By Rob Hurtgen
I have a lot of tools in my garage. I’ve noticed though that no matter the project there are always a couple of tools that I reach for. I use them frequently because I’ve learned how to be effective with them.
In pastoral ministry we have numerous tools available. The key, though, is not collecting tools but knowing which tools to use and how to use them effectively. When we have good tools at our disposal, we are able to be more intentional and effective husbands, fathers, and pastors. The cloud-based service Evernote is a tool to be used to help you be most effective in your pastoral ministry particularly in the arena of sermon preparation.
The following are four of many ways to use Evernote for sermon preparation.
1. Create Stacks
Evernote is based on the idea of creating searchable notebooks. Instead of having loose pieces of paper strewn about the floor of your office, Evernote allows you to create digital notes which you assign to appropriate notebooks that you have created and labeled. One application that many are users are not aware of is what is called “stacks”. Simply a stack allows you to create and place several notebooks in one location.
So a stack that is labeled “Family Vacation” can have individual notebooks such as budget, route, accommodations, etc. Each notebook can have as many notes as you desire all contained in the theme “Family Vacation”. Here’s how this is helpful for Sermon Preparation.
In my Evernote account I have a stack labeled 2014 Sermons Series. In that stack you’ll find a notebook for an overview of the 2014 plan along with one notebook for each sermons series. Within each Sermon Series notebooks there are notes to outline each message in the series.
The stack keeps everything that shares the same assigned theme together while each notebook keeps all of your loose ideas in one spot—all of which are accessible from a computer in your study, at home, or on any mobile device/tablet.
To create a stack on the desktop applications, simply create a new notebook and label with your theme. Then using your mouse drag the notebooks you want to stack together to that new notebook.
2. Develop a Template
Every job has some tasks that are performed the same way again and again. Ministry is no exception. The most successful people in any vocation don’t just do things well one time, they do the same things well repeatedly. Creating templates can streamline your repeated tasks by allowing you to not only be more effective but to free up time for other important ministry tasks.
In Evernote I have a stack labeled “Best Practices.” This stack contains the templates that I’ve developed to help me work more efficiently. My templates work for me, but they may not work for you. We each have certain patterns that—if we recognize it—can make us more effective and intentional. Creating a sermon planning template that is easily retrievable creates a freedom allowing you to meditate deeply on the text rather than spending the energy wondering, “Where do I start this week?”
My Sermon Planning template has these very basic headings.
- Central Theme
- What do I want them to know?
- What do I want them to do?
- Observations, questions and key terms.
- Sermon Outline
These headings are not necessarily approached in the order presented, but each week I have in front of me the steps I need to engage. The blank template lives in the Best Practices notebook and is simply copied to the appropriate sermon series notebook. Instantly the hermeneutic worksheet is in place and ready to be used.
3. Create an Illustration and Book Notes Folder.
One of the best features of Evernote is the ability to search not only your notebooks but also your documents.
Using the tag feature, I’ve created an “Illustration and Book Notes” notebook. In this notebook, every illustration I come across in a book, an email, an article or conversation is added as an individual note. The illustrations can be entered through typing, web-clipping (using the Google Chrome extension), importing from eReaders, or by emailing to your Evernote address.
Once the illustration is entered I apply tags such as prayer, faith, marriage, parenting, or even a specific scripture passage. The tag I create and assign relates to the theme I see in that story. Evernote then arranges those tags alphabetically.
So, when I’m in the midst of sermon preparation and need to look for an illustration, I can either search the tags or type a keyword that I am looking for and the story I came across a year ago shows up on my screen. No more digging through papers or books wondering where I put that story that would be perfect for this message.
4. Share a Notebook
Notebooks can be shared with others if you choose to do so. When you share the folder you can decide if they can add content to the notebook and the notes or if they are only allowed to view the contents of that particular notebook. This is a great and simple way to easily get real time information to all those who are working on project.
This is a very easy way to share information with your leadership team. For example, say you are working on a sermon series and you want to share your preaching outline with your worship team. Copy your series outline note to your Worship Team notebook, which you have already given them access to, and everyone who helps to plan worship has the document in front of them. When you come to your planning meeting, everyone already has what they need in front of them and may have already added their insight to the document. This makes your planning of your worship more intentional and effective.
I’ve also shared notebooks with others who are attending the same conference as I am. During the conference I will take notes in a notebook and—since I’ve made it available to those whom I’ve selected—not only do they have access to my notes, but I have access to theirs as well. There have been several occasions when the person with whom I am sharing notes heard and wrote down an insight that I missed and vice-versa.
This also a great tool for your family. In my Evernote account, my wife and I have a shared notebook. In this notebook are notes titled Christmas Ideas, Date Night Ideas, Vacation Ideas, and more. We each have the capability of adding something we see of interest and importance to our family or to our marriage the moment we see it whether at our desk or on the go. So when I go to plan date night or we discuss Christmas or parenting issues, we already have a resource full of materials we have been collecting to give us talking points to pull from. This has really cut down on the date night stress of wondering “What do you want to do tonight?”.
These are four of the many applications available to you by using Evernote.
Evernote is the brain you’ve always wanted. With Evernote you are able to keep information and retrieve it in a simple and organized way allowing you to be more effective at fulfilling your God-ordained roles and His calling in your life.