Growing up, I never wanted to be a pastor because public speaking was one of my biggest fears.
If I were to have ranked my worst fears in order, it would have been:
- Public speaking
- Speaking to girls
My first sermon was terrible. I hid behind the biggest podium I could find, clutching my notes in both shaking hands
My sermon notes were my lifeline. I never took my eyes off of them.
That poor audience!
The content was OK, but the delivery stunk.
Fast forward a few years, and someone challenged me to preach without notes. It was one of the scariest thing ever did, but my sermon delivery improved considerably. And the more I practiced, the better I got.
My notes were a crutch. They made me feel safe when, in reality, they were an excuse for my insecurity and laziness. I thought they were helping me, but they were holding me back.
Today, I still prefer to write a full manuscript of my sermon to clarify my thoughts, but I only allow myself to bring one small page of notes with me on stage.
Most of the notes I have with me are direct quotes of the Scripture I am teaching because that should be read word for word. The rest is a brief outline with few key points I don’t want to forget.
Sure, there are plenty of good preachers who use a lot of notes. However, I believe the best, most engaging preachers rarely if ever rely on their notes.
7 Benefits of Preaching Without Notes (or just a few notes)
1. You will preach more from your heart.
What would find to be more sincere: if I wrote you an apology email, or if I were to look you in the eyes and tell you how sorry I am?
The written word is powerful, but it cannot fully capture the heart. In the same way, your notes can get in the way of fully communicating what God has laid on your heart in all your study.
2. You will sound more conversational.
When you preach without notes, you will preach similar to how you talk to people. You will use more of the words that you use in a normal conversation. Your true personality will come through.
Reading notes, or even looking at them too often looks and feels more formal. It’s how politicians give speeches.
3. You will have more eye contact with your audience.
Proper eye contact is incredibly important. It builds trust, shows confidence, increases engagement, and helps you read your audience. Read more about eye contact here. You cannot look at your notes and your audience at the same time.
4. You won’t be stuck behind a podium.
When you preach with a lot of notes, you are stuck behind your note stand. Without notes, you are free to make more use of the space on the stage. Also, podiums create a barrier between you and the audience.
Without notes, you can remove the podium altogether or use a small stand or table off to the side to rest your Bible and a couple of notes for when you need them.
5. You will have to be more prepared.
For me, preaching from my notes was lazy. Once I put in the hard work of writing my message, I wanted to be done. It was much easier to read what I wrote than to internalize a message and commit much of it to memory. Preaching without notes forced me to prepare more.
6. You will allow more room for the Holy Spirit to speak in the moment.
Have you ever had a moment where God brings something to mind in the midst of preaching that you hadn’t thought of before?
Sometimes those little thoughts the Holy Spirit give me in the moment are the most powerful point in the entire sermon.
If I were tied to my notes, I would likely stick to the script. Freeing myself from notes allows the flexibility for those inspired moments.
7. You will use better gestures.
Your body follows your focus. The more you focus on your notes, the more your body wants to focus on them as well.
Your head dip down, you will stand close to the notes, and your hands will want to touch or rest next to the page as you read. Your gestures likely consist of lifting your hands off the podium and setting them down again.
But when you are focused more on the delivery than the reading of a message, your body is free to move and act out what you are talking about.
This post was originally published at ProPreacher.com.