Month: July 2015

How to Make a Simple iPad PhotoBooth for your Church Events / Parties


Calling all pastors and youth pastors: you want to make a photo booth for your next church event, VBS, or other random party, and here are 4 reasons why:

1. If you have an iPad already, the total initial investment is less than $100, and once you have the initial supplies, future photo booths are virtually free. Use them for VBS, Lock-Ins, church suppers, neighborhood festivals, etc. A “do it yourself” version is a fraction of a cost of hiring a company to do it, and that’s just for one

2. Photo booths can be a great tool to drive traffic to your church’s Facebook Page (or other site). For our 4th of July Festival, we had a volunteer running the booth and saving all of the photos to the camera roll. At the end of the day they were uploaded to the Facebook page.

3. Great “intergenerational” activity. (Aren’t we always looking for those?)

4. It’s way easier than you think, and a great break from sermon planning!

Ready? Here goes.

You need some stuff* to make this happen, but don’t panic, it’s not a lot:


1. An iPad (obviously) Assuming that you (or someone in your congregation) has one of these already.

2. A special case 

3. This little roller thing-y

4. A standard tripod

5. A photo booth app (we’ll get to this in a minute)


1. Some sort of backdrop. You can buy fancy ones or just use a plastic tablecloth

2. Fun props to dress up the photos. Here’s a standard party pack. You can also make your own or collect items that are lying around!

Ok, here’s how you do it:

1. Decide which app you want to use and download it. I researched a ton of these and decided on the very simple (and inexpensive) Pocketbooth.  We’ve been using the .99 cent version with no problems at all (there’s a more expensive “party version” but we’ve not found it to be necessary. (Note even if you had to buy the iPad just for this purpose, it would still be cheaper than many photo booth rental services…)

2. Lock down the app using guided access. This will make sure that no one can fiddle with other apps on your iPad and will keep everyone focused on the photo booth app (the link takes you the instructions on how to do this.)

2. Attach the case to the roller-thingy. (That’s the technical term 🙂 )

3. Attach the roller-thingy to the tripod.

4. Set up backdrop and props

5. Have an awesome photo booth


1. The case and roller thing-y I linked to are some of the higher quality ones. I think it’s a good idea not to try and be cheap on this part, if you can. It’s good to have 360 degree access so the photos can be portrait or landscape.

2. The photo booth can either be set up to be a “selfie” style or an “operator run” style.  We chose a sort of blend of the two. The camera was facing the people as they took their own photos, but there was an operator around to help them set it up, show them how to “save to camera roll” etc.

3. What to do with the pictures once they’re taken? You have a few options with this app and setup. a.) Save to camera roll and upload/print later (this is the option we’ve chosen) b.) Upload immediately to a Facebook/Twitter account c.) Attach to a photo printer and print. (Haven’t done this yet, but when/if I do, I’ll post a tutorial about how to set it up so they come out in little strips like the “real” photo booths)

Here are some examples of what they look like with Pocketbook:

From July 4:


From another event:


Enjoy and write your questions/experiences in the comments!

*FCC Disclosure: This post has affiliate links. Purchase away and help support this blog!

Sermon Planning a Year at a Time: One Way to Do it (Includes download for you to do it too!)


I wouldn’t use the world “organized” as a descriptor of myself. I can’t find my keys (EVER), my desk is often very messy (ditto my closet, purse, etc.) and I do many things at the last minute. At the same time, I really value efficiency, which is why I’m in to meal planning, technology tools, and other things that make life easy.

For this reason I like to have an outline for worship and preaching a year in advance. It’s a bit of work at the front (especially since this year I picked the hymns as well, but it will save time in the end.) I’m putting it up as a google doc so that the director of music and admin assistant can see it, and if something needs to be adjusted, we’ll adjust it.  I love to be able to see what’s coming up, have something to look forward to, and think about the year ahead with anticipation.  A few things of interest in case you are interested in borrowing/using some or all of this plan (which you can see and download HERE)

1. I stay on the Revised Common Lectionary during Advent, Lent, and and other liturgical holidays (Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, etc.)  in the “Scripture” column, therefore, it will be whichever scriptures I choose from the RCL. I like staying on lectionary for these times because there are so many published resources. Also, since these are such busy times in the life of the church, it’s nice to be able to use the collective wisdom of what other pastors might be doing, and all of the online discussion groups and chatter are usually focused around lectionary.

2. When I am not on lectionary, I often do sermon series. In 2015-2016 I’ll be doing series on Stewardship, Amos, Prayer, Sabbath and favorites (see #3, below)

3. Favorites! This year I’ll be asking people in the congregation to nominate favorite passages for me to preach on. They’ll also be nominating favorite hymns. I’m really excited about this!

4. A note about the hymns… I’m a PC(USA) pastor and these are all hymns from the (relatively) new Glory to God hymnal. There is a lot of variety here, and there is no hymn that is repeated more than 3 times in the year. (I don’t think… if you find one, let me know!) I tried to achieve a balance between old favorites and new music (as much as any of the music in that hymnal is new. 😉

I’m a huge fan of sharing, so use it as you will/can! Click HERE to download automatically.

Say THIS not THAT: 9 Things to Edit out of Christian Helping Speech


Nine Things Christians Can Edit Out of Our “Helping Speech”

A few months ago I was really struggling with anxiety and migraines. I felt overwhelmed and and a general sense that life was too much to handle. I called on friends (as you do) to help me pick up the pieces. One friend, in particular, really stepped up to the plate. I remember her saying very little. She listened and took me out to eat. She gave me freedom to talk. I can think of a few helpful things she said, but mostly it was the things she didn’t say that helped me get through it all. Part of what was going on was that I waited too long to reach out for help. I said “Thank you for not telling me that this is all my fault and that I should have reached out sooner.” Her response inspired the title of this post. She said “Well, I’m having some of those thoughts, but I’m editing them out and not saying them.” Sometimes there are things that come to mind that we simply shouldn’t say. We need a brain editor.

Since that time I’ve had a blog post rolling around in my brain about things we might want to “edit out.” I’m not an expert brain editor (I often say the wrong thing!) but there are a lot of times people come to me and tell me the things that others have said (while trying to be helpful) that aren’t helpful. This list is a record of some of those. Would love to hear your thoughts about these and what things you would add to this list.

1. Edit out: God never gives you more than you can handle.
Say Instead: That sounds really difficult.
Rationale: First of all, “God never gives you more than you can handle” is not in the Bible. The verse people are referring to is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which is a verse about temptation. When we say to a person who is suffering ‘God never gives you more than you can handle” what we mean to say is “You are strong. You will get through this.” Instead, though, it rings hollow to the ears of those who are suffering.  Sometimes it feels like we can not and will not survive. Sometimes we need someone to acknowledge our pain and say “That sounds hard.”

2. Edit out: Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you.
Say instead: I’d like to arrange a cleaning service to clean your house for you. What day is good? or I’m planning to bring my chicken curry over for supper. Should I leave it on the porch for you today, or ring the bell?
Rationale: In general, I think we should err on the side of thinking of something that might be helpful and offering to do it rather than putting the burden on the suffering person to decide what might be helpful. Nine times out of ten if you say to a suffering person “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” the person will not reach out. Often a more concrete offer to do something will be well received, especially if there’s a way for the person to opt out. If you say “I’m bringing dinner this week, what day is good?” the receiver can always say “Please, I’d rather not.” Better yet, just drop the meal at the door (in disposable containers) and run. The recipient can always freeze or throw it away if it’s not needed. Suffering people have enough to manage without managing caregivers as well.

Bonus: 4 things do offer for someone who is suffering/grieving:

  • Babysit their children
  • Take them a meal
  • Clean their house (or have a service do it)
  • Have flowers delivered

3. Edit out: He/she is in a better place.
Say instead: I’m so sorry for your loss.
Rationale: Someone recently told me that every time someone says “He’s in a better place” she thinks “Well, I’m not.” Reason enough not to say this.

4. Edit out: Let go and let God
Say instead: I’m thinking of you
Rationale: I’m not even sure what “let go and let God” really means. It seems empty and feels empty to the ears who hear it.

5. Edit out: He/she isn’t “the one.” or “It wasn’t meant to be”
Say Instead: I’m sorry you’re going through this very painful breakup.
Rationale: I learned this the hard way… by saying it to a friend who was experiencing a painful breakup. She rightly called me out on it. “I’d rather decide if someone is or is not ‘the one,’ it’s not your job.” Very true.

6. Edit out: I know exactly how you’re feeling.
Say instead:  How are you feeling today? (Thanks Teri)
Rationale: It’s human nature to want to compare our experiences to others, but the truth is, even if we’ve gone through the same thing (loss of someone we love, illness, etc.) our experiences and feelings are different, because we are different.

7. Edit out: God has a reason for this. / Everything happens for a reason.
Say instead: This is really hard to understand.
Rationale: When Christians say “God has a reason” we are often thinking of the Romans 8:28 that says “We know all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose.” It’s a lovely verse. Yet, when tragedy strikes, it’s often very, very hard to see how it could lead to anything good. Sometimes we are never able to make sense of a tragedy, and that’s ok. When we are going through hard times, it’s comforting to know that others find them difficult to understand as well.

8. Edit out: God must have needed another angel in heaven
Say instead: I’m so sorry for your loss.
Rationale: Implying that God snatched an unborn child (or baby, or child, or young adult) from this earth and put that soul in heaven to make him or her an angel rather than allow that person live to old age makes God sound mean. There’s nothing in scripture that says anything even close to this, and I’ve never once heard someone say that it was helpful for them to hear it.

9. Edit out: When God closes a door, God opens a window.
Say instead: I’m here for you (if you are, of course!)
Rationale: Sometimes when roadblocks come our way other opportunities open up. Sometimes they don’t though. What if it’s hard to see the window? Better to let the person decide for him or herself if there’s a “window opportunity.”