It’s a cool form of stealth communication!
A Note About Equipment & Software
Plenty of good tablets exist in the market. I use an iPad Mini. Formerly a full-sized iPad did the trick, but I found the Mini a better fit for my hand. GoodReader is a great app for reading PDFs and is available in the App Store for iOS (a good Android alternative is ezPDF Reader). GoodReader opens a variety of document formats, but PDFs tend to work best and it’s easy to create a PDF from any computer word processor. GoodReader handles PDFs quickly and flawlessly. It also has the nice feature of preventing the iPad from falling asleep or dimming the screen. I don’t want the screen to go dark while glancing at my notes. GoodReader offers a nice zoom feature that’s simple and quick to use, as well as an efficient page-turning gesture. The iPad Mini serves my preaching needs well. When I began my foray into preaching from a tablet computer, it was a little awkward at first. Give yourself a few weeks of practice, and you’ll be preaching from a tablet like a pro.