Transitions: Moving In and Settling Down

img_20180827_164821

Move-in day: probably one of the most iconic and also most stressful days of freshman year. A few weeks ago, I had mine, transitioning my whole life to a little college in Mississippi. I’ve gotten settled in and learned a lot along the way, and I want to share some of that with you today.

Before we get to the big thing I’ve been learning, here are a few little tips to make moving in and settling in a lot less stressful:

One: Don’t try to pack everything. Make a list as you pack and then go to Target or somewhere once you get there to save space in your car. Things you can buy there include snacks, paper towels, cleaning supplies, decorations and command hooks, etc. (On a side note, make sure you have a good stock of snacks! You’ll need them.)

Two: Bring a board game or card game or something. It will be fun to share in social situations. You might think you won’t use it – you actually will.

Three: Make a to-do list for the day! The day I moved in, there was so much going on, so many little things that needed to get done, and I tried to keep it all in my head. Not a good strategy. Write down anything that you think of; that way you can focus on one thing at a time without worrying about forgetting things.

Four: I have my bed raised pretty high off the ground, and I made a little nook underneath it with a rug and a bunch of pillows. It’s such a nice place to sit and study, it’s where I do my devotions, etc. I would recommend it!

img_20180827_164912

Five: Use your first few days to get the lay of the land. Figure out where your classes are and where other things are on campus that you might need. Check your mail. Find the library. Etc.

Six: Try not to stay up ridiculously late right away. It’s not summer camp, even though it might feel like it – you have to maintain your life for a whole semester. Especially if you like your roommate, it feels like a sleepover initially. It’s okay to enjoy some of that, but try not to go too crazy.

Seven: Unpack everything as quickly as possible and get it organized. Starting out that way for a few days is nice while you get your footing. But know that it likely won’t stay that way, which leads me to the big lesson I’ve been learning so far…

img_20180827_164920

It’s okay for things to be a mess.

In general, I’m a very organized person. I like things to be neat and nice, everything in its proper place, easy to keep track of. But since I got to college, I’ve had less and less time to clean and organize. There’s not a lot of surface space in my dorm, so everything gets piled on the desk most of the time. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

Here’s the thing: life is not about cleanliness. Life is about the pursuit of God, and living each day in light of eternity. To put it bluntly, organization for its own sake is pointless and a waste of time.

Yes, God is a God of order, and we are called to be good stewards of the possessions He has given us. But taken to extremes, the pursuit of organization can become a distraction from better and more important things. Everything we do in our lives should be for the sake of the kingdom of God, and so the only reason to clean and do laundry and other things of that nature is so that the disorder won’t hinder our kingdom work. 

If it’s a little bit messy, that’s okay. Maybe your time would be better spent reading your Bible, or ministering to a friend who needs encouragement, or pouring yourself into the local church. It comes down to priorities. What is in our hearts? Are we making organization an idol? Or is it one more means to the ultimate end of seeking God’s glory throughout our whole lives?

As I’m getting settled into college, I’m realizing more and more that I don’t have the time to make sure my dorm always looks perfect. There are bigger and better things happening that need my care and attention. As long as I can continue living, the mess is okay.

Do you make organization an idol? How are you learning to embrace the mess in everyday life? If you’re in college, what move-in tips do you have? 

love, grace

Advertisements

Advice to My Freshman Self: Get Involved

action, athletes, black and white

Four years ago, I entered the world of public school for the first time. There are so many things that I wish I knew then, and my hope is that by sharing those things with you, I can help you make the most of your high school experience.

First of all, get involved. 

As a freshman, I was shy, and doing new things scared me. So I didn’t.

As a senior, I really regret it. This year I’ve been finding my feet and trying more things that used to intimidate me. Volunteering at choir events. Doing Latin competitions. And so on. Every single time, I wish that I had started sooner and had more years to participate.

So my biggest advice for teens, especially middle schoolers and young high schoolers, is to get involved in something now. Don’t wait. The things that you are afraid to try? Those will often end up being your best memories of high school.

Especially if you are an introvert, don’t let fear of new social situations keep you from doing things that sound fun. You will almost never regret doing more and going places, at least to a certain extent. It’s how you will feel included, find friends, and enjoy yourself throughout your teen years.

If you’re already involved in a performing art or sport or something, make it your goal to get even more involved. Go for more days each week. Take the extra opportunities that are offered. Find ways to serve and give back to your organization.

If you go to a public school, stay up-to-date on what’s going on. Especially during your freshman year, try everything that interests you at least once. You can narrow it down later to the ones you really care about.

If you’re homeschooled or your school doesn’t have a lot of opportunities, seek them out. Take classes in your town, join a sports team, get involved with your co-op if you have one, do community theater, etc.

And in the later years of high school, once you know where your interests lie, choose a few things that you can invest in and be fully a part of. Don’t just be nominally involved. Be someone who shows up for everything, volunteers for everything, signs up for everything.

I’m not saying that you should overload yourself; you need balance, time to study and sleep and hang out with your family. But as a freshman, balance wasn’t the advice I needed. I have no problem keeping time for my own pursuits. The advice I needed was this: don’t let fear of a full schedule keep you from trying things that look interesting. You can always take a step back if you get overwhelmed.

Do the things that you’re good at. Do the things that interest you. Don’t let fear hold you back. That is how you will make friends, learn your strengths, and start to use your talents for God’s glory.

What do you think? How involved are you at your school or in your community? Which do you struggle with more: balancing your schedule or fear of getting involved? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Three Habits to Cultivate Now (+giveaway winner!)

Transitions: Learning to Trust God Through College Applications

7 Things I Learned at Public High School (Guest Post at Apple Trees and Pumpkin Seeds)

How to Study the Bible: The Verse Brainstorming Method

biblestudy-4

Today I want to share another method for digging into Bible verses that I discovered a while ago. I used it for a good chunk of time recently before switching to another method, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it again (I change my routines up often).

I first got the idea for this method when reading Tim Keller’s book Hidden Christmas. In the book, he tells the story of a conference he went to where the speaker instructed them to write down at least thirty things they could learn from Mark 1:17, listing things for a whole thirty minutes even if it seemed there was nothing else to possibly write. It sounded intriguing, and so I decided to try it.

And every single time I picked a verse and spent long enough writing things down, I made some kind of breakthrough discovery in my understanding of the verse, something I would never have gotten out of a ten-minute study. It made me realize that the majority of the time, I don’t go nearly deep enough in my Bible studies. So today I want to share this method with you.

The Method

I’m not going to do an example, because this is a very straightforward method that would be hard to demonstrate thoroughly in a blog post. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a verse.
  2. Choose an amount of time (thirty minutes recommended) to write things down. Choose this before you start so you won’t be tempted to stop whenever you think you’ve run out of things to write!
  3. Write down everything you learn from the verse. Continue writing things down until your time is up (I promise there’s always more to say).

That’s all! Really simple, but the extended amount of time forces you to pay a lot more attention and care to what you’re reading, to dig for definitions of specific words, historical context, Biblical context, application points, etc. Think of it as a brainstorming session, where you jot down absolutely everything that comes to mind. Depending on your handwriting and speed, you should be able to fill 2-3 pages of a notebook easily.

You’ll probably be surprised at the really good insights that start to show up 15-20 minutes into the session (so don’t give up early!).

When to Use It

If you’re in a dry season in your Christian walk, or you’re starting to feel like you’re not getting anything out of your devotions, this is a great method to help you reignite the spark and make some new discoveries about what you’re reading. It’s especially great to use for studying those familiar or cliche verses that we’ve all seen so often we’ve forgotten what they really mean.

When Not to Use It

If you don’t have the time to commit at least twenty minutes (and thirty is better…or even more) then this method probably isn’t the right choice. I would recommend the  SOAP method I shared last week to study a verse in a rush.

But if you have the time (and even if you have to make the time) this is an amazing method to try! It takes some diligence and patience, but it’s totally worth it for the insights you’ll gain.

What do you think? Have you ever tried this, or will you try it now? How else do you like to study verses? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

How to Study the Bible: The SOAP Method

biblestudy-3

In the last two posts in this series, I shared two methods for studying long passages of Scripture to get an overview of their meaning in context. If you missed those, check them out here and here. Today I want to move on, and focus on the first of two methods for breaking down individual verses.

I want to note that there is a place for both things in the Christian life, and one is not better than another. Studying larger passages helps us get a sense of the context and scope of what we’re reading about, to see the full story and the broader sweep of God’s plan. But there’s also a lot to learn from taking a microscope to a particular verse, getting down into the details, and this method, one that I’ve seen on Pinterest many times (I didn’t make it up!), is a simple one that will help you do just that.

The Method

  1. S: Scripture. Choose a verse and copy it down word-for-word.
  2. O: Observation. Write a few sentences about the meaning of the verse.
  3. A: Application. Write a few sentences about how the verse’s meaning applies to your life.
  4. P: Prayer. Write out a quick prayer relating to the verse.

For an example, let’s use 1 John 2:17.

S: “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 

O: Everything that people chase after outside of God’s will is temporary and ultimately meaningless. This world will go by like a flash, and trying to find meaning only in the things of the world is a fruitless pursuit. We find purpose and meaning in our lives by knowing God’s will and living it out. He has provided a way to eternal life, that allows us to bypass the temporary nature of the world.

A: There’s no reason to wish for things that I can’t or don’t have. I have God, and that’s enough – being able to live “freely”, do things the Bible forbids, or seek entirely after worldly things would never make me as happy as I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it would.

P: Lord, help me to remember this verse when everything around me is glittering temptingly. Help me to remember that pursuing Your best for my life is the only way to happiness, and to see worldly things as temporary and fading.

When to Use It

This method is great when you don’t have a lot of time for Bible study. It doesn’t require you to do a lot of reading – you can read 3 or 4 verses and then choose one to focus on. It’s a quick and simple way to cover the important points.

When Not to Use It

Honestly, anytime you want to study a verse, this a great method to come back to. You can adjust it to be as quick or as deep as you want: the Observation section could take two minutes or it could take twenty. You could write out a two-sentence prayer or a two-page prayer. There really isn’t a time that this method can’t be adapted to fit your needs.

Next week, I’ll share another method that I started using recently to study verses that’s a little more time-consuming and naturally goes a lot deeper.

What do you think? Have you tried this method? Do you like it? What are your favorite ways to study individual Bible verses? Leave a comment and let me know! 

love, grace

Read more:

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

How to Study the Bible: The In ‘n’ Out Method

biblestudy-2

Last week, I began an exploration of various ways to study the Bible. The first was the linear method, a very straightforward and adaptable structure that you can shift to your time constraints and study needs.

But some of you might want a method that has a bit more structure and guidance, so today I’m sharing what I’ve dubbed the In ‘n’ Out method. This is a way of studying a passage that allows you to see both the context of when it was written and how it applies to you today.

(I have no idea where I first heard of this, or if I made it up, or mashed a bunch of methods together. If you know the source, please let me know!)

The Method

  1. Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
  2. To summarize the passage, write out the answers to the basic questions, in terms of the passage’s literal context: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These should be super short; a couple of words or a sentence is all you need.
  3. Next, zoom out, and think about what it teaches for Christians in general.
  4. Then, zoom back in, thinking about how it applies to your particular Christian life.

Let’s use Hebrews 11:13-16 as an example.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

First of all, answer the basic summary questions. You may have to look at the verses surrounding your chosen passage; I’m working from the first twelve verses of Hebrews 11 as well as the selected passage.

  • Who? The saints of the Old Testament.
  • What? Their faith and hope for heaven.
  • When? The time before Christ.
  • Where? All over the earth.
  • Why? Because God promised them a Messiah and eternal life.
  • How? By trusting those promises, even though they hadn’t seen them.

Then, take that very specific-to-the-context summary, and extend it into a few sentences about what this means for the entire church.

The essence of the Christian life is trusting God and believing in His promises, even if it is not clear how or when they will be fulfilled. In this age, we know that the promise of Christ has been fulfilled, but we are still awaiting heaven; we know that we are sojourners in the world, just passing through, and ought to always have that in mind.

Finally, take the general summary, and make it specific again with how it pertains to you. Even for the same passage, this could look very different from person to person, depending on your circumstances. But here’s an example:

I shouldn’t cling too closely to worldly things. Ultimately, I have a hope that is far greater than anything the world can give me, and so I need to hold my possessions and successes with a loose grip, willing to cast everything on God and go wherever he asks me to.

When to Use It

This works well when you want to study a passage thoroughly, yet quickly. It ensures that you aren’t focusing too much on application with no textual understanding, or textual knowledge with no application, both of which are easy to fall into.

When Not to Use It

Like the Linear Study method, this is designed to get a sweeping overview of a long passage, and not to go in-depth on the details. So like I said before, if you really want to go deep, this may not be what you’re looking for.

It’s also possible that you might have to research some historical context to get the answers to those summary questions, and if you don’t have the time or patience for that, this might not be for you. But I would encourage you to try it before giving up! Don’t underestimate the value of learning Biblical history. Plus, if you have a study Bible, most likely all of the information you need will be easily accessible in those notes.

In general, this is a very useful method if you want to study a large chunk of Scripture and need something more guided or more thorough than last week’s.

Next week, I’ll share a way to focus more deeply on particular verses, so look out for that!

Do you happen to know the source of this method, or did I actually make it up? Have you tried it, or will you try it? Share in the comments!

love, grace

How to Study the Bible: The Linear Method

biblestudy2

A very long time ago, I posted 4 Reasons to Read the Bible. It was supposed to be the beginning of a Bible reading series, which got temporarily derailed when I had to go on an unplanned hiatus. But even though it’s been nearly four months since the first post, I don’t want to give up on it, so here…at last…is the next post in the “series”.

One of the biggest problems many people have with Bible reading is knowing how to do it. Are we just supposed to sit down and read? How do we get the most out of it?

The answer, usually, is studying in some way. Rather than just reading a passage and being done for the day, it’s good to dig deeper into a verse or a section.

Knowing how to do that can be a challenge, though. I’ve experimented with many different methods over the years, and for the next few months, I’m going to share some of those methods, explaining how they work and going through examples.  I hope that this can help you find a method that works for you, in whatever season you’re in.

Today: what I’m calling the Linear Study method. 

The Method

This is a pretty standard way to study a passage. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
  2. Work through your chosen section in order. Write out the main points, and make a note of the verses that contain those points, as well as any additional thoughts that come to mind.
  3. At the end, write a quick summary of the passage’s overall meaning, to tie everything together.

For an example, let’s use 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

So first, work through it in order, writing out the main points. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Paul is thankful that by God’s mercy and grace, he was transformed from evil to abundant faith and love (12-14).
  2. Jesus came to save us, and the Christian life requires full acceptance of that truth (15).
  3. Paul is an example of the statement in verse 15: he was a terrible sinner, but in his salvation, he was an example to the world of how much Jesus loves us and wants to rescue us (16).
  4. These truths, of Paul’s salvation and of our salvation, are ultimately so that the world will praise and bring glory to God (17).

(As you can see, sometimes four or five verses will condense into one point, and other times each verse is so dense that it has to have a separate point. Also, notice that the points aren’t super in-depth; they note the main, central meaning of the passage, leaving out the smaller details.)

Then, taking those four points, I’ll write a summary of what the passage’s main theme is:

God, for his glory, offers free salvation through Jesus Christ. This can be received by anyone, no matter their past, as Paul is an example of. This truth is the central truth of the Christian life and we should seek to fully accept and trust in it.

When to Use It

While it’s good to study individual verses in detail, of course, it’s also important to spend time looking at bigger chunks to make sure you’re studying everything in context. This method is especially good for those longer passages since it helps you condense the meaning and connect all of the individual verses into one whole.

When Not to Use It

Like I said above, it is good to study individual verses in more detail, and with this method, there are always details that will get glossed over. So if you’re looking to go into deep detail with your Bible study, this might not be the method for you.

It is worth noting, though, that once you’re comfortable you can start adding more thoughts and notes within each main point, and go as in-depth as you would like. It just doesn’t lend itself to that as naturally as some of the other methods I’ll share.

Overall, this method is easy, straightforward, and ensures that you won’t miss any of the major ideas a passage holds. If you’re at a loss for where to start studying your Bible, this is a perfect method to use. It doesn’t take too much time, and works for any passage, anywhere in the Bible.

Next time, I’ll share another way to study passages that is slightly more specific and guided than this one, so if that’s what you’re looking for, stay tuned! 

In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried this, and what methods you use to study a longer passage of Scripture! I’m always looking for more ideas. 

love, grace

Three Habits to Cultivate Now (+giveaway winner!)

habits3

I’m so excited to announce that the winner of my very first giveaway is Jazzy Belle! Congrats! Please use the Contact form to send me your address sometime in the next few days, and I’ll mail you your goodies! 

For me, a new school year has always been my favorite time to set goals for myself, even more so than January. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to come one step closer to the person who you were made to be.

But if you try to change everything about yourself overnight, it won’t last (trust me). The better method is to slowly, patiently cultivate some new habits, making some small but lasting changes that will have an impact on your whole life. Focus on a few areas where you know you could improve, a few things that will have a positive effect on your physical, mental, or spiritual health as you move forward in life.

If you’re stumped, here are three habits that would be especially good to cultivate while you’re a teenager.

1. Memorizing Scripture.

This is one of those things that will only get harder as you get older (or so I hear…). So take advantage of your young brain and memorize chunks of the Bible now to comfort, encourage, and inspire you when things get tough down the road.

If you have no idea how to begin, here are a few great resources to help:

2. Attending church every week.

For some of you, this is a no-brainer. On Sundays, your families get up and go to church; it’s just what you do. Even though this might be something you’ve done for as long as you can remember, make sure to actually think about why you do it, to own the practice for yourself, so that when you’re on your own it will still be a weekly habit.

And if your family doesn’t go to church every week, it should still be a priority for you to find a church family and a way to get there on Sundays! There is no greater gift that God has given us than the church, and regular fellowship with other believers is one of the most essential aspects of the Christian life. Rooting yourself in a Christian community, no matter where in the world you end up over the course of your life, will be one of the best things you can do for your spiritual health.

3. Setting aside regular time to read.

Reading for school doesn’t count in this category – I’m encouraging you to read books that you choose! Whether that’s fantasy novels, biographies, or Christian nonfiction, regularly reading outside of your assigned books is a much more productive use of your time than always watching TV or scrolling through social media. Some of that is fine, of course, but reading helps stimulate your brain and your creativity. Getting in the habit of always having a book on hand now, as a teenager, means you’ll probably read a lot of really great books in the years to come!

To get started, check out these previous posts:

And if you’re looking for more recommendations, I’ve done lots of book reviews, so browse through some of those for ideas!

 

I’m not going to claim that these three habits will totally change your life. But each of them will have a small, positive impact that will ultimately last longer and have a greater effect on your well-being than all of those superficial, overnight changes that disappear in a month.

Don’t feel like you have to “remake yourself” this school year – start small, and gradually you will build a life to be proud of.

What do you think? Are you already cultivating any of these habits? What habits do you want to add to your life this school year? Share in the comments! 

A final note before I go: School starts for me on Monday, so I’ll be switching back to my weekly Saturday posts. I love posting more often when I can, but weekly posting is always the most realistic schedule for me during the school year! 

love, grace

Read more:

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

Why You Need to Overcome Procrastination

4 Time Management Tips

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

old testament pt5.jpg

The Old Testament is so important for us to read if we are to grow as Christians. I hope that in this series I’ve convinced you of that with my few examples (sacrificesworshipsocial justice), but there is so much more to learn! That’s why I want to encourage you to get into the Old Testament yourself, to dig deep and seek to understand and appreciate this often-overlooked part of Scripture.

Here are four tips to help you:

1. Pray for guidance and understanding.

Prayer is always a good idea when you read the Bible, since you won’t be able to understand anything without the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart. But it’s especially important when you’re struggling to understand something.

Pray that God would open your eyes to see how the Old Testament, especially the law books, apply to you. Pray that He would teach you through them, teach you about Himself and about the gospel and about the Christian life. Pray that He would help you to understand the parts that you just can’t get through.

2. Don’t read too much at once.

If you read too quickly, skimming through the “boring” parts, you won’t get anything out of it. Don’t try to read more than a chapter or two at a time, and really focus your attention on that chapter or two. The less you read, the more time you have to think about each part of what you read, and being thoughtful as you read the Old Testament is incredibly important.

3. Make notes, journal, or something…don’t just read.

If you’re having trouble being thoughtful, write things down!

My understanding of the Old Testament shifted dramatically when I started reading with pencil in hand. The physical act of making notes and writing down my thoughts got me out of skimming mode and into thinking mode relatively quickly. You can write directly in your Bible (what I do), or use a separate notebook or journal. Whatever you choose to do, writing down the things you are learning will prime your brain to learn even more.

4. Look for application in everything.

And what are you supposed to be thinking about? Applications. Whenever you read the Old Testament, think about how it applies to you. What can you learn about God that will affect how you worship Him? What can you learn about yourself that will affect how you live? How does what you are reading connect with the New Testament, with the gospels? Why did God include this particular chapter in the Bible?

Everything in the Bible is there for a reason, and there is always something you can learn from any section. Read slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, and search for the purpose of the text. In doing so you will discover the beauty of the Old Testament.

What do you think? How have you been able to find meaning in the Old Testament? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

How to Take Sermon Notes

sermon notes2.jpg

Ever since I was very little, I’ve been sitting in church during sermons. Before I could write, I drew pictures and listened (or “listened”). Then my parents started helping me write a few notes. Then I copied my dad’s notes, or they gave me a template to fill in myself.

Eventually, I began to take notes on my own, which I now do every Sunday. I can’t listen to sermons without taking notes; my mind wanders and I don’t focus as well. So today, I wanted to share with you how I take notes and why it is beneficial.

Why Take Sermon Notes? 

Taking notes during sermons is helpful for two reasons:

1. It helps you pay attention and be actively engaged in the sermon, as well as making it easier to organize the information in your mind. 

If you just sit and listen to the sermon, your mind will probably wander on occasion. If you are taking notes, it’s easier to stay focused the whole time and be an active participant. I just find that I get much more out of it.

2. It gives you something to look back on later. 

How many sermons have you listened to in your life by now? Probably a lot. How many of them can you call up from memory? Probably very few, if any.

If a sermon really encourages you, challenges you, or speaks to you, don’t you want to be able to remember that a month later when you need that encouragement all over again? Taking good notes allows you to go back and be reminded of the truth preached in that particular sermon, re-motivating you to apply it to your life.

Speaking of which, do go back and look at your notes every once in a while! Don’t just shove your full notebooks away forever. Actually spend time (maybe on Sunday afternoons?) going back and reading through notes from a few old sermons.

A Caution

It’s important to say that taking sermon notes may not work for everyone. Some people get more out of the sermon if they are just listening, or if they doodle or something. What’s important is being open to try different things and find what helps you benefit the most from your sermons.

A Basic Template

First of all, get yourself a pretty notebook and pen. Walmart and Target have good notebooks. I’ve gotten most of mine from them over the years.

There are different ways to take notes, but here’s the basic format that I use…

1: The Header

Always write down the date, the pastor’s name (especially for guest preachers), the Scripture reference being preached on, and the title or theme of the sermon. If you want, you can also copy down the main section of the Scripture into your notes (especially if it’s a short passage).

2: The Intro

Sometimes, there will be an introduction before the points are mentioned that has helpful background information or interesting things you want to remember. You don’t have to wait until the points have been mentioned to write things down! Jot down a few notes at the beginning as well.

My pastor usually talks a little bit about the Scripture itself and how it is interpreted, the meaning of certain words, or the historical background before he gets into his points. That can be very helpful to have written down.

3: The Points

If there are any, write down the points next. If your pastor doesn’t mention them at the beginning, leave space and write them down as he brings them up. If he lists them at the beginning and you miss one or two, don’t despair; just listen and see if he brings them up again. If not, ask someone else about them afterward.

If your pastor doesn’t use points, don’t worry about this. Just move to the body of the notes.

4: The Body

This is the part that will look the most different for every person, and it’s also the largest and most important section.

For this section, take notes in a way that makes sense to you. Write down the main points and anything that catches your ear that you want to remember.

  • You can write these in bullet points or in paragraph form, or a mix.
  • If there are clear points to the sermon, maybe divide your notes point-by-point.
  • Underline things or even use highlighters or colored pens if you want.
  • Write down Scripture references if you want.
  • Maybe add your own thoughts and questions alongside the other notes.

Take notes in a way that you understand so that you will be able to go back and remember the sermon later on just from reading the notes.

5: The Conclusion

Once all of the main points have been talked about, your pastor may have a section at the end for application or inspiration. My pastor always has a specific section devoted to application, or how we can apply what we have heard to how we live our lives. Your pastor may do this, or he may have a more inspirational approach to finishing the sermon. Either way, be sure to write down any points that you want to remember here as well.

Example: How I Take Mine

To help you visualize it, here is an example from my own sermon notes.

A caution before we start: I take A LOT of notes. Like, pages and pages. This is only because I have trouble summarizing the most important things and feel like I need to write everything down, as well as the fact that my pastor preaches 45-minute sermons. Please don’t feel like you have to take as many pages of notes as me; there is no “right length”.

First of all, here is the notebook that I use. It came from Walmart.

20160627_094503

20160627_094407

Here is the header. You see that I have the date, the pastor’s name, and the Scripture reading on the top line. The next thing down, in the brackets, is the theme of the sermon as printed in the bulletin.

After that, I jotted down a thought from the introduction; in this sermon, it was just an expansion on the theme. Below that, I have the five points of this sermon. (Also notice that I did have to cross something out…your notes don’t have to be perfect!)

20160627_09441620160627_09443020160627_094439

And here we have the body of the notes. You can see that I just jotted down each point and wrote things down underneath it.

A couple of things to notice here:

-I started with a paragraph format, moved to a list, and then back to paragraph form…who knows why. The point is, there isn’t one right way to organize it.

-Under the first point, at the top of the second page, I have a sort of “subset” list of what it means to be like God. That was a secondary set of points within the first point.

-I completely missed the beginning of the third point and had to go back and add the III in parentheses next to it…look at the top of the third page. Again, they don’t have to be perfect!

-Also notice the underlined parts and the Scripture references in parentheses.

20160627_094450

After that, we have the final section: the application. I headed this part separately and just wrote down the main points.

 

Remember, as I keep saying, that there isn’t one right way to organize your notes. Every pastor will have a different style, everyone will think different things are important, and as long as you can read and understand them a year later, you’re taking notes the right way.

It requires experimentation: try different methods until you find your own personal style of note-taking that works for you. And if you already have your method, tell me in the comments! I would love to hear how other people take notes.

What do you think? Was this helpful? Do you already take notes? If so, how do you organize them? If not, will you start? Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace