I’m a convert to preaching without any notes.
I know it’s not for everyone, but I reckon more preachers could do it if they wanted to.
I’ve preached evangelistically without notes for years, by memorising certain talks that I knew I would get to repeat many times. But I’ve not thought it “worth it” to preach all the time without notes. Until now.
I recently preached 5 talks at the Queensland CMS Summer School, one talk each day. With the exception of one point in my last talk, during which I was struggling with a severe stomach bug, I didn’t forget anything I had planned to say. I really enjoyed the freedom of not using notes, and was surprised by how much detail could still be offered without them.
Why is it good?
There are several things I can think of, but three things stand out.
1. The ability to connect to hearers is greatly enhanced away from a lectern. I’ve preached a lot with notes and without, and there’s no question in my mind that without notes, connection is better. I feel better connected, and from feedback it seems that hearers do too.
2. The freedom to “reshape” the talk as you go can be very useful. Sometimes I don’t like being locked into my notes, and certain parts of a talk might be crying out for further comment or a slightly different direction. I think the vibe of “the moment” is key here, and it’s all intuition, but preachers know what I mean, I’m sure. Now, I used to improv when using notes anyway, but it can be awkward then returning to notes after an unexpected improv bit. By not using notes at all, this problem disappears.
3. There is a need to be more connected to the text being preached than to the notes of the sermon. I used to need to know my notes and the text, but now I only need to know the text.
Surprisingly, I never felt at risk of forgetting what I’d planned to say, so that was not a drawback.
Also, as mentioned above, I had suspected that details might suffer, but this was not the case. In fact, I think details were communicated more clearly this way than they have been with notes at various times.
A common assumption is that learning the talk will add so much time to preparation that it is not worth the effort. I agree, if it does take a lot of time, but if you can work out a method that does not require much time, this is not a problem. I think I’ve discovered a way that works for me, so it adds maybe an hour of extra work.
I think the main drawback is that 70% of the feedback I received (especially from other preachers) included some comment or question about preaching without notes. There’s a risk that it (at least initially) distracts from the message. Which is kinda counter-productive, huh? But once people get used to it, I think that problem disappears.
Posted by Con Campbell