FOR PREACHERS: THE USE OF NOTES AND OUTLINES
The preparation and use of notes, at least having them available in the pulpit, is a good idea. Here are some reasons why:
In the first place, as is commonly understood and admitted, sermon notes help preachers maintain their focus and avoid running down any number of the proverbial “rabbit trails” that can be so enticing and irresistible to preachers during the delivery of messages. Listeners appreciate preachers not getting off on these “rabbit trails” more than most preachers probably realize.
A preacher’s sermon notes, whether sparse and skeleton-like or copious and detailed, whether he actually uses them while preaching or doesn’t use them, will be available to him as a resource. He will have them available for future reference when he is preparing to preach again on the same Scripture text or subject as he preached on previously. He can reexamine and perhaps elaborate on thoughts that went into his original message to serve the objectives he has for the message he is currently preparing; restructuring, emphasizing and deemphasizing, as needed. This can save a lot of precious time and energy.
Detailed sermon notes are also of inestimable value in terms of being a resource for any writing that a preacher may be called upon or care to do. Preachers should, as much as they can, cultivate the habit of writing. If they’re not good at it, they’ll get better at it, the more they apply themselves to it. Sir Francis Bacon said, “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” Writing is an “exacting” discipline that preachers need.
Furthermore, preachers will find their sermon notes to be a valuable ready reservoir of material for everything from material for bulletins, newspaper and magazine articles or online blogging. They can become the inspiration and foundational material for books they may write. Preachers are wise who prepare and file, according to scripture text and subject, the detailed notes they have made of their sermons. They will accumulate over time, an abundance of useful material. This material, especially, if stored on a computer, can be “brought up” at any time during a preacher’s study for the sake of adding applicable quotations, illustrations and references, etc. that have been brought to mind.
There are many good and important reasons for a preacher to get good at making detailed notes in preparation for his preaching. Again, not the least of these reasons includes the discipline and sharpness that that is derived from the preparation and continued use of these notes.