Do you work away from home or the church office? If so, I’d like to offer several suggestions for a pastor’s mobile office toolbox that includes hardware, software, and apps to make working away from the office easier.
The tools for a pastor’s mobile office help me be productive while I’m attending a conference, visiting family, or waiting for a meeting to start. So, take a look at the suggestions below to round out your pastor’s mobile office.
Pastor’s Mobile Office: Computer
Anyone planning to work away from home will want a laptop to study the Bible, deal with email, and post to church social media.
Consider three important questions in choosing the right mobile office computer:
Question #1: Mac, PC, or Chromebook?
We covered this in an earlier post. I use a MacBook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pro, and a Google Pixelbook. Most can’t buy all three, so you may need to pick one for your use. Take a look at our recommendations for lower cost laptops for ministry.
Here are the strengths of each platform:
- MacBook – Great hardware that lasts forever and it’s easy to learn macOS. The best Mac-based Bible study programs include Accordance, Logos, Olive Tree, and e-Sword.
- Windows PC – This provides a wider range of options compared to Mac, from $200 budget laptops to high powered desktop replacements that cost over $3,000. You can also get Windows 10 tablets and convertibles with touchscreen displays, something you can’t find with Macs. I can’t think of any popular Bible software that won’t run on Windows.
- Chromebook – You have a wide range of price points here from less than $200 computers up to over $1,000 (Google Pixelbook). Great security since you don’t get viruses on Chromebooks. Any Chromebook you buy today will run Android apps from the Google Play Store, which opens up options for Bible apps. You can use the new Logos Web App that launched with Logos 8 at the end of October 2018.
Question #2: Computer or Tablet?
Today a few tablets work really well and could replace a laptop for many people. I sometimes take nothing but my Apple iPad Pro. I also own a Microsoft Surface Pro, which is technically a tablet but works great in laptop mode.
Android tablets are behind the iPad in quality of apps and hardware, so Android users should go with a laptop instead of an Android tablet. The new two-in-one Chromebooks might work if you think you could use a Chromebook (see above).
I’d recommend an iPad Pro or a Surface Pro depending on whether you want to use an Apple device or a Windows PC. Consider the new Google Pixel Slate with a keyboard if you really want a Chromebook that also runs Android apps. Lower cost convertible Chromebooks like the Asus Chromebook Flip seen above are another low price option.
Question #3: Traditional Laptop or Two-in-One Convertible?
If you chose to go with Windows or Chromebook, you have another choice to make for your Pastor’s Mobile Office. Should you go with a traditional laptop or a convertible PC or Chromebook? Convertibles have a touchscreen and keyboard but the screen will fold back so you can hold it and use it as a tablet. Some also come with a high-quality stylus.
There’s only a couple of reasons to get a traditional laptop over a convertible laptop. First, traditional laptops might hold up better if you punish your hardware. They have sturdier hinges and fewer moving parts. Second, you might know that you will never use the computer as a tablet because you plan to also buy a tablet or a really large phone.
So, Which Computer Should I Buy?
Here are my recommendations for each kind of computer:
Invest in a 13 or 15-inch MacBook Pro. Buy the one that best fits your budget starting at $1,299. If you can’t afford that, go with the newly launched 2018 MacBook Air starting at $999. The Air has a processor that might feel slow for some users, especially if you use Logos Bible Software, which needs more power to run. Consult their refurbished store. These cost less but come with the same warranty.
For a great traditional Windows laptop, take a close look at the Lenovo Thinkpad line. They make the best keyboards in the business. The A Series starts at $600 and the T Series offers a good balance of quality and affordability in the midrange around $850. Also look at the Microsoft Surface Book 2. They start at $1,150 and wowed reviewers winning a lot of awards as the best new laptop in 2018.
I have a Pixelbook and it’s the Cadillac of Chromebook. However, not everyone wants one that expensive. They cost $999. Look at the Acer Chromebook 11 at the lower end (starting around $200) or try the HP Chromebook 14 for a larger computer (starts at $250). Acer also makes a great 15-inch Chromebook for $379.
The Apple iPad Pro is the best of this breed. Apple just announced new iPad Pros at the end of October 2018 starting at $800. However, you can get a low-end iPad for as little as $329 and it still supports the Apple Pencil.
If you really want an Android tablet, then look at the Google Pixel Slate (a Chromebook with the ability to install Android apps) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, a beautiful and powerful Android tablet that is Samsung’s answer to the Apple iPad Pro or Microsoft’s Surface. Also look at the new Microsoft Surface Go, a $400 small tablet running Windows 10 for people with light needs.
Convertible Windows PC
Take a look at either the Microsoft Surface line of laptops and tablets or the Lenovo Thinkpad line. They’re all a little pricier than some might want to pay, but they make the best convertibles around.
Pastor’s Mobile Office: Smartphone
Like the above discussion of what computer to buy, preferences matter more than objective standards. Almost all of the recent smartphones work well and will enable you to take photos and video, read books and do simple Bible study, manage things like calendar, Todos and contacts as well as email. You can also play games and work with social media. Since both Android phones and iPhones handle all of the above, you have to pick a phone based on:
- Preference – you may just like the idea of one over the other.
- Ecosystem – what other hardware and software do you use?
- Friends/family – what do your friends and family use and can you interact with them or get tech support from them?
- Price – the cheapest Android phones cost much less than the cheapest iPhones while the most expensive are about the same in each lane.
I personally prefer the iPhone because…
- Bible apps seem to perform better on iOS probably because the app developers seem to prefer the platform.
- It’s easier to find quality accessories for the iPhones since they are more popular.
- Hardware quality seems better on average, although that’s less true in the last few years than it was before.
The above reasons aside, Android phones often cost much less and the Samsung Galaxy phones are almost as popular as iPhone so you can still get a lot of accessories for them. Also, Android’s operating system lets users tinker with the user interface while iOS doesn’t.
Some will say, “I want an iPhone.” If you buy it from the carrier, you can probably pay a monthly lease payment ($25-$55/month) so it’s not as expensive as paying it outright. The latest generation iPhones cost over $1,000 unless you get the iPhone XR, which comes in at $750.
Apple has three models in their current 2018 generation of iPhone:
- iPhone XS – beautiful 5.8-inch OLED display, an awesome dual-camera on back and another great camera on front, plus a super fast processor for $999.
- iPhone XS Max – all the features of the XS but with a larger 6.5-inch display for $1,099.
- iPhone XR – the cameras and screens aren’t as good as the XS/XS Max, but it costs $250 less.
You can also get last year’s models, the iPhone X, 8 Plus, and 8. See them here on their comparison site. I would only get one older than these 6 models if you need to buy something that costs much less than this year’s and last year’s models. That’s because the newer the model, the longer they’ll update it with software.
If I were upgrading from my iPhone X, I’d get the XS Max because I love big screens. Otherwise, I’d get the XS because I also want the best camera available. If you don’t care about either of these get the XR to save $250 or get one older and save even more.
Since you can still buy older models, consider these if the prices listed above hurt your eyes. They’re still great phones with nice cameras, displays, and performance. The iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR all have Face ID which uses the camera for security instead of a fingerprint which the older phones use.
The biggest competitor to the iPhone comes from Samsung. They make a bunch of phones, but the two most popular are the Samsung Galaxy S Series and the Galaxy Note. Think of the Note 9 as a mini tablet with a great stylus, camera, and beautiful 6.4-inch screen inside a nice industrial design. Samsung also sells the S9 (the latest in their S Series). It’s like the Note only smaller (5.8-inch display) and without the built-in stylus.
Other Android phones come from Google, Motorola, and more. There’s too many to talk in a detailed way about them.
Here’s a list of the most popular Android phones with their primary features:
Since Google makes the Pixel phones, they run the purest form of Android. They look nice, have one of the best camera’s available, and work well with the Google Pixelbook, the best Chromebook on the market today. It features the Google Assistant, a voice command feature like Siri. This one starts at $899 for the Pixel 3 XL. The smaller Pixel 3 costs $799 and up. If you want the pure Google experience but don’t want to fork over that much cash, consider the Pixel 2 for $650.
The Galaxy Note 9 and S9 mentioned above and seen below are beautiful phones. The only reason I chose a Pixel 2 XL over the Galaxy Note 9 is that Google updates Pixel with the latest version of the Android OS about 6-12 months sooner than on other manufacturer’s phones. I want the latest version. The cameras on the Galaxy phones are nearly as good as the Pixel. The Note has the stylus making it a wonderful tool for pastors as they take notes in meetings or while counseling with people. They cost about $900-$1,000 depending on your carrier. A lot of phone enthusiasts hate the software that Samsung puts on top of the Android. Think it like Android is a nice mahogany table and the Galaxy user interface is like an ugly tablecloth on top hiding the beauty of the wood.
LG V40 ThinQ
LG makes nice phones even though not a lot of people know about them. The V40 ThinQ sports a super thin body, huge 6.4-inch screen, and has five different cameras on it split between front and back. It costs about $950. All those cameras can get overwhelming since the software’s a little complicated.
Motorola Moto G6
For budget buyers, the best cheap Android Phone comes from Motorola. The Moto G6 costs about $250 depending on where you buy it. It’s a pure version of Android without a lot of the junk that hides Android’s simplicity like the Samsung phones do.
I’d recommend getting the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL depending on whether you want a bigger or smaller phone. If you have a lot of friends and family who own Galaxy phones, then get the Note 9 if you need the stylus or the S9 if you don’t. For people who want a big screen but super thin design then look at the LG V40 ThinQ and if you want a budget phone, grab the Moto G6.
Pastor’s Mobile Office: Useful Apps and Gadgets
Now let’s put it all together. You have a computer, maybe a tablet as well. You picked your phone. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of them while on the road.
Tip #1: Find a good online storage sync service
Everyone needs a good backup and sync service. What if your phone, laptop, and tablet all get burned up in a house fire or destroyed in a flood? What if your hard drive backup also gets destroyed along with the others? You need offsite backup and sync and I don’t trust my files to just anyone. I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 for my office suite. You can also subscribe to iCloud from Apple or Google Drive. Dropbox offers the best third-party option.
- Microsoft OneDrive with Office 365 – 1TB for $70 to $100/year depending on whether you get Office 365 for one person or for up to 5 people.
- Apple iCloud – 5GB for free, 50GB for $.99/month, 200GB for $2.99/month and 2TB for $9.99/month. Automatically syncs photos, apps files and you can choose to sync docs and desktop files.
- Google One (replaces Google Drive) – 15GB for free, 100GB for $1.99/month and 200GB for $2.99/month and 2TB for $9.99/month with higher storage levels for those who need more.
I prefer Microsoft Office, but if you only use Apple products and have simple needs, then you can use their free Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for an office suite and use iCloud for backup and sync. If you get a Chromebook, use an Android phone, and/or Gmail as your primary email, calendar and contacts then consider Google One and use Google’s office products.
Tip #2: Get a VPN for Privacy and Security
A Virtual Private Network or VPN protects a user when they’re out and about using public Wi-Fi. It scrambles the data with encryption so that anyone else at that coffee shop or restaurant can’t use a hacking program to see what you’re doing on the Internet. You might say, “Why do I care if people see what I’m doing?” You may not mind having someone look over your shoulder. But when you enter an email password, then you’d prefer to not have them spying on you. Use a VPN to stop them from seeing those private passwords and to protect private documents.
I use a service called Windscribe because it’s cheap and does the job. It’s $50/year or $90 for 2 years. You can try it out for a month for just $10 and then later upgrade.
Tip#3: Use Your Phone’s Wi-fi Hotspot
Sometimes you’ll find yourself out of reach of a good Wi-Fi hotspot. To get online, you can turn on your phone’s service.
- Go to your iPhone’s Settings App.
- Tap on the Personal Hotspot and on the next screen set the password by tapping in the Wi-Fi Password box.
- Type a password that you can use or use the one already provided.
- Then tap on the On button to turn it on.
- Go into your computer’s Wi-Fi settings to connect to it. It will show as your phone’s name, usually something like Kevin’s iPhone. If you own a Mac it will show up in the Wi-Fi list without doing the above steps.
Tip #4: Buy a battery backup to charge on the road
Get a good battery backup that lets you charge your phone, tablet or accessories. I use the Anker PowerCore 26800 because it has an enormous battery. The 26,800 mAh battery will charge your phone up to 6 times or a tablet 3 times. I often use it while on the road to charge my phone, iPad, and accessories all at the same time. If that’s too much battery and the $66 price is a bit steep, then get a smaller capacity Anker battery. They’re great and cost less than the competition.
Tip #5: Get Good Headphones
When I work at my local Chick-fil-A or a coffee shop nearby, things can get loud. Some places don’t play good music. So I listen to music or podcasts while I’m out. I use the Apple AirPods with my iPhone. They’re not cheap ($159) but they sound great, have long battery life, and work amazingly well with both Apple products and with other devices via Bluetooth. Take one out and the iPhone, iPad, or Mac audio pauses. Put the AirPods in the case and they charge since the case is also a battery. The quality of both the audio and the voice is good.
My son has a Galaxy Note 8 and uses the Samsung Gear IconX earbuds. They cost more than the AirPods at $200, but he loves that they are also truly wireless with no wire connecting them to one another.
People who don’t need gear sound may want to find cheaper Bluetooth earbuds. Or grab some wired, if you don’t mind having a wire connecting to your phone, tablet or computer. iPhone users will need to either use earbuds with a Lightning connector or get an adapter from stereo to Lightning because iPhones don’t have stereo jacks. Some Android phones also don’t have stereo jacks either so you may need a USB C to stereo adapter.
Pastor’s Mobile Office: Other Important Accessories
Here’s a quick list of other accessories you might need:
- A great laptop bag or backpack – take a look at Waterfield Designs, Booq, and Victorinox (Swiss Army) for great options.
- Phone or tablet stand like the one I use for my iPhone. It’s a Fynix stand I got for $10 on Amazon.
- Connectors and adapters like chargers, video cables for doing presentations, cables or dongles to connect your phone to your computer or your keyboard to your iPad.
- Chromecast or Apple TV or Roku Stick to display what’s on your screen on a TV or projector. These let you wirelessly present from phones, tablets, and laptops depending on the brand of each.
- Luna Display – (see video below) a dongle that plugs into your MacBook so you can use an iPad as a wireless second display over Wi-Fi, great for studying the Bible with a lot of books open onscreen at once. (There are apps to do this with Android tablets and phones as well).
As you contemplate how to set up your pastor’s mobile office, you’ll have lots of good information here to select your next device wisely as you work away from your church office.