In recent months, it has come to my attention that an increasing number of preachers are bringing iPads into the pulpit in place of a manuscript or notes. I first witnessed this practice about a year ago at the AoP summer preaching camp in Louisville.
I also noticed a number of preachers using the device at the 2012 National Festival of Young Preachers earlier this year.
Perhaps I am not the most qualified person to offer an opinion on this topic since I don’t own an iPad, but I do know what I observed during the occasions when I saw one being used in the pulpit.
First, I was aware from the outset that the preacher was using an iPad. In fact, one preacher announced he was doing so as a preface to his remarks!
Second, the preacher exhibited poor eye contact with the audience. Of course, we’re talking about young people who are mostly new to the craft of preaching and, therefore, understandably nervous and in need of practice. But it was obvious they were preoccupied with the device directly in front of them.
Third, the preacher seemed to lose his/her place while scrolling through the text. This resulted in unclear sentences and, on occasion, mispronounced words.
As I share these observations, I am reminded of something helpful Fred Craddock said about the use of material in sermon delivery: “If notes or manuscript (or iPad) are taken into the pulpit, they should be in a form for an oral occasion. This means in a form that facilitates ease of handling and ease of location at a glance and generally offers the least interference in the speaker-hearer relationship. Different sizes of type, different spacings and indentation, and color coding are all helpful servants of the process. The sole criterion is not what another may think of this material but what aids most effectively in the free, unhindered release of the message.*
Of course, preaching with iPads is a relatively new phenomenon. Over time, preachers will become more skilled in their use and the audience will take less notice. Furthermore, software designers will come up with new applications to ease the transition.
In doing some research for this article, I discovered that Apple is currently testing a new iPad application called PodiumPro. It is designed especially for “speakers, teachers, and preachers.”
Some of the features include a color progress timer bar, audio/video recording, and last-minute editing features.
Lest there be any doubt, an iPad is coming to a pulpit near you!