Should You Share Your Sermon Notes?
The benefits of passing on your prep work
So, you’ve made it. You’ve spent hours in sermon prep. You’ve prayed, studied, written and rewritten. Now it’s time to hit “print” and step behind the pulpit. But are you missing an important step? Should you share those notes with others?
Many pastors provide a brief outline, whether it’s a printed handout or a digital document on YouVersion or some other app. But what about your actual notes — the ones you bring with you to the platform and use for preaching? Why not share those as well?
The idea can make some pastors a bit nervous. They may feel protective of the preparation process or unsure about whether they want others to see behind the scenes. They may fear their notes are too sloppy or worry that someone might judge their preparation.
However, there are Kingdom benefits to sharing. It can provide a more detailed outline for those in your church who want to go deeper. It may allow other ministers to study and build on what you’ve done. If you’ve been hesitant before, I want to encourage you to rethink your approach to sharing your sermon.
For Your Congregation
I talked about this with my friend Anthony Scoma, lead pastor of Southwest Family Fellowship (Assemblies of God) in Austin, Texas. Each week, Scoma shares his sermon notes with his church and anyone else who cares to download them.
Scoma told me he got the idea during a graduation commencement. The keynote speaker that day was a fascinating innovator in the tech field. He was also easily accessible on social media. Scoma looked him up, found his Twitter profile, and saw that he had published his commencement notes online before presenting.
So Scoma downloaded the notes and followed along from his seat. He was amazed at how easy it was. Not only did Scoma get more out of it, but there were fewer distractions. Scoma decided to start sharing sermon notes with his church.
Providing your church members with sermon notes can help them focus — even more than they would with a simple outline. Your audience may just be listening to fill in the blanks you’ve provided. But with full sermon notes, people can stay tuned in.
Another advantage is that application is easier when the information is available throughout the week. There’s no excuse for not following through.
Technology has made it easy to share our sermons literally around the world.
Having the full sermon notes can be especially helpful to those learning English as a second language. Reading another language is easier than just listening. And the reinforcement can improve overall English skills. Scoma said this was the case for some Russian families in his church.
Sharing your notes within a church is one thing. But what about those outside your ministry? Some pastors get a bit territorial when it comes to their notes, and I get that. As a writer, I understand there is something proprietary about crafting messages. But the advantages of sometimes outweigh the costs.
If you’re a more established pastor, think of the younger men and women who are just getting started in ministry. Consider what a blessing it could be to share your notes with them. Not only would they receive the benefit of sermon prep you’ve already done, but they could also learn about how you put together a sermon.
Sharing your sermon notes with other pastors is a way to teach them. They would get a closer look at how you go about explaining a text. They could see how you find and incorporate illustrations. And they could gather insight on arranging the material on a page for preaching and presenting.
If you’re newer to ministry, think of the benefits of sharing your sermon notes with others who are in the same boat. Though I’ve rarely seen it, I’ve often wondered about establishing a network of pastors working with similar preaching schedules.
Here’s how it could work: Four to six like-minded pastors agree on a set of series for the year. Then, each pastor takes on one or more of those series for sermon preparation and writing. Everyone shares the content, including the graphics and production slides. This cuts down on each leader’s sermon prep and allows pastors to give one another a hand up.
The process of sharing your sermon notes is simple. Once you complete your sermon complete, save it for others. Whether you use Word, Pages or some other document software, there should be an option to save as a PDF. Once you do that, you can attach it to an email or publish it on your social media.
Technology has made it easy to share our sermons literally around the world. There are really no limits to where they can go. Pastors overseas in restricted countries may be able to access them. Families on vacation or members traveling for work can still get them. Seminary students can benefit from them.
They say that sharing is caring. In this case, sharing is growing. Providing sermon notes to your church or other pastors — or both — could become one more way your ministry helps people grow in their faith. So, why not give it a try and share this weekend’s notes?