Two things encourage me most as a preacher; one is seeing people get their heads stuck into Scripture and following along in the text as I preach and the second is seeing people take notes. If a Christian goes to church every Sunday of the year then they hear 52 sermons a year, if they go to a morning and evening service that jumps to 104 sermons. Times that by how many years you’ve been a Christian and the number will be quite significant. Now, imagine if we actively tried to remember, reflect on and implement each sermon, what would that look like? I think that we’d all grow in our love for the Lord, His Word, His people and the lost. I haven’t always taken notes during sermons, but for the last few years I’ve made sure that I’ve had the means with me to take notes during sermons because I’ve personally found it to be a helpful spiritual discipline. But why and how should we take sermon notes?
- Taking notes makes you a better listener
A pen and a piece of paper, or a smart phone note taking app, are nothing special, they contain no magic or secret to immense spiritual growth. But I have found that when I’m taking notes I’m paying more attention and I’m listening to understand the preacher’s content but I’m also paying closer attention to Scripture. Preachers are not infallible and inerrant, God’s Word is. That’s why how we take notes is important, but more on that further down the page. Taking notes engages your mind more and makes you listen better because you’re actively trying to summarise the main points of the passage and note helpful insights that the preacher draws out.
- Taking notes helps you see your growth in understanding and handling the Bible
There is no point taking notes to keep them stored away on a shelf or in a bag to not reflect on them or to remember how Scripture challenged and comforted you as you sat under its teaching. If you keep notes over many years, you’ll be able to look back and see, God willing, how you have grown in your understanding of Scripture and your ability to handle and communicate it. Reflecting on sermon notes (depending on what kind of notes you take) will also help you in your personal devotions. If, for example, you start reading Hebrews in your personal devotions and remember that 2 years ago in church Hebrews was preached, you can look back at your notes and remember some of the key insights you found. Reflecting like this helps to reinforce the teaching of God’s Word and to see how you’ve grown over the years.
- Taking notes helps you reflect more on the passage
One of the dangers is that we view church as a spiritual boost, or pick-me-up, which helps us get through life ‘in the world’. This attitude sees the Church as a holy huddle who gather to built each other up, to receive pep-talk, to then take on the difficulties of normal life. The problem is that this mindset creates a separation between worship and ‘normal life’ but there should be no such separation!
Taking notes on a Sunday is a helpful way to keep the passage that was preached in your mind throughout the week, you can return to them, read them, remind yourself of the truths that you were taught and speak about them with others. Taking notes can help keep the passage in your mind throughout the week.
There are different ways to take sermon notes, different styles, and many different resources.
- Information (Head notes)
This is where you make specific notes on insights about the passage that are helpful to remember. These insights might be about a specific term in the passage, or notes on a specific context of a book. This does not mean that you’re only looking for insights and don’t pay attention to anything else, it means that you’re taking notes to try and engage more and understand the passage of the Bible more.
- Theology (Heart notes)
This is where you make specific notes on some of the key theological points that are evident in a passage. All theology should lead to doxology (worship), so this is not a list of doctrine that you find in a passage, but it’s your notes of how marvellous God is in how He is revealing Himself in a particular text.
- Application (Hands notes)
This is where you take specific notes about how a particular passage of Scripture should be lived out and acted upon in your own life, in the life of the Church and in the life of every Christian.
I would recommend that you try take notes that incorporate each three of these types of notes, you will come away with a wholistic page (or pages) of notes that you can reflect on and that will get you to the heart of the passage.
Here are two great resources you can use to help you take notes…
Moonster Psalm 46 Leather Journal
This is a lovely journal! I gave a similar one from the same company to my wife for Christmas because it just looks amazing. The great thing about this journal is that you can refill the note book. Once you’ve filled your notebook you can order a new one (with or without lines) and keep writing. The option of having paper with or without lines is helpful for the more creative person who wants to doodle (Draw style notes) whilst taking notes. This edition comes in a nice box and it has a pen with it, keep your eye out for a giveaway I’ll be doing on my social media pages soon as Moonster gave me an additional copy for a giveaway. Find out more about this great company here and some of their other awesome products here.
Maybe taking notes during a sermon is new to you and you think “Yeah, I’d like to take notes, but I’m not suite sure where and how to start” This little resource will be a huge help!
In this book you have some helpful articles that get you thinking about taking notes, you have reflection questions on each page that help you reflect on the sermon. This is a great companion to take along with you, it would also be helpful to give to teenagers and young people to help them engage more with the sermon.