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I have often written about the importance of mobile apps for clergy as they go about their daily work. So much of what we do used to be governed by tomes of information, weighty ledgers, and hefty technical equipment — but now, it can all be accomplished by your smartphone or tablet in one portable package. As the role of clergy increasingly complexifies and diversifies, we will be called on to perform more roles which many are lightly equipped for (at best), or in which we need better tools and orientation.
So I was delighted to discover a review of the new “My Care Wishes” app by the Reverend Amy Ziettlow. This application from the American Bar Association sets up profiles for individuals to record medical information, contacts, and advance directives, all saved locally on your device. As Ziettlow suggests, I downloaded the $3.99 Pro edition which allows for the creation of multiple profiles (for personal use, the free edition should be more than sufficient).
Despite being beset by the clunky interface that seems to plague non-profit mobile apps, the design works well. All information is saved locally, with several password options for you to protect sensitive data. You can upload scanned copies of directives as well as input other healthcare data such as medications, allergies, and provider contacts. Beyond personal use, I’ve been called on to help families make difficult decisions in hospitals and at home; being able to act as a repository for parishioner’s decisions would be a valuable resource to offer. This app would be helpful to keep emergency contact information for parishioners who are elderly or disabled and living alone, or to allow funeral instructions to be kept on file with the pastor.
Even those among us who would not self-describe as tech geeks are using mobile devices on an increasing basis; this is another helpful entry for clergy & lay professionals offering pastoral care. I look forward to beginning a new ministry setting this summer with “My Care Wishes” in my pocket.
Christie and I have had iPhones (of the 3G variety) for nearly 2 years now, and have come to value their functionality, simplicity, and beauty (even if we also need to join a support group from time to time). And we’re just 2 of the growing number of pastors & church workers — many of them friends & close colleagues — who have an iPhone or smartphone with access to developed applications.
So, I decided to share some of the apps which have been most helpful to us as pastors, and why we find them indispensible. (Update: My friend Russell Martin has posted his own take on iPhone apps for ministry over at Fork in the Road Music.)
There are a number of native iPhone applications which have significant ministry implications. Obviously, the email and text messaging functions are essential to staying in touch/being available to your congregation & community. Having your calendar & contacts sync with Outlook or Google is also essential whether you store them on your computer or in the cloud. The camera (whether for photos or videos [3GS only]) is great for taking pictures of your activities to put into a newsletter, on a flyer, or uploaded to your social media channels. And the iPod allows you to share music via external speakers or jacking into your car’s radio, or to just listen for your own needs.
Okay, these are all pretty much no-brainers. But what about the stuff in the app store?
Let’s start with how you build community in your congregation. YouTube comes with your iPhone, but what else might you need?
The official Facebook application is essential. You can add your church’s or ministry’s page to the home screen, and perform basic FB tasks. You still can’t tag people in an update or use the full link function, but it’s still extremely useful. Don’t have a page yet? Well, why and how will have to wait for another post…
Likewise, Twitter is best used from a mobile platform like your iPhone. There are several great apps out there: my preference is Echofon Pro. It is extremely reliable, is loaded with details and extra functionality that unfortunately Tweetdeck & HootSuite don’t have in their apps, and manages multiple accounts smoothly. One of the few apps I’ve paid for, and well worth it. I also have friends who swear by Tweetie 2, which might be worth a look. which apparently is going to be free & the official iPhone Twitter app soon (see comments).
Do you blog? The WordPress app is outstanding: I can again do all basic functions, including putting up a rich, image-laden post from my iPhone. If you already use WordPress (in either .com or self-hosted flavors) it’s a must-have. Don’t use WordPress? It’s worth checking out.
Dropbox is another excellent app. It interfaces with the free dropbox.com service, which is more than just a cloud file storage system: it also allows you to share documents with other users. I have opened docs on it on more than one occasion when I couldn’t get something printed while travelling; it also allows you to flag files for offline use/viewing when you know you won’t have a good signal or wifi access. Springnote is another collaborative tool; Juan & I have used it when working on Liturgical Nerds.
Upgrades to the iPhone’s OS mean that we now have a native Voice Memo app that syncs with iTunes, and I find it essential for those driving-in-the-car-when-a-sermon-epiphany-happens moments.
Bible apps abound. I opt for the free LifeChurch.tv Bible (YouVersion): while it doesn’t have the NRSV, which is my translation of choice, it does offer the NIV, Message, and many other (perhaps less well known or scholarly) translations alongside other languages. It also has daily reading plans, bookmarking & notetaking, synchronizing with the website, and other features which are unparalleled in a free app.
For preaching, the Lectionary app is essential. It is 99 cents, but well worth it to easily review this week’s texts. It has the major variations of the RCL, primarily targeted at Episcopalians, though any Protestant preacher who uses the RCL will be fine. On the downside, there isn’t a search function for texts and I can’t make notes in the app itself. That would be something I would love to see in an update. [UPDATE: But see the comments, where Geoff is taking notes for the next version!]
Another Bible app that I’ve downloaded The Voice New Testament, available for free. Again, a limited app, but having this different & engaging translation available is handy when I’m doing NT work.
For anglophiles such as myself, the iBCP, though a little pricey, is essential. Again, the interface is a bit clunky, but having the entire text of the BCP on my iPhone is great. The update includes last-saved-page feature, which I was really hoping they’d roll out. Looking forward to more updates with improved features…
FLANNEL and Rob Bell have released all the NOOMA videos in individual, rich iPhone viewers. Available for $4.99 apiece (half the price of the DVD) you can have the 10-15 minute videos with you wherever you are.
I must confess I haven’t used the Divine Office app much, but it’s got both audio & text versions of the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. If $9.99 is a bit too much for you, a lite version’s available with just Night Prayer/Compline for free.
NEW APPS [05/2010]: I’ve just downloaded iPause and the (UK) Methodists’ new daily prayer/Bible study apps. iPause ($1.99) is a finger labyrinth navigated through the iPhone’s touchscreen, or even on autopilot! You can play anything in your iPod library from within the app, and choose between 6 different labyrinth layouts. The British Methodist Church (free!) have hit a home run with the first version of their app, which includes the prayers for the day from their annual Methodist Prayer Handbook and their Word in Time Bible Study (text + audio). There’s also several news feeds, including Twitter updates & podcasts. It’s still a little buggy, but it has great potential.
Over at Episcopal Life, Rev. Michael Pipkin has tackled this same project, and I’ve taken his suggestion of 2 productivity apps dealing with finances: MileBug and iXpenseit. My detail-challenged self hasn’t taken full advantage of them, but I’m looking forward to working with them more fully soon. FYI, iXpenseit also has a milage app that will integrate with it.
If your 2nd office is a coffee shop, then be sure and download the Starbucks Mobile Card app; you can pay with your iPhone at a few locations in California or any Target Starbucks store. Moreover, you can manage your card from the app quite nicely. Hopefully the beta-testing will be over shortly and we’ll be able to use it at any Starbucks soon.
We have DISH network TV at home, and their iPhone app allows me to search, record, and manage my DVR remotely; DirecTV originated the idea.
2 excellent news apps include those from the NY Times and NPR. We really like the latter in our house, because you can queue stories ahead of time & then play the audio (in the car for instance) later.
Need someplace to eat? The Urbanspoon app finds restaurants near your location and even finds a random location based upon your preferences (neighborhood, cuisine, price range).
Most pastors I know are book lovers, which is why having an Amazon app is a constant temptation. Even better is their Kindle app which allows you to read any of their voluminous catalog to your iPhone.
Will the outdoor service need to be canceled? What’s the weather like for this weekend’s retreat? I’ve dropped the native Weather app on the iPhone in favor of The Weather Channel‘s popular app. It will save various locations, allow you to search or find you via GPS, show you radar — even in motion — and offer plenty of predictions. A must have before any major ecclesial outing.