What Is Your Current Sermon Preparation Workflow - December 2018?

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Chris Eller | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Dec 25 2018 1:47 PM

As we head into 2019, I thought it might be helpful to share our current sermon preparation workflow. I am always looking for ways to improve my process, so if any others would care to share their process or critique mine, I would appreciate the interaction.

First some background. I am a long-time Logos user. I purchased my first edition of Logos back in the mid-1990s. The software came on 3.5-inch floppy disks...a lot of them. I have upgraded regularly over the years, so have a solid library in Logos. I prefer digital books. In fact, when I am unable to locate a digital version of a book (either in Logos or Kindle), I will purchase the paper version, cut off the spine, and scan the book to pdf. 

Second, I am not a preaching/teaching pastor. I have worked in church ministry for almost 30 years, but I served as a communications director for the first 20 years and a pastor of small groups the last 10 years. I preach occassionally, but I write small group lessons every week. 

If I have one central complaint about my current system, it is the reality that after 20-plus years of creating digital content, notes, and research, I feel like my data is sprayed over many different formats and platforms. Given the weakness of the Logos notes system over the years, I have concentrated a lot of my notetaking and research first in Microsoft Word (creating individual documents for each series or project) and in Evernote. After many attempts at consolidating my reference material, I essentially have all of my research notes in three locations: a file directory system with pdfs, word docs, and powerpoint docs, in Logos, and in Evernote. I would love to get to a place where I have everything in one central database, but I haven't found the tool that permits this to happen.

As far as OS is concerned, I am trying to become OS agnostic. I use both Mac and Windows and iOS and Android. I used to be Mac-only, but Apple's lack of innovation the last 5-6 years plus the premium cost of their hardware led me to break myself from the cult of Apple and insist on cross-platform compatibility for any tools I rely upon heavily.

Here is my current workflow:

  • I rely heavily upon Logos for all research and study. Again, if a book is not available in Logos, I will purchase it in Kindle format or, worst case, the paper version and then scan.
  • All of my research and notetaking goes into Evernote. I have a notebook for every book of the Bible in Evernote and create a note page for each chapter in a book. Using the Copy Bible Text option in Logos, I copy text from my preferred Bible (NKJV) into Evernote. I have Logos set to copy text with one verse per line and no additional text. As I study a passage of Scripture, I make notes under each verse.
  • When it is time to write a sermon, I do so in Word. I have a template I use that provides the skeleton for each sermon. I write a complete manuscript but follow the text of the Scripture on which the sermon is based and show individual thoughts as bullet points under each verse of text. Here is a sample of a completed sermon. I will preach from the notes as they are shown here.
  • After the sermon is complete, I look for media I can use in PowerPoint during the sermon. For many years, I used PowerPoint, but in the last year-or-so, I have started to use Proclaim. Proclaim has come a long way as a presentation tool, but its development aspects are still limited. Consequently, I will often create any graphs or charts in PowerPoint and then import slides into Proclaim. I have not reached a point yet where I preach with the Proclaim remote app although I would like to try it some time. I work hard to have an engaging presentation. Reading books like Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, and Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson will help break you of the habit of creating slides with too much text. The purpose of presentations is to engage visual learners, not serve as talking points for the preacher/speaker. 
  • Perhaps the most important part of the sermon prep workflow is after the sermon is preached. I am a strong advocate for the concept of the Long Tail when it comes to information. You spend hours preparing a sermon that is delivered in 40 minutes on a Sunday morning and then could disappear forever. The Long Tail is the final step of putting your content online in a format where it can reach hundreds, perhaps thousands over the years ahead. Think of men like Charles Spurgeon. Because he was a prolific writer and his contemporaries took the extra step of publishing his sermons, even though he died well over 100 years ago, Spurgeon continues to speak to people today. Likewise, men like J. Vernon McGee had the vison in the 1970s and 1980s to record his Thru the Bible teaching. Today, even though McGee has been dead for 40 years, he is still heard around the world. That is the Long Tail. At the very least, make sure your sermon is archived online. There are many services that will do this for you today. If possible, post your manuscript with the sermon so the sermon becomes searchable. Even better, have the sermon transcribed. This is not cheap, but it is the best form of Long Tail archive.

Where would I like to improve on my workflow?

I am nervous about Evernote. There have been a lot of rumblings the past few months about the future of Evernote. Moreover, development on the application seems to have stalled. The platform is solid and the app works well, but there has not been much innovation in the last six years. For example, it is still impossible to selectively sync a notebook. Given that many new computers today come with much smaller SSD drives, this is a critical enhancement. 

I have learned to work with Evernote to get my data organized the way I want it, but it requires using wonky naming formats and sorting notebooks by title. For example, "41Mar01 Mark 1 Study notes."

I also wish Evernote permitted me to link at the paragraph level instead of at the note level.

Finally, given that much of the world (except for Mac OS) is moving towards handwriting recognition, it would be nice if Evernote permitted handwriting on its desktop app.

I recognize that many of these features are available in OneNote, and I've considered making the switch to OneNote, but, to be honest, the task seems overwhelming. I've used Evernote since 2009 and I currently have more than 19,000 notes in Evernote. Even the thought of moving my Bible Study notes to OneNote seems overwhelming.

I would ultimately love to have everything in Logos, but I have zero confidence in the old Notes system and the new Notes system still seems like it's in beta mode. I would have a greater interest in using Personal Books as a permanent archive in Logos, but the lack of access on mobile devices prevents me from going that route.

Ok, your turn. Any feedback on my workflow that you think would improve the effectiveness? Have you found an app that is a worthy Evernote replacement? Are you switching to the Logos Notes app or waiting for more development?


Chris Eller

Posts 178
Dave Colclough | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 26 2018 9:56 AM

Chris, while I can't add anything regarding preaching workflows, I can mention that OneNote has a Evernote importer program to make the switch easier. I haven't used it, so your mileage may vary: https://www.onenote.com/import-evernote-to-onenote  Personally I'm waiting to see how Logos Notes improves over the next 6 months before considering moving away from Evernote. Hope that helps!

Posts 14
Chris Eller | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 26 2018 8:22 PM

Thanks for the link, Dave. If I'm going to do the work to move my notes out of Evernote, I would like to move them into Logos Notes, but, like you, I want to give the app some more time to mature and see how it develops.



Posts 121
William McFarland | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 27 2018 6:59 AM

I made the switch from Evernote to OneNote some years ago. The importer tool works well, the only thing I had to fix was links between notes, that is changing the Evernote link to a OneNote link.

Posts 694
Ted Weis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 27 2018 8:39 AM

Chris Eller:
I am a strong advocate for the concept of the Long Tail when it comes to information.

I like how you put this. New and provocative idea to me!

Posts 247
Alexxy Olu | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 27 2018 12:30 PM

Thanks Chris Eller for sharing.

This really glared at me.

Chris Eller:
You spend hours preparing a sermon that is delivered in 40 minutes on a Sunday morning and then could disappear forever. The Long Tail is the final step of putting your content online in a format where it can reach hundreds, perhaps thousands over the years ahead.

I am going to take a closer look at this.

Posts 9005
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 27 2018 3:28 PM

Too bad the books for presentations are not available on Kindle. I really don’t have time or space for print books anymore.


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