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iPhone Apps for Clergy

iPhone Lectionary appChristie 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.)

The Basics

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?

Social Media

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.

Ministry Resources

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.

Other Tools

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.

What are your favorite apps?
Comment below and share your favorite apps that help you in ministry!

About expatminister

Aren't we what we repeatedly love? My wife, being GeekDad to the 4 superkids, United Methodist pastoring, Texas, science fiction and other nerdy pursuits, words (speaking, listening, writing, reading), Britain, music, camping, tech, baseball, practicing theology. Jesus. Coffee.

Comments

  1. I use much of what you mention. I enjoy Trip Cubby for tracking mileage, Evernote for capturing thoughts, and Omnifocus for task management. I also use OliveTree’s Bible Reader, having used them since my Palm Treo days. The Guardian’s news app is fantastic and the Goodreads app is good for searching for something to read. Oh, and I really am getting to love my TomTom app after swearing I’d never use a GPS device.

  2. I use BibleXpress on both the iphone and ipad. it is $30, but it includes ASV, ESV, KJV, LBLA (Spanish), NASB, NRSV, The Message. You can also download CUV (Chinese), Latin Vulgate, LutherBible, Reina Valera, and Septuagint + Greek New Testament for free. Not only that, but the translations are resident on the device so no connection to the intarwebs is needed.
    Evernote is a fantastic second brain that you have to use to appreciate.
    And getting organized with Toodeloo (on iphone/ipad, mac, windows, linux) makes life grand.

    as for tweetie 2, it is wonderful, but don’t go for it yet. the company was just purchased by twitter and the app will soon be released as twitter for iphone and it will be free.

  3. Alan Rudnick says:

    I have a blackberry and the apps for it are poor compared to the slick iphone.

    • Sorry about that. My dad swears by his BB, but he’s also a civil servant with mondo enterprise needs. On the bright side, I like the new “On the Bema” look!

  4. thanks for taking the time to mention Lectionary – I’m glad you’re finding it useful.

    I wanted to point out, however, that the texts in Lectionary are embedded in the application – you do not need to ever be online to get all that Lectionary has to offer.

    nobody has mentioned wanting to take notes within the app, but that’s something that I’ll keep in mind for future updates :)

    • Thanks, Geoff! It looked to me like it was grabbing the texts on startup, but I guess not. I’ll correct that in the post. Could we also put on the menu a search function by passage, so that if I need to find a particular text (ie not this Sunday’s) we could do that? A table-of-contents or seasonal menu might suffice. Thanks for the great app!

  5. Regarding Bible apps, I’ve been using Olive Tree since back in my seminary days…on my Palm! It’s fantastic on my iPod and the beta is incredible on iPad. Definitely use it more than Logos, for example, which is great on my laptop but lackluster on iPod/iPad. One thing I especially like about Olive Tree, aside from the tons of resources I have on it, is the ability to sync notes with Evernote…another one of my go-to apps for just about everything!

    Haven’t heard of Lectionary before but will definitely check it out now.

    Thanks for a great article!

    T.C.
    @st_polycarp

  6. Some personal favorites:

    Divine Office, which i use every day for personal devotions. Because I am away from home during most of the week, this app provides me with the feeling of community as I enter into the worship experience. Sometimes I engage in morning and evening worship on Twitter with @Virtual_Abbey, but most often I use Divine Office.

    Olive Tree BibleReader, which is a full-featured serious Bible Study program. Like Accordance for the Mac, it can get quite expensive as you add modules to it, but it is a way to get into the original languages directly from the iPhone. For this, I know there is also a Blackberry version.

    Like you I find the YouVersion Bible app very useful. For most people, this may be the only Bible reader app they really need. There are a selection of Bible versions and several helpful through-the-Bible reading plans. It’s amazing what this app can do – and it’s for free!

    I use Stanza as my primary ebook reader. It links to several online catalogs of free, public domain books. Kindle for iPhone is #2, and the Barnes & Noble eReader is #3.

    GoodReader is helpful for reading large PDF files.

    I also like iBCP, as you do, but I find that I’m using it less than I thought I would.

    There are also a CCEL apps, which include some old devotional books and commentaries from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. They are regularly adding new titles that you can access from the apps, but because these are public domain works, and because they want me to pay for them, and because I’m cheap (I guess) I haven’t added any. Really, paying for the books is not an unfair expectation since it funds their ongoing work – which is very valuable to the Christian community.

    Like you, I use Echofon constantly. But, it looks like the forthcoming Twitter for iPhone (Tweetie reborn!) will dominate in the days ahead.

  7. Nothing like the Iphone, next toy, the Ipad!!!

  8. Great stuff, Josh. Thanks for this. I look forward to checking out the stuff on this list that is new to me.

    A few more:
    1. AP Mobile is also a good news app (including a weird news section — never know where that great sermon illustration may be lurking). I also have NYT and NPR, and love the NPR app.
    2. For wordies, dictionary.com’s app is handy. And Words with Friends and/or Scrabble are fun (I use both)
    3. Gibson has a guitar app that includes a tuner, so handy for when you might be leading music at camp.
    4. Again, under the heading of pastors tending to like learning and being interested in stumbling on sermon illustration material, Futurity.org, a site that makes current university research popularly available, has an app (and a daily email or twitter feed, if you prefer).

  9. Nancy Day-Achauer says:

    Right now, all the apps I use are ones that make daily life easier. I use the Facebook app and recently switched from TweetDeck to Echofon because Echofon is easier to read. The Google app is great, I mainly use it for movie times when I’m out and about. MobiQPons is good for finding gps targeted coupons (because I hate clipping coupons) and Grocery iQ is great for maintaining shopping lists which makes my life easier.

    Thankfully, I have not had to use the AAA Roadside Assistance app. I use the Seafood Watch app because I can never remember which fish I should avoid. I like my US Bank’s app for when I’m traveling. I haven’t needed to use my DirecTV app yet. I have used Flashlight a few times as a flashlight and QuickTip comes in handy because I’m terrible at math. Pandora is handy when I’m stuck in waiting rooms (provided I have earbuds with me).

    I am disappointed in the options for Bible apps since the free and inexpensive ones don’t have NRSV.

  10. Isaac Lund says:

    Excellent post. Thank you. Another valuable resource is Bible Audio Pronunciations, available on the iTunes AppStore. It provides easy access to audio recordings of all of those challenging words in the Bible.

  11. Hi thanks for Sharing a great information on these iPhone Ministry apps. The Bible apps which has been given in this blog helps one to faithfully pray the Divine in Office throughout the day, using Voice New Testament app. “What I love most about having the these apps on my iPhone is that I can pray anywhere, anytime”. So if I get somewhere early or have some time waiting for an appointment, I can pray part of the office with a couple of clicks. Love this blog.

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