Spiritual growth isn’t automatic. Your congregation must be intentional about growing spiritually. They won’t grow by accident.
The same is true corporately as a church. As pastors, we need to be intentional about helping people grow in their faith. Discipleship, spiritual growth, spiritual maturity—whatever you call it—is one of the five purposes of the church. You won’t help people grow unless you specifically focus on it.
Paul tells us, “Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (2 Corinthians 10:6 The Message).
To be intentional about helping people grow, we need tools. One of the most important spiritual growth tools we employ at Saddleback is sermon outline handouts.
When I was a teenager, I read a U.S. Air Force statistic that showed we forget 90 to 95 percent of what we hear within 72 hours. And that’s a depressing statistic for pastors!
That means that despite all those hours you devote to studying Scripture to deliver a life-changing message, your listeners will forget most of it in just a few days. This could be a big reason people aren’t growing in churches today. For many people, it isn’t about a lack of dedication. It’s about a lack of retention.
James 1:25 reminds us that it’s not enough to hear God’s Word: “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (NLT). We need to retain it and do what it says.
That’s why our church has been so committed through the years to utilizing sermon handouts.
Let me share with you eight reasons sermon outline handouts effectively promote spiritual growth.
They increase attention.
People listen better with written notes in front of them. Dawson Trotman has said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the fingertips.”
In fact, before they passed away, both John Stott and Chuck Colson spoke at Saddleback and noted that they had never seen a more attentive audience. It’s because we trained the congregation to take notes.
They increase retention.
People remember more information when they take notes. As the old saying goes, “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.”
They increase participation.
With an outline of the sermon, you can have your congregation circle and underline key words. You can have everyone read Scripture aloud together (which is extremely powerful). But you cannot have people read the same Scripture aloud unless you write out the desired verse for them, since people in your service would likely have a different translation of the Bible.
They allow you to cover more material in less time.
I’ve listened to preachers who spent nearly six minutes asking listeners to turn to different portions of the Bible. Those are six minutes that could have been spent in more strategic and powerful ways if the verses were already written out.
They allow members to review the message for years to come.
Think of all the messages you can’t review because you wrote nothing down about them. You’ve likely lost years and years of good Bible teaching. By allowing members to take notes on their sermon outline handout, you help them treasure the message in their hearts long after the service is over.
They are the basis for small group discussions.
At Saddleback, many of our small groups use our weekly sermon message to guide their group time. It’s a great way to help people apply what you’ve taught them from God’s Word to their lives.
They allow you to use multiple translations.
I know people have criticized us about this, but the Bible has about 13,000 Hebrew and Greek words. The average translation contains only about 8,000 English words. You need multiple translations to get the full meaning of the text sometimes. And by utilizing sermon outline handouts, you can put several translations of the same verse on the outline, giving your members a deeper understanding of Scripture!
They are helpful to unbelievers who don’t bring Bibles.
Most unbelievers who come to check out your church don’t have Bibles. Even if they did, they wouldn’t know how to find the passage quickly. By providing them with sermon outline handouts, you’re avoiding embarrassing them and inviting them to participate in the message.
The sermon handout is just one of the tools we’ve intentionally used to help people grow spiritually at Saddleback, but it’s clearly been one of the most important.
Do you provide your church members and visitors with sermon handouts? Why or why not? Share with me in the comments below!