the iphone app that improved my ability to concentrate

One of the most precious commodities a pastor has is time. Ministry always beckons us to do more than time permits. I once heard a researcher state that most people have 35 hours of unfinished work ahead of them. However, if we use the time we have most effectively, we’ll become more fruitful for the Kingdom.


Preparing sermons, at least for senior pastors, is one of the most time consuming Kingdom commitments. Although I don’t preach every week, I still must prepare over 35 original messages each year. Each week I study 15-20 hours to prepare one sermon. That’s a good chunk of my week which requires concentration.

A year or so ago I purchased a $2.99 iPhone app that has proved invaluable to help me concentrate when I study. When I fully concentrate, I make much more progress than when my mind gets distracted.

That app, Ambiance, is a simple collection of natural (and man-made) sounds that I play on my iPhone through my headphones. In case you are wondering, I don’t make money on the sale of this app and I’m not connected in any way to the company.

The standard iPhone headphones work ok, but I purchased a pair of noise canceling headphones (Philips SBC HN060) that block out most ambient noise. You can purchase more expensive ones, but this set works great for me.

So when I study at Panera or MacDonalds ($1 cokes there) I plug in, play a repetitive waterfall or beach sound, and become totally oblivious to the people and sounds around me. My ability to concentrate skyrockets.

As Paul the Apostle wrote in Ephesians 5.16, … make every minute count. (CEV) This simple $2.99 purchase has helped me put that command into practice.

Related posts:  How an iPad benefits pastors

For more Resources for Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

Retro preaching for hi-tech pastors: why and how I used a flannelgraph

I’m a techno geek … I stood in line for 5 hours to get the latest iPhone, I use a MacBookPro, I use an iPad on stage when I preach, I twitter, and I write a blog. Yet, sometimes technology gets in the way. I once tried a retro version of communication. It worked.

Back Camera

Our church is techno … we use video extensively, power point, YouVersion which allows people to follow the sermon on their mobile phone, and we’ve done texting feedback during services.

Yet, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in too much technology.

Recently during our programming meeting, our creative director suggested that we use a different medium to help the sermon delivery…the old flannelgraph.

In case you’ve never heard of a flannelgraph, it was a Bible teaching technique extensively used many years ago. Sunday school teachers would prop up the flannelgraph on an easle (a large piece of cardboard with flannel on the outside) and as she taught us the Bible lesson that day, she’d stick cardboard images of people and Bible objects on the flannelgraph. The flannel on the back of the images would stick to the flannel on the board. Thus, the flannelgraph. Today the flannelgraph is being used quite extensively in areas around the world with illiterate populations.

This past Sunday we tried it. I taught from Ephesians 2 and 3 where Paul uses several word pictures. These metaphors made it easy to find and cut out images.

Here’s how it added to my teaching.

It was drastically different from how I usually teach. Its novelty helped the message stick.

It helped those familiar with the flannel graph feel a bit of nostalgia, which endeared them to the medium which enhanced the message.

It helped me easily remember the next point. I simply picked up the picture and stuck it on the board.

As I walked back to the board, it was easy to keep reviewing the main points when I referred back to the images.

It built interest as the people wondered what was next.

It helped visual learners stay more focused.

So, if you’d like mix things up a bit, give it a try. All it takes is a board (wood or foam core), some felt, and some pictures (I used velcro on the back to make them more sticky) and … PRESTO, you have a flannelgraph.

Although we still used powerpoint images on the screens so people could see the images in detail, I now have a new tool in my preaching toolbox.

What retro technique has worked for you?

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