For over a decade I have tried to find the best way to format my sermon notes. I’ve asked some of the greatest living known preachers how they do it and if I could see theirs. I research and read about others’ notes (of which Josh Harris has one of the best blogs on this topic). Although I have been swayed a time or two to try something new, for the most part I have used the same format all these years.
I am well aware of the fact that a preacher’s notes are very personal to him and they may never be of any help to anyone else…mine included. However, as I’ve collected other people’s sermon notes like baseball cards and glean even the smallest bit of help from all of them, I thought it was time to share mine (if for no other reason than to convince other preachers that their system was much cleaner and better). I’ve now posted a Sermon Notes section to this site where all my sermon notes will be posted after I preach them. This section will grow with time.
The structure of my “Outline” (the thing I take in the pulpit) is as follows:
The title of the series and the sermon is always on top. This allows me to keep it filed correctly by series.
Under the title are the following five fields: Date, Place Preached, Passage, Main Point, Length. Here is the blank template that I use for each sermon: Sermon Outline Template
Then I have my main point and my “Sub-mains” in ALL CAPS. These are usually the phrases that I will emphasis the most. These statements are nearly always imperative and most likely are printed in the bulletin for the people to follow along.
All other supporting points are in Small caps and bolded. This ensures that I don’t miss them, but they are not as important as the main and sub-mains, so if I don’t get to them it is not the end of the world.
I use bullet point to represent thoughts. I may have several bullet points under a main or sub-main, all of which represent a thought that supports that point. Sometimes there are sub-bullet points underneath main bullet points; this simply means it is a deeper thought or further clarification the previous thought.
All other lists are usually numbered – 1), 2), 3), – in a different style then how I number my mains and subs (I don’t always number mains and subs).
Once the outline is done, I will spend time coloring it with four different colors (I will describe this color system in a future post).
A few things to note about my format:
- I use 10-point font for all the text.
- The space between points/paragraphs is 5-pt font.
- The header of the sermons notes is 8-point font.
- The margins are all 0.5 inches.
- I number the pages at the bottom and put the file path in the footer.
- I try to keep my sermon outline one page (8 ½ by 11) only if it is a 35-40 minute sermon.
- The first few words of each “Thought” are usually bold.
- All my notes are typed and I add handwritten stuff in later, as needed.
- Abbreviations are often needed and I’ve come up with a few that I always use (i.e., Jesus is always “JC”; Illustration is always “Ill”; Example is always “ex”; passage is always “psg”; etc.).
So as I said, this is what works best for me—but it may not be for everyone. However, it is nice to now have a large file drawer filled with sermons that have proven this system over the years. I can grab any of these sermons at anytime and be ready to preach as needed.
This article originally appeared here.