Could you ever preach without notes? Right now, that probably sounds about as terrifying as a high-wire act without a net with zero experience.
However, how often do you wish you could engage your members more? It’s not exactly comforting looking out and seeing your members looking bored or even worse, sleeping.
Before you say it’s not possible, give preaching without notes a chance. It could be the perfect solution for better engagement and even church growth.
Perfect Sermon But Zero Engagement
You already work hard on your sermons. You do everything you can to make them perfect. This is why you need notes. You don’t want all that hard work to go to waste when you step in front of everyone on Sunday morning. There’s just one little problem. You have a perfect sermon, but you’re so focused on what you’re saying that you’re not focused on who you’re saying it to.
Gavin Adams, a pastor and blogger, learned this lesson himself. He discovered that even the best content isn’t great without a real connection. Sadly, you get so focused on staying true to your notes that you miss building that connection. While you don’t have to go cold turkey, it is time to give the preach without notes strategy at least a chance.
The Power Of The Outline
Yes, you’re not supposed to have notes when you start preaching, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outline your sermon to start practicing with. An outline is simpler than notes. In fact, if you want to make a gradual transition from notes to sans notes, start by taking an outline out with you.
To keep you on track, consider having tablet or smartphone in front of you with the outline on it. You might have it in a slideshow format that transitions to the next slide after so many minutes to keep you from losing track of time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Of course, you shouldn’t just out there and wing it. This may sound like what it means to preach without notes, but it’s the exact opposite. Even improv actors practice their skills. The same holds true for pastors. You have an outline and you know what points you want to make.
Now, it’s time to practice. This is also where having a visual timer in place helps. You’ll get a sense of how long to spend on different areas of your sermon. Stand behind the pulpit and practice to an empty church. Practice engaging with the members who will be sitting in the pews. The more comfortable you are in practice, the easier it’ll be to preach without notes when you have an audience.
Focus On Your Members
It’s important to focus on your members while preaching. If you’re tired to your notes, you might feel like you can’t change anything when you notice people no longer paying attention. Focus on what makes them sit up and take notice of what you’re saying. Make eye contact with them. It might seem simple, but when the pastor seems focused on the members, they’re more focused on the pastor. Plus, this stronger connection leads to better sermons.
Let Members Get Involved
Let your members get involved when you decide to step up to the pulpit without your safety net. Tell them what you’re planning in advance so they know what’s going on if your first few attempts are a little awkward. Ask them for feedback.
To help you, you may even ask them to send in texts, tweets or Facebook comments during the sermon to give you questions to play off of. After all, engagement is key and if you’re engaging them by answering their questions, they’ll pay even more attention.
Always Know The End Result
Lisa Cressman of Backstory Preaching suggests you memorize three parts of your sermon before you preach without notes. She suggests most importantly to remember your last line. This is your destination and helps keep you on track. Second, know your general transitions. How are you going to jump from Point A to Point B? Finally, know your first line. This is your opener and what initially engages your members.
Afraid to preach without notes? Take it slow and let your members support you. Get vital feedback by staying active on social media and through your church’s own website.