Church/Temple attendees, do you have suggestions on taking notes during sermons? (long)

One of my sisters posed the following questions. I never took notes during sermons back when I used to attend church, so I don’t have any good answers for her.

Although she writes from the perspective of a Christian, I think this would be applicable to any religion.

She’s also asking for opinions on an outline-type form she came up with, which she could make copies of and fill out.

Here’s her email:

I know that’s a lot of questions (what’s funny is she prefaced this with “my only question is”… heh). Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:

When my kids were going through Confirmation classes they used some sort of form like the one you cited to keep notes on the sermons. And I know a lot of churches used to print the sermons, or at least the minister’s notes.

Why doesn’t your sister ask her pastor or education minister if there’s already a standard guide for sermon notes?

Another option is to get a recording of the sermon (a lot of ministers make recordings), listen to it at home and take notes there. Then she doesn’t have to worry about leaving her notebook somewhere.

I attend a church where a lot of divinity students also attend. They frequently take notes. It looks like most of them just keep a freeform journal.

I think your sister’s proposed outline is too complex to use during a sermon. The message and your thoughts about it aren’t going to flow in the order of the outline in most cases.

If I were to do this and use a handout, I think what would help me would be a listing of about 3 verses that the pastor chose to emphasize in that sermon, the title of the sermon, and space to reflect on them. It’s more work for the person preparing it, though, since it would change every week.

Her outline would be a good start of talking points for a kickoff session, maybe with a variety examples of how someone might answer the questions in reaction to a specific sermon. You’d want to get a variety of people to do examples, so people get the sense there’s no “one right way” to do this. She might also want to make the questions a little more visceral and less intellectual. Rather than “what did you learn?” consider “how did you feel?” “who in your life were you thinking of?” “who would you like to share or discuss this message with?”

Since you said “temple” -

Do *not *take notes during Jewish services, at least not at those taking place on Fridays, Staurdays and holidays, without express permission from the rabbi. Most congregations frown on writing during the sabbath.

I take my actual journal (that I also use to record my everyday non-church experiences). This ensures that a) i don’t lose it or ever feel inclined to throw it away, b) there’s some continuity, and c) I will probably go back and look at it again. It also encourages me to write about things like how the lesson/talk/sermon applies to my life. The bonus is if church is boring, I just write about interesting things that happened that weekend. (Well, okay, maybe I shouldn’t admit to that.)

In general, keeping a journal is an awesome thing. It’s really interesting to look back on how my attitudes and feelings about things have changed over time, as well as a record of moving experiences (both religious and non-religious). Recently we were given a talk about how every day you should write in a journal about how God has worked in your life (I suppose if you weren’t religious, you could call it “serendipity” and get the same effect – I do think this is a good exercise even if you aren’t religious) – when I remember to do this, it really does make me feel more blessed and happy about my life.

I don’t use an outline, ever. I find them kind of stifling. Sometimes you have a lot to say (“Today the talk was completely amazing! I was really struck by the verse blah, and he told a story about blah blah blah”), and sometimes very little (“Lesson on prayer. Prayer is good.”)

Good ideas. I’ll pass these along to her. It also makes me wonder if her talk therapist would allow audio taping of their sessions.

Right, sometimes she intellectualizes things a bit too much. I like this idea.

I did not know that, but it makes sense. Thanks for busting my ignorance. :slight_smile:

I think so too. I’ve encouraged her to take up the practice but it hasn’t stuck yet.

Agreed. It’s almost as if she’s trying to compartmentalize too much.

How about the re-reading of journal entries? Do you do that often? It seems to me as though you’d find different meanings in past entries, depending on where you are in your life’s journey at the time of reading. (I mean that in a good way).

Depends. I reread stuff I wrote before the age of 20 very infrequently, especially the bits from early college where I was ALL SUPER ANGSTY ABOUT THE DRAMA WITH LOVE OF MY LIFE (who turned out, in fact, to be the not-so-great love of about two years, hee). I have to admit that that stuff is just embarrassing, although maybe someday if I have an adolescent daughter it’ll help her with perspective? What I’ve written in the last five-ten years or so, I do reread occasionally, though maybe not often. I have to admit that most of my impetus for doing so is that I regularly record funny things that happen, or hilarious things that my husband and I say to each other, or interesting conversations I have with friends, and those are the things I am interested in going back and reading, though half the time when I do that I find myself engrossed in some interesting realization I had, or thoughts that came to me, or spiritual experience that changed the way I thought about something-or-another.