Last week we looked at the ADVANTAGES and DISADVANTAGES of preaching without notes. While there are downsides to putting aside your notes, the practice and process of developing this skill will make you a better communicator. While you may not remember everything, you will remember more of your sermon or talk; and not be as tied to them if you develop this process. Pastor Carey Nieuwhof also has a process that he uses as well. I found that we have a lot of similarities. The first step is to:
Simplify Your Outline.
This is the key to help you remember what you are going to say. Simplifying your outline means that you focus on FEWER IDEAS, and have an order that is memorable and contains movement. Fewer ideas will make it easier to remember and will be helpful to your listeners. A familiar outline will also help you know where to go in your message. Andy Stanley usually preaches with very few notes (sometimes he hides them), but has a super simple outline that he uses every week:
If you get into the habit of using the same outline every week, the structure you create will actually help guide your thoughts.
Manuscript the Message.
Even though you won’t be preaching from this, writing your message down will aid in the memorization process. Writing will give you PRECISION, especially if you write word for word. Write out every point, every story, every transition. Writing everything down will also help you remember how you fit all of your ideas together.
Practice Out Loud.
Practice, practice, practice! Practice is the key. Usually, when I practice a message that will be memorized the first practice I’m super tied to my notes. The second time I’m less tied to the notes. By the third and fourth time I’m making an effort not to look down at them. If you can get in a fifth or sixth time, then I’m not looking at them at all. Just reviewing them for when I’m about to preach. This can be the most time consuming (especially if you are preaching a 40 minute message). But without time to practice you can’t master your content. This is what makes preaching without notes strenuous.
Record yourself and play it back.
I don’t do this often, but I’ve been told that others will do this. They will record themselves preaching and listen to it over and over again. I don’t usually do this, but I can see why this could be helpful. When you are playing back your own words you can better absorb it and it becomes a part of who you are as you preach.
Review again the night before and the morning of.
The night before I preach I will go over the message a few times. Then in the morning I will do the same. This helps me stay familiar and stay in that headspace. Then I get up and preach.
If you preach without notes, what are some of your best practices? What works or what doesn’t work? If you’ve never preached without notes, what’s keeping you from trying it out this week?