What do the sermon notes you preach from look like? Have you ever thought about it? The way you format your sermon notes will partly determine how much you look at them. And just to be clear, less is far more here.
I want to help you look at your sermon notes less and less so you can engage with the congregation more and more. Deal?
How to Format Your Sermon Notes to Look at Them Less
This approach will work whether you manuscript your message, outline it, or do a mixture of both like I do. In fact, I have an entire chapter on how to move from manuscript to preaching notes in Preaching Sticky Sermons. If you want to use that approach, I highly recommend you grab a copy and go to that chapter right away.
So let’s dive into the various formatting best practices to get our sermon notes formatted in a way that allows us and even encourages us to look at them less.
If I could encourage you to do one thing, it would be to get used to using headings in your notes. What is a heading? Simply bigger, bolder text that gives a section a title.
Using headings makes my life enormously easier when it comes to understanding my message in a way that I don’t need my sermon notes.
The more descriptive you can be with your headings, the easier it will be to get the section that follows in your head so you don’t have to look at the section.
To take this a step further, don’t just use one size of a heading, but also use sub-headings which are going to be smaller than your first heading, but bolder and bigger than your body text.
Using sub-headings is especially helpful when it comes to the section of your sermon where you’re spending a lot of time exegeting Scripture. Here’s how this could play out (just showing headings) on your sermon notes:
Scripture Text, Section 1
Teaching Section 1
Teaching Section 2
Scripture Text, Section 2
Teaching Section 1
Teaching Section 2
In your notes, you’d contextualize the headings so they are more descriptive, but this gives you an idea of how you can use headings and sub-headings.
In my sermon notes template, I have modified the preset styles to cater to using specific colors for specific purposes.
Using a color-code in your sermon notes allows you to be able to, at a glance, see what’s coming. If you’ve done the hard work of sermon prep and have gone through your message at least one time (or more), your memory will be jogged even easier by using colors.
I let my word processor handle the highlighting. Some people opt for manually doing it. It’s up to you. I find it easier and less time consuming to let the computer do it for me. Especially since I preach from an iPad Mini.
Here is the color-code I use:
- Green Highlight – Illustration/Story
- Light Blue Highlight – Transition Statement
- Yellow Highlight – Bottom Line/Main Point
- Orange Text – Scripture Prompt (I read Scripture from a physical Bible instead of putting the Scripture in my notes – just personal preference)
Formatting Sermon Notes for the iPad or iPad Mini
I love preaching from my iPad Mini. Instead of hauling around paper, I have all of my notes on my iPad. I use Pages (Apple’s version of Word) to write my messages and then export them to PDF format. I then use a great, free app called Tiny PDF to view my notes. I love Tiny PDF because it allows me to swipe left and right like a book to go to the next page.
If you want to preach from your iPad or iPad Mini there are a couple simple, but important things to do with your sermon notes.
- Put your document margins to .25″ all the way around.
- Increase the size of all your fonts – body and headings (especially for the iPad Mini).
A Free, Pre-Formatted Sermon Notes Template
If you want to put all this into practice with a couple clicks, just download a free copy of my sermon notes template. It follows the exact principles that have been outlined in this article.
Click here to download the sermon notes template.
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