Preaching Notes

The use of preaching notes is a more technical aspect of preaching, and I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on how my use of notes has developed over the years.

Of course, preaching notes are tied to one’s preaching approach. Some use manuscripts. Some use detailed outlines. Others use little or no notes. But because one’s use of notes can help or hinder communication, it’s important that each communicator find his or her own style.

In a nutshell, my journey started out using more notes to using fewer notes. I probably used a detailed outline the longest (in the middle). For the first several years, I prepared handwritten notes on half-sheets of paper that fit inside my Bible. Years later, I started preparing my notes on a computer and printing them — on half-sheets, on third-sheets placed in a small binder, then on full letter-size paper, then back to half or third-sheets.

For a few years, I used StoryMapping (notes using mind maps) for my notes. I need to write a follow-up on StoryMapping because I’m still using story-mapping / mind-mapping in preparation, but not for the presentation (i.e., notes).

Since switching to to one point preaching nearly four years ago, I’ve been using fewer and fewer notes. Usually, I try to fit my notes (which is mainly Scripture text and possibly a couple other keywords/phrases) onto a single half sheet, or better yet, a quarter sheet. Sometimes I put them in a Bible; sometimes I simply carry the notes (on card stock paper, which is much sturdier).

My notes are probably fairly unconventional, especially in that I’ve always printed my notes in a small font (7 or 8 point), single-spaced. But, at least, it’s still more readable than my handwriting!

Technology has played a role in preaching/communication. I remember when laptops were becoming more widespread, some people read their notes directly from their laptops. Some used PDAs. I’m glad I missed those fads. 🙂

Centre Grove is the first place I’ve served that has multimedia capabilities in worship. In the early days of multimedia use, many communicators, as they were learning how (and how not) to use this new medium, tended to put way too much information on slides. Thankfully, another fad I missed.

I use a minimalist approach. For example, Sunday’s sermon on the torture and humiliation of Jesus had four slides: (1) 24 Hours, (2) Lack of Commitment, (3) Torture & Humiliation, and (4) Trials reveal the strength of our commitment! (that is: series title, problem, sermon title, and main point/sticky statement).

For more on the use of multimedia in presentations, see Presentation Zen‘s post, Learning from Bill Gates & Steve Jobs.

These days, my goal is to use as few notes as possible. On Sunday, I jotted down the four slide statements (above) on a Post-It note that marked the Scripture text in my Bible. I want to get to the point where I have no notes … just my Bible. But that’s still a work in progress!

Every communicator has his or her own style. Some can use manuscripts effectively. Others work best with an outline. I have discovered that I work best with few/no notes. Incidentally, it was the fear factor that kept me from using this approach for so long (and the fear never completely goes away). Actually, the one point preaching approach helps me to use fewer notes.

Occasionally, I find myself throwing in a few extra notes (or using a few too many presentation slides) and usually I can feel the difference.

Because I try to use as few notes as possible, I often find myself praying (in the moments before I preach) the words from an FFH song, “You write the words” (see my post on the song), a good prayer throughout the preparation stage, too.

Well, that’s where I’m at now. I’m sure my approach will continue to develop, but I hope this is helpful to other communicators, especially those starting out. The main thing is to try different approaches to find what works best for you. No one approach/style is better than any other, necessarily, as long as it fits your style and you can communicate effectively. It’s a process — a lifelong process!

So, what do your preaching notes like? How have they developed during the course of your preaching journey?

And, in case you missed my earlier posts, this is the fourth post in a series on preaching. Previous posts include: The Preaching Challenge, The Preaching Process, and 5 Stages of Sermon Preparation.

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