In past decades pastors relied on a pretty traditional set of tools for the work of ministry.
Today–in our iPhone, cloud connected, incubated innovation culture–the tools available to facilitate more effective, efficient, and faithful ministry have grown exponentially.
The vastness of available digital tools and the rate at which they come at us can be overwhelming at times. But as one who is almost a digital native, I love trying them out and seeing how they can fit into my daily life as a pastor.
Here’s a list of some of the digital tools in my pastoral toolbox:
1. Amazon / Kindle Platform – By the time I graduated seminary, I knew very few people who didn’t visit Amazon regularly and have an Amazon Prime account. Pastors tend to love books, and Amazon is the go-to place for new, used, and rare books for clear reasons: their prices are almost always the lowest, a Prime account enables free 2-day shipping, their selection is huge, customer service is excellent, and the Kindle environment is the standard in e-publishing. The majority of books in my personal library were bought through Amazon. And my library includes 92 Kindle e-books that I love due to their ability to be read, searched, and annotated on my phone, computer, and Kindle.
2. Evernote – It has taken a few years, but Evernote has finally found a way into my routine each day. This application is made to capture ideas–via typing, photos, web clippings, and more. I use Evernote to store names and details about people I meet, ideas and working documents connected to ministry, anecdotes & quotes for preaching, drafts of blog posts, and much more. I love Evernote because it makes all of these ideas searchable, shareable, and available cross-platform.
3. Action Method – I love reading about GTD (Getting Things Done) tools and philosophies and have tried many over the years. Throughout the last six months, I’ve been using the Action Method. The Action Method is a way of organizing all the “to-dos” in life and it has been helping me act on my tasks and projects in very helpful ways. Behance, the company that created the Action Method, creates with beauty and design in mind. Action Method Online (which I just found out is no longer accepting new users…) and their Action paper product lines are staples in my everyday life.
4. Mailchimp – Even as social media has taken off in the last few years, email is still king for mass communication. In order to take full advantage of email for large groups, you need to use an email marketing service. I use MailChimp for my monthly e-newsletter to discipleship leaders in the church and recently switched over the email delivery of my blog posts to them as well. MailChimp is easy to use, their templates are beautiful, they make it easy to collaborate, and they get everything delivered to people’s inboxes when you want it. If you love numbers like I do, you’re in luck. MailChimp also provides great statistics about your content and readers.
5. Planning Center Online – If you’re still planning worship services in Microsoft Word, it’s time to switch over. It’ll be worth every penny. Planning Center is a web and phone app that describes itself very well: “Schedule your teams, manage your music, and revolutionize the way you plan your worship services.” Planning Center makes it easy to keep everyone in the loop regarding worship plans, changes to plans, and details that are crucial for Sunday mornings. I regularly use their app to prepare for the upcoming week’s service, and on Sunday morning everyone involved with worship gets a detailed printout of the plan for that day.
6. The Bible App – Over 100 million people use this app that enables you to read the Bible, make notes, and follow a plan that tracks your reading progress. I’m one of them.
7. Poll Everywhere – Wouldn’t it be cool if people could text in responses or questions about your sermon? Poll Everywhere makes this easy and free up to 40 responses. One time I asked everyone to text in something they were thankful for after a sermon. As the texts flashed on the screen, many people were in tears because of the powerful responses… until someone killed the mood by texting in “Mitt Romney for President.”
8. DropBox – This cloud-based storage app enables me to access my most important files from anywhere–my computers, phone, and any web browser I can get to. I never worry about emailing myself a document or losing precious data due to a hard drive failure with DropBox in my toolbox. If you’re going to use any one tool on this list, make sure it is this one.
9. Twitter – I’ve connected with more pastors and leaders in ministry, particularly those in the Methodist / Wesleyan world, through twitter than by any other conventional means. It’s now rare for me to go to a conference or event where I don’t see people that I regularly interact with on twitter. Twitter is where I find my news, hear about the latest conversations/trends in the Christian world, share content that interests me, and laugh due to some of the hilarious people I follow. If we aren’t connected on twitter yet, follow me!
10. OneNote – I run Windows via Parallels on my Mac for this one application. Throughout seminary, I took all of my class notes in OneNote–a Microsoft application–and it is still my go to when I work on sermons and teaching outlines. It’s alot like Evernote, but it is designed for much more heavy lifting. I love OneNote because of its intuitive formatting, seamless embedding of content, mindmapping capabilities, and integration with the Microsoft Office suite.
11. Coffitivity – Because sometimes you need a little background noise to drown out the screams of the pre-schoolers outside of your office.
I know there are tons more tools out there. What digital tools do you use for ministry?