To be sure, preaching without notes requires practice. It is through the discipline of practice that one can reach a comfort level to preach without notes. Here are a few practical tools to aid in the practice process.
Master your manuscript.
Every beginning preacher should start out using a full manuscript. A manuscript involves putting the entire message on paper and using that manuscript to deliver the message. Manuscript preachers must master their manuscript and not allow the manuscript to master them. Many preachers are slaves to their manuscript and pay more attention to the paper than the people. No one wants to see the top of your head for 45 minutes! Establish and maintain good eye contact with the congregation. Engage and connect with your audience. Don’t just read your manuscript…deliver your message.
Get in line with an outline.
Once you have mastered your manuscript you can move to the next phase – using an outline. Remember that preaching without notes is a weaning process. I do not recommend jumping straight from a full manuscript to preaching without notes. An outline is a good bridge to use to travel across to “No Note Land.” When using an outline, I recommend writing out full sentences instead of fragmented thoughts. These bullet points serve as springboards for the message that you have studied and hidden in your heart.
Let go of the net.
Once you have become familiar and comfortable with the process of preaching using an outline, it’s time to launch out and begin preaching without notes. At this stage, however, I do recommend that you still take the outline to the pulpit – with the intentions of not using it. Keep the outline tucked away in your Bible or someplace it is readily accessible. This way it serves as a safety net in case you find yourself in trouble. After doing this a few times, let go of the safety net. Leave the outline at home and preach what God has placed in your heart!