I have been using mind mapping ever since I read Doug Hall’s book, Jump Start Your Brain several years ago (a great book on creativity). Also, check out this Wikipedia page on mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a non-linear approach to brainstorming and note-taking. In other words, instead of starting at the top of the page and working my way down the page, I group thoughts/ideas together on the page as they connect to each other. I’ve used mind mapping for brainstorming, project planning, my master to-do list, research, paper/dissertation planning, sermon prep, and just about anything else that involves generating ideas.

For the past couple of years, I have been creating mind maps to use for my sermon notes, for which I like the term StoryMapping. Here’s a recent example (PDF) of my map/notes. The image in this post is last Sunday’s map. To see how they’ve progressed, check out this an early example and even this earlier one. For other examples of maps for sermon notes, see this blog post at to see how Ed Young uses mind maps. Ed also includes examples in his book, The Creative Leader.

On my maps, each section is color coded. I start at the top and work my way around the page, clockwise. My maps are a lot less complicated now than they were when I started. That’s due mainly to a change in my preaching approach (see one-point preaching). My maps are currently divided into three sections: Introduction, Scripture, and Application/Conclusion.

I normally try to internalize (not memorize!) the map so I only use my printed MapNotes to read the Scripture text, but I have it with me in case I need to refer to it. I don’t normally include notes on what I want to say about the text, but if I’ve studied/internalized the text well, I pretty much know what I want to say about it. I do this because if I include too many notes (as I used to), I feel too constrained and scripted, and I don’t like feeling that way.

Using mind mapping for my sermons has been one of the best things I’ve done for my communication. I’m not suggesting it’s the best/only way to do it, but it has been helpful to me. I use a Mac OSX program called OmniGraffle to produce my maps. There are also some free online tools, including

I hope this is helpful to you. I’d love to hear your comments, experiences with mind mapping, questions about mind mapping, and/or recommendations of any mind mapping resources.

(Since this post was written, I wrote StoryMapping Revisited after reading Resonate by Nancy Duarte, that you might find helpful as well.)

5 thoughts on “StoryMapping”

  1. I LOVE mindmapping…although mine are alot more scatter brained looking than yours. It really is the easiest way to understand things for more non-linear thinkers.

    You should go sit in on any class Dr. Dongell teaches and see how he does notes on the whiteboard in class.

  2. Thanks, Chad.

    I should add that my maps always start out handwritten, so they’re pretty scatterbrained (and messy), too. The maps I posted here are ones I use for my sermon notes, so I want them to be neat.

  3. Randy:

    I am already working in the church…a young growing church in TX…Parkway UMC

    However I am looking at going to Asbury…there online program.

    Can you give me some info on it…

    Do you like it…how has your experience been…

    I am looking to move into the UMC and wondering if this is the best choice…

  4. Phill, I’m not too familiar with Asbury’s online (Master’s degree) program. But, as students of their D.Min. program, we only have good things to say about our Asbury experience. If you have other questions, please email us through the Contact page.


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