It’s Notes or Nothing!

I heard a pastor the other talk about how he goes onto stage each week to talk to his church without notes. He walks up with nothing but the Bible in hand and the mic over his ear. He was proud of this. He even called notes “a crutch.” In his mind, using notes was breaking some rule of preaching. What rule that is I’m not sure. One rule I like to follow is good preparation, and I don’t see how using that preparation to your fullest is wrong.

Making sure your thoughts are expressed in words that your audience can turn into action requires clarity. And clarity is best established when you have notes. If you don’t use notes when you speak, you should! And here are three reasons:

  1. Keep On Track

Look, if you’re like me you like to talk…a lot. And when you start talking a lot, you tend to go from one story to another topic to a different idea all together. The only thing that keeps me on track when I talk is a good outline.

Every time I speak I have notes in front of me. I try to use them sparingly, but I always refer back to them to keep my place. I rehearse my sermon before hand to make sure I know what I’m going to say, but I keep those notes in front of me to make sure I’m on track.

This isn’t a sign of weakness but evidence of strength. As a communicator you want to stay on track. And strong communicators will have a plan set out in front of them and follow that plan.

  1. Play It Again

How many times have you asked, “Didn’t we say this already?” Or maybe you wondered, “Didn’t I preach this sermon before?” If you’ve got notes, guess what – you’ve got evidence!

Not only can you pull out your old notes, freshen them up and change the details for a new sermon, but you can also preach it again. As in preach the exact same sermon again. That will save you time in sermon prep right there. Of course I’m talking about preaching it to another audience. But even in the same audience, if it’s been five years you’ve got new people who have never heard that sermon before. If you’ve got the notes, then you’ve given yourself a chance to preach it again.

  1. Share With Others

When you were a kid and you had a friend over, what would your mom tell you before they got there? “Play nice and share.” She knew that if you followed those two rules then you wouldn’t get into trouble.

Now that we’ve grown up we think the first is still important but the second doesn’t apply anymore. But it does! The best sermon notes are those that get shared with others. In fact, the most prominent and successful preachers are those who share their outlines and notes all the time. And they don’t even charge for it!

So, share your notes with younger preachers who are just starting out. Share your notes with people in your church who lead community groups or teach Sunday school and need help preparing talks. Heck, go ahead and share your notes with the pastor across town. He may love it.


Now, one final note because I know what you’re thinking. You went to a conference or visited another church or watched a sermon online where the speaker didn’t use notes. They stood up with nothing but a bottle of water and talked for 45 minutes. But did they really? What you probably didn’t see was some monitor or teleprompter that had their notes on it. Don’t believe me? Just ask them.

The best communicators that I know use notes – whether written down in front of them or on a monitor. If you want to be one of the best communicators, I would suggest you do the same!

Do you use notes or do you try to preach from memory? How do you prepare your notes – full manuscript, outline, mind map, or something different?