Preaching Without Notes (Part 1)

Preaching Without NotesWhen I first started preaching I used to write out my notes fully. It was probably a good move, as no doubt I dodged a few bullets of “heresy” in the process. Yet what I have learned as I have become less and less dependent on notes over the years is that my communication has greatly improved in delivery and effectiveness, and that preaching without notes is a skill well worth learning.

The idea of preaching without notes is both attractive and intimidating. There is a natural delight in the idea of freedom and yet a fear that arises with the fateful thought, “What if I forget everything?!

So the next couple of blog posts are going to be on this topic, not just thoughts, but also strategies and techniques, as well as dealing with some of the concerns, so I hope you find them helpful. Firstly, let me make a case for not using notes, or using minimal creative prompts when delivering a sermon.

Some BENEFITS of NOT using notes:

1. Your energy is directed toward your audience rather than:

a) into the lectern – for those who place their hands on either side of the lectern and lean down when they preach, I’m looking at you. It may be the classic “old fashioned preacher pose” but it is ineffective when it comes to engaging communication. All the energy goes through your hands and into the lectern. It’s also the same posture people use when they are scared on a roller-coaster.
b) into the floor – this might take you by surprise, but when you stand behind a lectern, your body will naturally gravitate backward to rest on your heels. It is subtle shift in balance, yet significantly redirects your energy away from your audience. Imagine you are giving someone a handshake while leaning away. Awkward right? That’s what the audience feels when your energy is directed into the floor.

Note: You may find my use of the word “energy” to be interesting, but I encourage you to understand it as the ability to communicate influence through both verbals and non-verbals.

2. You will naturally use more tonal shifts as you avoid a “reading” voice. When you have notes, especially when they are fully written out, you will always be tempted to read them. There is a fluctuating tonal range that you use when reading, but it is limited. Think about it, when was the last time you shouted while reading a book aloud, or slowed to emphasize every syllable of a word? It just doesn’t happen. Freedom from notes allows you to leverage a wider tonal range that is made available through your “speaking” voice.

3. You can maintain eye-contact. When you read, you lose all your non-verbals, including eye contact which is one of the most powerful assets you have when it comes to effective communication. Eye contact is deeply personal, and grants you the ability to read the room better – I will expand on this in a future blog post.

 4. You will come across far more real as you share stories and fresh revelation from the text. Preaching without notes means that you have internalized your message which allows you to share it with integrity. Preaching without notes doesn’t mean that you don’t prepare – in fact, you must do the opposite! Without notes there is greater risk and greater reward, and to head in blind is asking for trouble.

Next: Part #2: “How do I remember all my content?” – The myth of memorization

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About Gavin Brown

I am a Youth Pastor working with students in Alice Springs, the heart of Australia. I have a passion for discipleship, equipping people to discover, live out, and multiply their faith every day, while simultaneously attempting to navigate the unique subculture of being a nerd that loves extreme sports.

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