This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. When I was still in elementary school, we had to do these ‘presentations’ on a certain subject. I loved doing those! While many of my classmate trembled with fear at the thought of being in front of the class, I actually look forward to them. Doing research, gathering all this knowledge and then telling others…what’s not to love? And I usually did great. I only wrote down some bullet points to make sure I didn’t forget anything but for the most part I barely looked at them and just chatted away.
I still love being in front of a group. I love to teach and I love to preach. Only now I don’t use bullet points or outlines, I write my message out completely in a manuscript. I’ve done it ever since I’ve started preaching and I’m still doing it. It’s a decision I’ve had to defend a few times, as many people told me it’s better to preach from outlines only. You’re not tempted to read instead of talk, you’re not looking at your paper the whole time, you make more eye contact with the audience, these are just a few reasons I’ve heard for why you should use outlines only.
Well, I’ve always been a stubborn one and I kept using my own preferred method of writing the whole sermon out as a manuscript. I did however try using outlines a few times with some shorter messages and found out I had good arguments for using a manuscript. Here’s why I prefer to write my message out in a manuscript:
My husband often reads my sermons to give me feedback before I craft the final version and this is very helpful to me. He’s very good at analyzing my reasoning and regularly finds fault with some of my reasoning, which I can then correct.
I have also on several occasions sent my message beforehand to people who needed to hear/read it before others. One instance was when I was about to give a very strong pastoral message and wanted people on the pastoral care team to know before hand what was coming so they could prepare.
2. Exact timing
With an outline, it’s a bit of a guess how long your sermon will be. I know that I need about 5 minutes for every 500 words I write (mind you, this differs from preacher to preacher depending on how fast you talk and how strict you stick to your text!), therefore I can time my message almost to the minute.
I love language. I love using rhetoric means, smooth and captivating transitions, and ‘refrains’ (a short phrase that keeps coming back, I’ve explained this a little in my post on Six powerful ways to end your sermon). I always try and use fresh imagery, new ways of describing familiar things. And I’ve found I can’t do that quite as well in my head, using an outline only. I love the act of writing and in writing out my sermons, I find the right words and style. Maybe I’m nuts that way, but in the silent time I spend writing the manuscript of the sermon, I often get the most beautiful sentences or refrains in my head. Beauty matters!
Writing out my sermon helps me to structure my messages. I spend time thinking of a great way to start my sermon, I come up with smooth transitions and I most certainly agonize over the right ending. And then when I’ve written the whole thing, I can see if the structure works.
When I have a first draft of my message written out, I spend time analyzing it. Is my key message coming across loud and clear? Does everything contribute to the key point I’m making? Are the personal stories I’m using functional, do they contribute to the key message or do I need to cut them? How are my transitions? Do I experience a natural flow when I read it? Is my language understandable for the audience I’m preaching to, are there no Biblical terms I need to explain further?
6. Staying on track
When I’m preaching, I have a print out of my manuscript right in front of me. That doesn’t mean I read from it all the time, as a matter of fact I usually only glance at it. But it helps me to stay on track, to stick to what I have prepared and not digress too much.
Does this mean that you should write out your message as well? Absolutely not. You need to find out what works for you. Maybe you’re one of those people who needs to stay clear from the paper so you don’t read, but actually talk. Maybe having only an outline works like a charm for you. I don’t know. I’m just saying you shouldn’t dish writing out your sermon just because some people say you shouldn’t. Find out what works for you and then stick to it.
Do you write out your sermon or do you use an outline? In either case, why does this work for you? I’d love to hear some more arguments for the outline only-side just to balance it out!