Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The Sermon Outline
One of my weekly habits in preaching is to include in the bulletin a "Sermon Outline" for the congregation's use. I understand this is probably an innovation of American Evangelicalism, and an interloper in our confessional Lutheran tradition. I don't expect that most confessional minded pastors do this too. But hear me out...
For one, I do not use "fill-in-the-blanks" exercises. I find that a bit pedantic, personally. Nor are my outlines extensive, but they simply cover the (usually 3) major sections of my sermon. I also include a brief paragraph ("Conclusion") at the end, which summarizes the basic gist of the sermon. I usually throw in a graphic too.
I do this for several reasons, but primarily as a "listening aid". In our day people are less and less accustomed to listening to oral presentations of any length. Some people (not all, but some) find it helpful to have a bit of a "road-map" in front of them when listening. But too much information would lead to more of a reading than listening exercise, in my opinion, and so a good outline should draw you into the sermon not away from it.
Not everyone in our congregation uses these outlines, or even seems to notice they are there. I don't often mention it. But there are a few who have remarked how helpful they find this tool. One lady in particular, has shown me on several occasions, how she takes copious notes and "fills up" the outline during the sermon. While this isn't a Bible class or lecture, I have a hard time saying that for her this is a bad thing to do.
So what of it, gentle readers? Pastors and laity alike? Any comments on the practice of printed sermon outlines (mine or someone else's)?