Notes or no notes? – part 2

In part 1 of this post I presented the “why” of no notes preaching from my perspective. The relational connection through increased eye contact is the biggest reason for me. Also the side effects of less complicated messages, more text-related messages, and staying-put-in-your-text messages, these are all positives as well.

So, how? Well, it is not by memorization. Trying to memorize 30-45 minutes of material is a sure way to achieve the following negative results: performing like an actor, freezing like an amateur actor, and failing to have any relational connection because you seem aloof (trying to remember the next “line”). It is probably worth memorizing the big idea, perhaps the statements of each move or point if you are going to state them explicitly, the opening few lines and the concluding few lines. Beyond that, it’s all about internalization.

Having studied the text as fully as possible, you then prepare a message that fits closely to that text and makes good sense. If possible, it is worth typing out a full word-for-word manuscript. This manuscript allows you to work carefully on specific word choices and phrasing. The work of giving close attention to the manuscript is surprisingly effective at internalizing the wording so that it comes out again when you practice the message and/or deliver it.

In the busy schedule of ministry life, typing a full manuscript is not always possible. So writing out a full outline and then preaching through the message out loud also serves to internalize the message.

Preaching without notes is not about special memory skills. It is about full preparation that leads to the preacher being very at home in the preaching text. It is about prayerful preparation that allows the message to soak into the very fiber of the preacher’s life.

For many preachers the fear of forgetting where they are, or freezing during delivery, hinders them from trying no notes preaching. I thank the Lord for my preaching professor that took away all other options when I had to preach in class. Maybe you should find someone to require no notes preaching of you?

3 thoughts on “Notes or no notes? – part 2

  1. I agree that the key “how to” is to internalize the message in advance. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to spend time praying through my messages. I simply work through my notes and especially focus on the key points and applications and ask the Lord to apply them both to my heart and the hearts of the listeners. Doing this has the effect of strongly fixing those points in both my mind and heart. I confess that I still use some notes. But because my own heart has been personally gripped by the message ahead of time, I am much less tethered to them. Beyond this, praying through the message in advance results in the Holy Spirit moving in hearts of people.
    Dick Papworth

  2. I really appreciate these posts on preaching without notes. In the seminary I attended, this was greatly frowned upon and most students produced written sermons with meticulously crafted turns of phrase.

    Except for a brief foray into scripted sermons a year or so ago, I generally preach either from a breif outline or with no notes at all, though I always produce a detailed outline (and, in some case, a full manuscript for hearing impaired persons in the congregation).

    I couldn’t agree more that this “no notes” method forces you to craft a sermon with logical flow that can stick in your brain. If I can’t remember a transition, I know it’s because it doesn’t work and it’s back to the drawing board.

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