The Ten Commandments of iPad Preaching



Photo Credit: John Karakatsanis cc

1. Thou shall turn off notifications.

The only thing worse than a cell phone ringing in the middle of a prayer is the preacher’s iPad ringing in the middle of a prayer.

Make sure to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ switch in ‘Settings’. I also turn on ‘Airplane Mode’ just to make sure I don’t have anything popping up from Wi-Fi.

At one location I preached there was a very weak Wi-Fi signal that I didn’t have the password to. A Wi-Fi connection message kept popping up while I was preaching.

You don’t want any distractions from the message God has given you.

2. Thou shall turn off auto-lock.

I have forgotten to do this a few times. Five minutes into the message my iPad blacked out. It totally threw me off.

I had to pause what I was saying, open the iPad, and swipe to unlock before resuming the message. This is even worse if your iPad is password protected.

Always make sure to open up ‘Setting’, tap ‘General’ and set ‘Auto-Lock’ to ‘Never’.

3. Thou shall lower the brightness.

If the stage is dark and the brightness is too high your iPad will make your note stand glow. In addition, your face will light up like you are telling scary stories around a campfire. If you wear glasses, the iPad can also reflect off your lenses.

Eliminate this distraction. Adjust brightness accordingly. The goal is easy readability for you while glowing low enough so the audience doesn’t notice.

A cool trick that many people don’t know is that you can invert the colors on the iPad to make the screen dark. In ‘Setting’, tap ‘General’, then ‘Accessability’, and switch ‘Invert Colors’ to ‘On’. (Update: A great tip pointed out by MaFt Morley in the comments is that you can set up a triple click of the home button to invert colors to save time. Setting > General > Accesibility > Triple Click.)

4. Thou shall not draw attention to your iPad.

Don’t show off your new gadget. Don’t say, “Look at this amazingly awesome piece of technology. Don’t you wish you were as cool as me?”

You are not an Apple commercial. This is a tool to help you as you proclaim God’s message. Don’t let the iPad become a distraction from the main focus.

I recommend getting a case that covers the logo. I use this amazing case that looks like a vintage book. Yes, it is as awesome as it looks. I definitely recommend it.

5. Thou shall use a PDF reader app for notes.

I love having an editable Pages doc in case I want to make last second changes, but hate preaching off the Pages App. One wrong tap and you deleted your notes, bring up the editing tools, keyboard, etc. It can be highly distracting. A PDF viewer eliminates distractions and keeps it simple.

You easily convert a Pages doc to a PDF. Tap the wrench-looking ‘Tools’ icon in the upper right corner. Hit ‘Share and Print’ then ‘Open in Another App’. Choose ‘PDF’ as a format then ‘Choose App’. You will then have the option to select any App that handles PDFs.

Some people like using free apps like iBooks or Kindle. However, my favorite isGoodReader, because it lets me add notes, highlight text (I color code illustrations, scripture, videos, etc.), and crop the document to eliminate margins and make the text larger and more readable. Its worth the extra couple bucks in my opinion.

6. Thou shall still carry a Bible.

This is just a personal preference, but I still like to have a physical Bible on stage with me.

Yes, I read and study the Bible almost entirely online or in my iPad or iPhone, but I find that there is just something powerful about a preacher holding a physical bible. It shows the audience that your authority comes from God, not Steve Jobs.

7. Thou shall make sure the iPad is fully charged.

Always make sure your iPad is fully charged. You do not want the battery dying mid-sermon. Have a charger with you just in case you need a last-minute power up before walking onto stage.

Fortunately the iPad has such an incredibly long battery life that this has rarely been a problem for me.

8. Thou shall have a backup.

Always, always, always have a backup. Either a physical copy of your notes or a Dropbox/Evernote/Goole Doc you can pull up with your phone. You never know when technology might fail you. The battery could die unexpectedly, you could accidentally spill coffee on it, or it might freeze up for no reason on you.

Always be prepared just in case. I have had to pull out my backup a few times (more on that in commandment 9).

9. Thou shall not leave your iPad unattended.

I set my iPad down one time… just once! I forgot about it, walked away, and when I came back it was gone! Someone had the nerve to steal my iPad only two minutes before I stood up to preach!

I was upset, but not as upset as I would have been if I didn’t have a backup.

That is a $400 dollar mistake I will never make again! Just because you are in church doesn’t mean that someone won’t give into the temptation to steal an easy target.

10. Thou shall not have an open beverage next to your iPad.

I am all about baptism by full immersion – just not for my iPad!

If enough liquid spills on an iPad it is game over. You don’t want an open water bottle on your note stand. You might get excited while preaching, swing your arms around and accidentally knock it over.

Not only will you lose your iPad, you will have to explain to the elders why you cussed on stage. Just kidding.


Those are 10 things I have learned about preaching with an iPad, but I am always trying to learn more. What other tips you would suggest?

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Brandon Hilgemann About Brandon Hilgemann

Brandon has been on a nine-year journey to become the best preacher he can possibly be. During this time, he has worked in churches of all sizes, from a church plant to some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States. Brandon blogs his thoughts and ideas from his journey at

  • Katea

    I am not tech savvy but would like to figure out how to utilize this do you transfer from Word to the IPAD or tablet?

  • Paul Etterling

    I presonally prepare my notes using MS Word with the settings to landscape and 2 sheets per page. This establishes the page as 5.5 x 8.5 inches. In doing so, there is little need to zoom on the iPad when preaching. Once the PDF is created, I will make further edits if needed within Good Reader. Because I always seem to have last minute thoughts that I want to add into the notes. Good Reader is a great app!

  • Thomas

    sounds good, but why all the priests use an ipad? catholic marketing ? iam a priest, never used apple products, cause the poor people look at me. u understand ? i also don’t drive a mercedes…

  • Mike

    I personally can’t stand watching pastors preach from an Ipad. I’m 29, so not like I am an oldie trying to shoot down the younger generation, but it does bug me. Unless of course the speaker disguises the Ipad is there? I have seen to many preachers at seminary that distract themselves by them. However, I do think you have to choose what works for you. Just one thought though, if we are around in the very very end times, it may be that we are forced to use pen and paper……. so don’t throw out your pens yet!!

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  • Gabriel Rodriguez

    Great article. I’ve been preaching/teaching from my iPad for two years now, and I haven’t gone back. I use Kindle app for my notes, but I think I’ll give GoodReader a try.

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  • Indra kc

    Best one.I found it as awesome one.

  • Luke

    I like all of your suggestions but would add that rather than a PDF reader I have found preaching directly from Evernote to work well for me. I do my prep in Word and then copy and paste the text into the Evernote editor, then I boost the font to 16-point so that I can easily read it on the iPad. I also link the Word file into the same note so that if I want to do any edits I have it available. I organize each sermon in Evernote into a notebook by Bible text, and then tag each one with the date on which I will preach it. Then I have all of my notes for a single date in a single place. I prefer this over a PDF reader because If I zoom in a PDF reader, I have vertical scroll and that just doesn’t work. I preach with the iPad in portrait mode. I was hesitant to go to the iPad until it was just as easy for me as paper, and now it is. I wish Evernote’s editor was nicer but in conjunction with Word it seems to work fine.

  • Aaron

    This is probably a trivial point but… if you’re going to use Elizabethan English, please use it consistently: thou shalt … thy (“thine” before words that begin with a vowel)– or just use modern: You shall … your…
    For some of us (yes, we’re sick and twisted) mixing thou with your is like dragging fingernails across a blackboard (remember those?)

  • Keith

    Thou shalt use the side switch to lock the rotation. It can be a little frustrating if you momentarily pick-up your I-pad and have to orient it so that you can see your notes.

  • David

    I understand the psychology of number 6, but the attempt to provide a theological rationale is laughable. If using your pad (I don’t have one, by the way) implies your authority comes from Steve Jobs, your hard-copy bible just implies your authority comes from Hodder & Stoughton or the Oxford University Press (depending on which version you use)….

    • Brandon

      Very true. Good point. Like I said, #6 is just a personal preference.

    • Gabriel Rodriguez

      Having a physical bible is handy for times when you need to read a scripture the Holy Spirit drops on you and you did not include it in your notes. Fumbling around the iPad (no multitasking) is distracting, pulling out your phone is too. Having a bible handy will allow you to search a verse much quicker.

  • Nehemiah

    Cussing is not good for an episode while preaching!

  • Robert Auer

    I preached once using an iPad – never again. I was using Pages and I hit something and it went to the bottom of my notes, took me 45 seconds to get back to my spot – (which of course felt like 45 minutes!) After that – I went back to paper notes with my iPad as the backup.

    • Brandon

      I have had that happen before too. That’s why I recommend using a PDF reader so you cannot mess up your notes mid sermon

  • Paulas

    thanks for very helpful tips. may be you shouldn’t have used the term The Ten Commandments… etc for this kind of article. I do not like people who try to lift themselves high by using biblical terms because it lowers the slandered of the word of God in front of the people of other faith. so just be careful. I loved your article but didn’t like your attitude for making it comparable with the title that is something very higher. hope you understand.

    • Paulas

      sorry I meant to say … it lowers the standard of the word of God towards the end of second line.

      • Brandon

        Thanks for the feedback. I meant no offense by it. I see how you can feel that way. I am not trying to lift myself high. Just trying to share a few tips I have learned that could help others.

  • Urban Ram

    I think a Kindle is a much better tool for preaching than an iPad (I own both). There is less to go wrong with a Kindle, it doesn’t have the problem of adjusting the brightness, and I find it more comfortable to read and hold. It is also cheaper to replace if it does get borrowed or baptised! I email my completed text as an RTF file directly to my Kindle. These days I usually write sermons using Google Docs or Evernote.

  • Marilyn Magallanes

    Makes me wonder whose been looking over my shoulder during Praise/Worship on Sundays. . ., Nevertheless – Perfect timing – This is very helpful. Thank you!:-)

  • Guest

    Makes me wonder whose been looking over my shoulder during Praise/Worship on Sunday afternoon. . ., Nevertheless – Perfect timing – This is very helpful. Thank you!:-)

  • Barry Whitlow

    Pastor Rick, I would love to know what online Bible study tool you use the most. There are so many, and I’m struggling to find one that works well for message prep. THANK YOU for the iPad information, incredible tool, I just started using it in ministry and for preaching, it really helps to know what apps others are using and how they are using it. Blessings! -Barry

    • Barry Whitlow

      My apologies Brandon, just noticed you wrote the article and not Pastor Rick. Would still LOVE a reply if you have time. No charge for the compliment : )

      • Brandon

        No problem. For reading the Bible I use The YouVersion Bible app. For deeper study, I use Logos. There is a free app with some functionality, but they have a ton of commentaries and other reference books available for purchase. I love having these with me wherever I go instead of having to carry stacks of books for research.

        Other than that, I use the Kindle app for other electronic books and resources from Amazon. Hope that help.

        I have a few posts on my blog about more of my favorite apps that you can also check out if you are interested.

        • Barry

          Brandon, I checked out the Logos Bible for iPad today and love it. Question: Do you know if when I make notes in it like I did in my paper Bible, if I can back them up in the Cloud somewhere? The cool thing about a paper Bible is you can write notes in it and pass it down, with notes from genration to generation Thanks again!

  • Chris Pollock

    All very good commandments. I sometimes go back to the handwritten sermon once in a while just to keep it sharpened, but the iPads flexibility has been very handy. I used to feel a little bad or techie using it, but I never carry it with me up into the pulpit or wave it around. Most people don’t notice now.

  • James

    John, actually, I disagree. I started using my iPad mini to preach with last fall and will not go back to printed notes. I love being to edit the text on the fly after a service and before the next one. Plus, all of my messages are now in Dropbox and I’ve been to places where I’m asked to teach or preach (Africa) and it is really nice to be able to pull any of my sermons out of the cloud.

    • Brandon

      Dropbox is great. I also use Evernote to archive every sermon I have ever written. That Wayne matter where I go, like you said, I always have messages with me.

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  • john

    Just another example of using technology for no good reason. If you have a physical copy of your notes with you anyway, just use those and forget about the iPad and all the potential problems.You don’t need it.

    • Brandon

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with paper notes. I don’t always have a paper copy with me though. I personally keep an electronic copy of all my sermons in Evernote. So if something goes wrong my iPad, I can pull it up on my phone no problem.

      The benefit of this is saving paper and printer ink, and always having my sermon with me wherever I go. Waiting at a doctors office, a restaurant, or in between meetings I can pull up my sermon and either work on it or internalize it.

      My iPad is hardly useless. But I agree that it’s not for everyone. It’s just a tool like anything else. If it helps great. But if it gets in the way stick with what works for you.

      • Phil


        I have seen preacher’s notes blow off the pulpit, seen coffee spilled them before he got up to speak and go into a panic over loss of notes… The point is just because you are low tech does not mean you will not experience issues. I love my I Pad and have preached from it for over 2 years. When I visit other churches I have a plethora of sermons on hand if asked to preach. I have a library of over 30 books at my fingertips.

        Yes technology has potential problems, but so do notes and so does the preacher himself. Don’t knock it until you have tried it!!

  • Ashley Jensen

    Numbers 3 and 8 are new and helpful! The others I’ve learned the hard way! ha! Thanks!

    • Brandon

      Haha. Thanks. Yeah, I learned these the hard way too. Hoping to save others the trouble I went through.

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