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?


Michael Duduit

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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