More quiche, Vicar?

Notes on notes

When Bruce Feirstein wrote his satirical look at masculinity, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche in 1982, it stayed at the top of the New York Times best-seller list for 53 weeks. In my recollection it then spawned a flurry of responses along the lines of ‘real men do eat quiche because they’re not bothered what people think’ .

Over the years that  I have been involved with preaching I have observed a similar swing to and fro of the pendulum as regards whether or not ‘real preachers do use notes‘.  Some see them as an unwelcome barrier between people and preacher, others as a substitute for reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s ‘live’ guidance, and still others as evidence of careful and prayerful preparation. This debate was brought back to mind as people tweeted live from a session at Spring Harvest last night.

Like every other preacher, I have personal preferences on this. I have been blessed by the experience of learning to preach first in a foreign language, and scarred by those occasions when a speaker has said they ‘don’t need their notes’ and spent the next thirty minutes proving that they did!  What follows are merely some observations which may help to fuel a discussion.

  • In recent decades we have hailed the arrival of various note-less politicians on the stage as evidence of a new and more passionate politics. The long game has revealed that substance may have been more important than presentation – even if it meant working from a ‘script’.
  • We affirm the presence of God in both study and pulpit, and believe He is as capable of inspiring the notes in advance as he is the delivery in the pulpit.
  • Notes whose style, font-size, or complexity breaks the magic of a bond between speaker and listener need to be revised!
  • A speaker who is as wedded to their notes as they are to the order of their power-point slides is too inflexible.

What do you think? Would you support the idea, raised at Spring Harvest, that you should compromise by having notes for the first half of your sermon, and go without for the second?

Let’s talk…


8 thoughts on “More quiche, Vicar?

  1. I use flexible notes (and often a prezi/PowerPoint) as an outline, key quotes etc then work quite flexibly from that…

  2. When I trained as a lay preacher the group was quite intimidated by a member who had previously been a Baptist preacher and always preached without notes.

    When we had our first preachment, the comment from our trainer was ‘it’s fine preaching without notes as long as you’re on top of the content’ – ie don’t let preaching without notes become the main objective of preaching.

    I wouldn’t dare to go completely without notes because I am just not confident that I would remember to say anything useful.

    I wouldn’t say I am always ‘half and half’ – sometimes I prepare a very extensive set of notes, but I often add a few things like a SHORT anecdote or personal illustration if it strikes me as I preach. I prefer a slightly ‘rumpled’ style of delivery to things that are completely pre-prepared.

    Sometimes if what is needed is more informal, I have bullet points rather than a whole written out sermon, but I always have a beginning and an end planned!

    A lot of it’s also to do with the response of the listeners to me – I don’t have my own RL congregation and cover for other people a lot, so it’s important to try and pick up cues about how engaged people are and make eye contact and I think this give me some subliminal clues about how far off script I can/should go.

    Sorry that’s all a bit of a ramble round my preaching style really!

  3. I’d have thought it is similar to the to twitter in Church or not debate in some ways. For some it is a useful aid that enables them to further deepen the communication of God’s word and to others it is a distraction that takes away the power of the Spirit working through the word.

    Each to their own ….. or should that be each to their own due to their God given strengths.

  4. It depends on the type of service. An interactive service needs you to be freer, able to respond to what’s happening – but well prepared. A teaching type sermon, for me at least, needs comprehensive notes for me to remember my thread and get to where I’m going!

  5. Having seen many preachers freak out when the electricity goes or a projector fails (or the bulb pops during the service!) preaching anywhere without a backup set of notes, even if its on a sketeton outline, is daft!

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