Carrying the 10 Commandments Down on iPads Not Tablets (of Stone)

Sorry, but an image of Moses coming down with the 10 commandments on two iPads comes to mind as I continue to ponder the purchase of a cool toy for work purposes.

When Apple’s first iPad came out I decided that I didn’t like the name of the gizmo, but I liked the gizmo enough to wait until the second version came out to make the leap. It gave me time to watch all of my tech-savvy friends experiment and give me a better handle on how it might suit my needs and purposes.

Lately, I’ve been watching ministry friends use their iPads in different settings – in larger meetings for note-taking, in smaller meetings to show and interact with data, etc. Many are using it as an e-reader and some are using it instead of paper for their speaking notes and outlines.

The other day I saw someone using an iPad instead of paper notes to make public announcements and lead people through a worship service. I loved it. I thought it looked clean – no papers to shuffle or lectionary to hold. Just yesterday I preached at both Sunday services at church, and I walked up trying not to look to overloaded with my Bible and sermon notes.

But I imagine that others aren’t so enamored by technology, especially in the context of church and worship. I remember the days of hymnals – there was no other way to sing. That gave way to overhead projectors or flip-charts with lyrics only, which eventually was replaced by overhead projectors and computers. The technology isn’t perfect, and often user-error is part of the delayed transitions or missing or incorrect slides. Some don’t like the absence of an actual score, while I personally dislike the awkward positioning of the projection because so many churches were built before the technology.

I’m also wrestling with the cost. I’ve put myself on a fairly tight personal spending budget, and my ministry budget is probably even tighter. A part of me struggles with being the consumer Christian ministry worker because I want to be and am called to be a wise steward of the financial support given to me to support ministry. But I don’t want to spend $100+ in stamps four times a year to mail paper prayer letters (that is a lot of paper) when some letters get unread and the vast majority of others prefer e-mails, PDFs and web-based newsletters (I’m still working on that). I know. Poor me.

But I’m honestly curious. What do you think? What role, if any, should iPads and tablet technology have on Sunday? Do you find the presence of computers, cellphones, pagers (personal and for the nursery), iPads, etc. distracting or helpful or neutral? Do you use an iPad for your sermon notes and if so what kind of feedback, if any, have you gotten? Have you seen speakers or pastors use an iPad and what did you think?


  1. elderj May 9, 2011

    As a general rule, I like the use of technology of whatever kind only when it actually provides concrete enhancements to the experience of the user. In a worship or preaching context, I’m not sure it does, other than providing a bit of “cool” factor that can actually detract from the message content or delivery. But then again, I’m a bit old fashioned. Some tech actually broadens the divide between the speaker and audience and there is, of course, the keep up with the Jones’s pressure that comes which makes it harder to resist newer cooler gadgets that previously weren’t even thought to be needed. So if Kathy gets an i-Pad to speak from, then I have to, etc.

    • Kathy Khang May 9, 2011

      Shoot, Elder J! I was hoping you would get one first and then I would have to get one 😉 I agree with your point about broadening the divide, especially in multi-generational congregations and perhaps multiethnic congregations where culture and cultural values rub up against each other. I’m still considering the purchase for other practical purposes. I work out but carrying less is always easier on me when traveling, etc. I like the idea of the simplicity of carrying an iPad instead of notes, but then again I tend to scribble notes on my notes. Some of my best thinking happens after the first time I give a talk…

  2. Steve Newcomb May 18, 2011

    There are many productive uses for an iPad in many forms of ministry. Visit to see a discussion of a large variety of uses.

    As for newsletters, check out a free email service called that allows individuals to signup via your website as well as send mass emails. I have been sending supporters emails this way for a number of years and find it very effective, while we do send occasional snail mail letters. (You should see if your church has a non-profit permit you can use – the cost of postage is significantly less that way)

  3. live2dieempty May 29, 2011

    I do not own an iPad, but my hubby does. I have an iPhone that I use for almost everything, however, I don’t think I could preach from it… To small to read while speaking. Our Worship Pastor has an iPad for Sunday morning service. Not only is it easier for her than 5 sheets of music, it comes in handy when our pastor makes a request for a song from the pulpit (something he frequently does).
    As far as the cost, we got one on craigslist for significantly cheaper than a new one. It was my husbands Christmas present last year, but I think I’ve used it for more things than he does. Its great for blogging- easier portability for online recipes and my kids love the book apps on it.
    I think that it would be easier to travel with, but as with any new device, a learning curve is needed. It may be hard to convert to, but eventually easier to deal with.
    Technology is only as productive as it’s user. An iPad has millions of uses, yes. But is comfort as important as convenience? If you won’t be comfortable taking it to the 150 year old church of older people that may have never seen one before, then it will only hinder your effectiveness. Personally, I could care less what someone spoke from. An iPad, a legal pad, a post it note- the content of your message is my concern, not the mode of getting it to my ears! I pray for wisdom and peace with this decision. It’s so great to see someone really think out the issue befoe making a rash decision.
    God bless!


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