A survey by Chuck Lawless of Southeastern Baptist Seminary asked more than 125 pastors whether they wrote and/or used a sermon manuscript, versus notes or nothing. He found about the same number use a manuscript versus an outline. Among the answers he received:
46% do not use a manuscript. Most use an outline, though the depth of the outline varies from simply the basic points to a detailed outline. Some use only “Post-it” notes with brief bullet points. The reasons given for using no manuscript were several:
- They are better able to maintain strong eye contact when not using notes.
- Reading a manuscript while connecting with the people at the same time is difficult.
- It’s easy to get lost in the manuscript.
- Outlines with key statements and illustrations that are highlighted still give the preacher some freedom in proclaiming the Word.
- Using a manuscript “feels” stiff.
- An outline can be an extended outline, so you get the meat of the sermon without being tied to a manuscript.
44% use a manuscript when they go to the pulpit. Their reasons included the following, some of which surprised me, taught me, and challenged me as a preacher who uses a detailed outline rather than a manuscript.
- Every word counts in a sermon, and a manuscript emphasizes that point.
- God is in the preparation as well as the preaching, so producing the manuscript is important.
- Manuscripts keep preachers on track, helping them to avoid chasing rabbits.
- Word count helps with timing, especially when the preacher has a certain amount of time to present.
- A manuscript helps the audio-visual team know when to forward the Powerpoint, cue the videos, etc.
- Preachers who preach multiple services know exactly what they’ve said when using a manuscript.
- Manuscripts provide the core for later blog posts.
- For those preachers who want to write books based on sermons, chapters are already prepared with the manuscript.
8% write a manuscript in preparation, but use only an outline when preaching. Another 1% said they preach with no notes at all, and another 1% said they vary in their approach from week to week. [Click here to read the full article]
So what do you do? And do you know why you do it that way?