5 Steps for Effectively Preaching with Notes

You’ve seen those guys on TV, on TED talks, at big churches, and conferences. You know who I mean. They exude confidence as they stand on the stage and speak on a topic in great depth and at great length… without using notes!

Well, that’s probably not you… and it’s certainly not me.

Sure, you’d like to preach like Andy Stanley or Carey Nieuwhof, but if you use notes, you’ll find yourself preaching like NT Wright!!!

3 Bonus Benefits of Preaching With Notes

preaching 01

  1. I provide copies of my manuscript to members who are hard of hearing. I’ve received a lot of appreciation for this.
  2. The person running the powerpoint knows exactly when to hit that key.
  3. If you’re struck with a stomach bug on Sunday morning, your fill-in has a sermon to preach.
  4. You’re less likely to say stuff you regret!
  5. Get the wording precise on those statements you think should be tweeted!!

Here are some tips to encourage the note-bound and guide those preachers making the transition to the blessed assurance of preaching with notes:

  1. Read Other People’s Notes
    That’s right, for all the teaching the prophets, apostles and Jesus himself carried out, all that remains are the notes from their sermons. Do you remember Apollos? Acts 18:24-26 tell us that Apollos was “educated, knew the Scriptures, and spoke boldly with fervor”. Guess what we don’t know about Apollos. There’s no record of his sermons, because he didn’t use notes! So start by studying the notes God’s given us. [Some people refer to these notes as the “The Bible”.] Ensure you pray as contemplate these notes.
  2. Outline Your Sermon
    Sure, some speakers can make their talk work with just a text and a destination, but that’s not you… or me. By outlining your sermon you ensure you lay the necessary foundation for the application. In our excitement preachers face the temptation to skip from A to C. We need to lead our congregations carefully through the logical progressions. This is also a good time to pray over the sermon you’re constructing.
  3. Write Your Sermon
    Truly the most vital element of preaching with notes is writing the notes. The notes must be written… or typed. They cannot be imagined or summarised with dot points. A crucial aspect of this step revolves around word choice. Writing notes allows the preacher to wade deeply into his lexicon to unearth the words and phrases which adroitly expound the topic in question. However, one should approach this phase cautiously as many an erudite speaker has lost his message through lexical decisions that leave the audience perplexed. The ultimate goal of this process is to select familiar words that communicate great truths efficiently. Prayer is recommended at throughout this step.
  4. Practice What You Preach
    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that practice is only for those attempting to memorise their notes. Practice allows the preacher to speak his sermon rather than reading it. We don’t want reading. The congregation doesn’t want reading. No one wants reading! Don’t worry, you’ll still be preaching from notes, but this step allows you to raise your eyes to the audience and make eye contact with those listening. During this step it’s valuable to pray for those who’ll be hearing the message, as well as to request divine guidance in its delivery.
  5. preachers 02Confidently Preach Your Sermon
    With your manuscript in front of you now you can speak clearly to your congregation. The presence of your notes doesn’t eliminate the option of speaking from the heart as the Holy Spirit moves you throughout the sermon. The notes serve as a compass to keep you on track. They remind you of phrases and word choices you’ve made during your preparation. And they demonstrate to the church that you’ve worked this week getting ready for Sunday.


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