Advice to the Newly Ordained

Updated for 2023

It is that time of year where various blogs offer those entering ordained ministry various pieces of advice - spiritual and professional.

But I have some practical advice.

Buy a Decent Computer

If you are a Mac user then you will already get this. If you are not it might come as bit of a shock.

A laptop should be about £1000.
It is not unreasonable to spend twice that.

Still breathing. Good.

A decent desktop computer with a screen, quality keyboard and mouse should also be about £1000. Again you can spend twice that.

And relax.

Plenty of people seem to update to the latest phone every 2 years, on a contract paying £^0 a month, whilst struggling with a creaking PC which is not fit for purpose.

Laptop or desktop you will be staring at the screen and tapping the keyboard on a regular basis. Good quality keyboards and screens reduce work related strains and pains. These are often the hidden costs of more expensive laptops.

Although most laptops offer at least an HD display of 1080p, High Density or Retina displays are considerably easier on the eyes. Although most laptops have screens in the TV shapes 16:9 ratio, some offer a taller display of 3:2 or 16:10 ration (typically in High Density) which many people prefer for writing and web based work.

A fast SSD and plenty of RAM will mean that when you start designing a flyer or a PowerPoint you won't be slowing to a crawl or crashing. And when you find yourself needing to edit a video ... you might actually be able to do it.

Laptops are not all of the same type. Just like cars - for the same amount of money you can buy something sporty with 2 seats, or a 4x4 with lots of space for stuff. In the same price range thin and light metal laptops will be less powerful than a chunkier plastic machine. Two laptops with same sort of processing power may be different prices because of the quality and type of screen, keyboard or touch-pad. Desktop machines will tend to be more powerful than laptops in the same price range. Thin and light laptops may slow down during long complex tasks (like video rendering) as the internals reach their thermal limits (so you don't burn your lap or hands!)

For Windows PC's if you are expecting to produce heavy PowerPoint presentations, live-stream complex services, or edit hour long videos, a Ryzen 7 / i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD is not an unreasonable target. If you want that thin and light with a good screen, keyboard and touch-pad you are already looking at £1600 at time of writing. CPU technology is always improving - and Ryzen 5 CPU's from this year will outperform i7's from several years back.

In the last few years Apple have disrupted the whole CPU ecosystem with their M1 and M2 chips, which in many ways out perform chips from AMD, Intel and others in laptops and tablets. They offer more than enough performance for the majority of users. But with Apple you are tied to multiple devices if you want a tablet and laptop experience. If you already have a tablet and just want a laptop for other tasks it is hard to not recommend a new Mac. 

In the last 12 months 10 inch e-ink devices like the Remarkable and Kindle Scribe have gained more attention. These devices do not offer full tablet facilities, but are excellent for note taking, PDF's (including sermons and liturgy) and with the scribe accessing your e-books.

In terms of operating system there are 4 options for a quality laptop experience - and again they do  different things well. There are real advantages to lighter operating systems like Chrome OS and iPad OS, but you might struggle with more complex tasks like Zoom or streaming (or just find they are harder to accomplish). If you want a convertible device (which can be used as a tablet for sermons) a Mac is not an option. Windows is extremely flexible but has a poorer (but improving) reputation for long term speed and security.

It may be that you need more than one device. For example I have a Ryzen 7 Desktop Windows PC which flies through heavy content creation, and a HP Spectre Laptop which is always on, works as a tablet and can be used anywhere for writing, email and work social media. I use a Kindle Scribe for preaching and taking notes.

Apple users will tend to have a good iPad (and maybe keyboard cover) and a more powerful desktop Mac or Macbook.

Remote desktop (where you access one computer from another) is not difficult to set up and manage. I regularly edit complex media on my Desktop PC using my Pixelbook which would struggle with the task.

If you are looking at Chrome OS then the convertible Acer Spin 714 series is good value, with 16:10 touchscreen and stylus. This machine is not going to be so great for video editing, and some apps like Zoom do not have the same facilities - but great for writing and web based tasks.

If you are looking at Windows my money would go towards the HP Spectre. For several years it has been considered in its iterations the best light Windows laptop. The option with the 3:2 OLED display is excellent on the eyes, and it is usable as a tablet with a pen.

These devices will be vital for your work. Them being inadequate for the job will only make your work harder and more frustrating. Quality IT equipment tends to last longer too. You can spread the cost under depreciation on expenses over 4 or 5 years rather than 2 or 3.

You could budget £20 a month for IT hardware depreciation, which the PCC pay, assuming 50% personal use for all devices. Yes that is almost £2000 over 4 years.

Back Up Everything to the Cloud

It doesn't matter what service you use.

I prefer Google Drive, and as a church we use their free charity provision for storage (and pay a small subscription for extra space). But I have always backed everything up to Drive, at times paying for space if needed.

Not only does this give peace of mind, but it allows you to use Google's excellent search technology to find that particular joke, sermon or file from 10 years ago that you can't quite remember the exact name of.

Disperse your email

If you are fortunate you will be given a parish email address. But even then you may well find the need to have three addresses. 

One for parish you would be happy to share a login with a Churchwarden or Parish Administrator if you fell off the steeple and were off work for 6 months. And this means you can turn off notifications on your day off.

One for professional work in the wider church that you would not want to share with anyone in the Parish. Like when you apply for another job.

One for personal, even if it is just for bills and accounts, that you might share login details with a spouse or close friend in case that fall from the steeple has a rather more permanent effect.

Keep your emails on a server. Do not delete them. Archive them. Because you never know when you might need to look back to a previous email with the Diocesan Safeguarding team.

Manage your social media.


However careful you are with social media never say anything on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere you would not say from the pulpit with the Bishop and Archdeacon present whilst being filmed for Songs of Praise. 

Unless you are in a private group - but even these have a habit of leaking. And you never know when that person you had a misunderstanding with over the doctrine of trinity in Vicar Sharing Space of Facebook ends up interviewing you for a role as Bishop of Rockall. 

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