After you get home from church or Bible study, can you recall what you just heard? How many details can you remember? Do you have an action plan or response developed? Or, did you attend worship without actually worshiping? I admit, you don’t actually have to take notes in order to worship, but journaling your worship is important because sometimes the most important message you glean is in the worship music, or in a prayer, or in some other element like communion or baptism.
I believe journaling a worship experience provides you, the worshiper, a greater level of participation and growth. Here’s the outline I use for message journaling:
- Bring your Bible, a journal or notebook, and a pen/pencil.
- Pray for God to move in your heart during worship.
- At the top of the page, write down the essentials:
- the date & location
- the speaker/communicator
- the main Bible passage
- the message title
- In the next space, write down some of the worship elements that are meaningful, such as music, prayers, testimonies, etc.
- Then take notes as the speaker communicates.
- When you get home, review your notes and write a response.
- Review your notes and response daily in your quiet time.
Bring the Right Tools
Come to worship prepared, and have these essentials with you: your Bible, a journal or tablet, and a pen or pencil. That’s it. That’s all you need for taking good and effective notes during a sermon or message. My daily planner has a blank page on the right side for taking notes, and this works perfectly for me. If you want more details, see my article on journaling tools.
Start With Prayer
Before you even leave home, pray. This may seem like it should just be understood, and that, as believers, we would actually pray before we worship. But actually, how often have you spent time praying before worship? I believe we should pray for several things in preparation for worship.
- Pray for worship leaders to be fully empowered and filled by the Holy Spirit to lead. Pray that they will be distraction-free and solely focused on the message through song, sermon, prayers, and other elements.
- Pray for your own attitude and receptivity. Ask God to free you from anything that will distract you. Pray for clarity in your mind to hear His message in song, sermon, prayers, and the other worship elements.
- Pray for a spirit of worship and adoration. That is why we gather, right? We’re not there to be seen, or to visit with our friends, or to promote our business cause. We gather for worship to worship.
- Pray for lasting impact. Jesus promised that where two are more gather in His name, He will be there also. In gathering for worship, you are collectively in the presence of the Lord. Pray that you will experience His presence in a powerful and meaningful way that will have lasting impact to carry you through your week, and to empower you to share Him with others.
Start with the Essentials
I am a huge fan of simplicity. So the first thing I do when listening to a sermon or a message is write down the date and time, the speaker’s name, and the title or subject of the message. That’s it!
Write Down Things That Are Important to You
- Don’t try to write down everything the speaker says. Focus on the message, paying careful attention to what the speaker is communicating. The goal is to take away relevant application of the message, not a transcript. Our church (and many churches and pastors) provides podcasts of messages, a valuable tool for applying sermons to life. I often listen to messages when I am working out.
- Don’t rely on a printed outline or sermon notes — yet. More on this later. A printed outline or notes can distract you during the message.
- Write down what is important to you in your journal. I am no artist, but sometimes I doodle a picture that pops into my mind. Sometimes I draw diagrams or write notes to myself that I need to study this further on my own. This is your journal, and your personality and emotions will permeate every page.
- Stay focused on the message, not on your Journal. This whole journaling idea is about your relationship with the Almighty Creator of the universe, not your journal.
Write a Summary
When you get home, find a few minutes to write down a summary of the message. I usually summarize the message in one or two sentences.
Apply and Implement
The final step in journaling a message is to write an action statement that addresses your intent to apply the Truth of God’s Word in your life. Use action verbs and avoid passive voice. I limit this to one sentence one bullet point. Here are some examples of recent action statements I have written:
- Since the Cross of Jesus gives me purpose and power, I will be bolder in sharing Jesus this week and look for opportunities to share.
- Because Jesus is worthy of my surrender, I will strive to treat my wife and family as a Christlike husband, father, and grandfather; and I will treat all people with Christlike respect that Jesus teaches.
- By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus demonstrates that I need to live humbly by serving the needs of the humble, the down-and-out, the homeless, the hungry, the hurting.
So what are your ideas on journaling a message or sermon? I would love to hear what works for you.