Preaching without notes: Method II

7 06 2010

My second point:

2. Write the talk to be memorized. What I mean by this is that as the talk is being written, it should be constructed in such a way that enables easy memorization.

The most important element here is structure. Say the talk has three main points (for a change). The first thing I will be conscious of as I write a new talk is how easy it is for me to remember those three points. Does one lead to the next? Are they easily discerned from the passage being preached? Can I keep all three in my head at the same time? Apart from helping with noteless preaching, these checks ensure structural clarity for our hearers.

The second most important element is the “connectors” in the talk. Once you know what the three main points are (the skeletal structure of the talk), I need to know how to move from one to the next. At this point, I will write (and memorize) short little connecting statements: one at the end of point one, another after point two, etc.

After this, writing a talk to be memorized involves filling out the content of the main points. This is the hardest thing to do in a way that ensures memorization, but the rule is: keep it simple stupid. Not that the content should be simplistic, or lacking depth, or un-profound, but that the content should not be unnecessarily complex in its structure or logic. The logic and structure within each point ought to be clear; if it’s clear, I can remember it. Again, this kind of clarity makes for a good talk to listen to as well. And this does not do away with detail; I can remember details fine, as long as I know how they fit in the broader thing.

If you can write a talk that has these elements, I’d say you’re well on the way to noteless preaching!

Posted by Con Campbell



5 responses

7 06 2010

more important than memorising the exact words, is memorising the main ideas. Otherwise you arrive in the pulpit trying to recall the exact word order which you’ve rehearsed, this is very difficult to do for 3000 odd words, and is obvious to the listener. Rather, if you know the main themes you wish to discuss, then just discuss them without feeling like you must stick to the exact script…

8 06 2010
Con Campbell

Absolutely, Matt. I don’t propose rote-learning the talk, and will discuss this soon.

13 06 2010

I am a church pastor working hard on note free preaching – thank you for your insight. To add to what you have said Con, I have found that memorizing a talk works best for me when I am able to move my material from head to heart. I need to own my material, believe in it, feel passionate about it then memorization comes more easily.

30 06 2010
Alan Kurschner


Great post. I use DA (Discourse Analysis) connectors. Since my sermons are structured on my DA, all I need to do is note 3-4 key DA words in my Bible text to trigger my memory of what comes next during a sermon.

Incidentally, I forget about 10% of my manuscript when preaching without notes — but the 10% is made up with additional extemporaneous-Holy Spirit comments.

6 07 2010

Thanks for this. Where can I find “method I” or “Point 1”? All I can find, albeit helpful, is what begins with “my second point:…”

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