Friday, August 28, 2009

Sermon Notes

The average Christian, assuming that they attend one service each Sunday, will listen to about 50 sermons per year. More if they attend twice on a Sunday, and further if they also attend a midweek. Over the course of ten years, that's at least 500 sermons. But what happens to those sermons when they've been preached? How much does the congregation go away with? In a week's time, how much of the sermon will the average Christian remember? Or a month's time? Or a year's time? Perhaps one key point, but with the one key point from each of the sermons building up, things can be forgotten.

So how do we retain the material we're learning from God's word? How do we access the gleanings from God's word which may come in useful when we face a particular crisis or return to the Bible passage again? In this post we'll think of a couple of ways of taking sermon notes.

First up, and quite popular, is the Moleskine. Hardback notebooks with the elastic retainer and inside pocket, these are a luxurious way to keep sermon notes safe for a long time. The books are durable, and come in a range of options - unlined, lined, squared, leaving the note-taker free to use the page as you want. With plenty of pages, there's lots of space for many sermon notes, and it's fairly light to carry to church and back. Well recommended.

However, one of the issues with a Moleskine, or indeed any notebook, is the issue of accessibility. Imagine you're looking for a quote that you heard in a sermon maybe three or four months ago. You know it was on a particular passage, but you have to go hunting back through the pages until you find it. Even more complicated if you're onto your second or third book and have to search through several to find what you're after.

Further, if you're looking for notes from a particular passage, unless you've used some sort of indexing system on the back page, (and even then), it will take a bit of time to find the notes. The book won't be in Bible-book order, just in date order.

Here's another solution, and one which I've used for about four years now:

The Index Card system. Easy to begin, easy to use, and profitable for long term re-use of sermon notes.

My preference is for 6x4 inch cards, which give plenty of space for notes from a twenty to twenty-five minute sermon, using both sides. Along the top, I record the date, place, preacher, and Bible passage. It's easy to slip a card into my Bible when going to church, and always good to have a couple of spare ones already inside in case you forget!

The cards can then be stored in an index card box, in whatever way you want - I use Bible book order, so that they're easy to access again when returning to a passage. You could start up with a pack of cards and an index box for less than £10, and they'll stand you in good stead for a long time.

What ways do you store sermon notes? In another posting sometime soon I'll have a think about what to write as we take notes during sermons...


  1. Of course, Gary, if I wanted to check what you said about something a few months ago, I could just type the query into the search box you have at the bottom of the page.

    Doesn't technology make us lazy?!

  2. Good idea Gary. I do something similar using a spreadsheet. Anytime I read or hear something interesting or helpful in it goes - in alphabetical order and easily searchable. The downside is having to remember to enter the info. in the first place, which I often neglect to do...

  3. Thanks for the comments! Ian, I was thinking of the many other sermons I've heard, rather than the ones I've preached - for which a simple search on a blog wouldn't help!

    Daniel, I was inspired by a student minister's conference a few years back at Proclamation Trust in London to begin an illustrations notebook or filing system, and started enthusiastically, for about a week or two and then it fell by the wayside. I really must get some system of sermon illustrations, quotes etc stored for future use!