How Useful is Giving Out Class, Sermon and Small Group Notes in Advance

A friend recently asked the question of whether or not it would be beneficial to share sermon notes in advance of the sermon or if doing that would be distracting. The only times I have ever given out notes to a sermon in advance is to our lady who does sign language. I talk pretty fast at times and it helps her see where I am going or catch up if she gets behind. So I am not sure how well it would work in a sermon unless it was an outline of the main points.

I do think there is benefit in giving out Bible class and small group lessons to people a few days in advance of the class. Recently I have been providing the small group lessons to the congregation in advance during our current series. I also gave out the Bible class notes to our 20s & 30s class in advance for the last three classes. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea at first but there were a few things that I thought might be beneficial.

  1. When you prepare a lesson you take at least a few hours to put it together, formulate your questions, pull together scriptures, come to your conclusions and then figure out how to communicate it. Then you hit people with some BIG questions that took you hours to wrestle with and expect them to get it and have a sufficient answer within seconds. This is especially true in class and groups. I find myself asking a question that I have thought about for a long time and then only allow them a few seconds to answer it. How can I expect them to come up with an answer faster than it took me to get it?
  2. When you give lessons out in advance people can come prepared. Too often we hit people with random topics and they aren’t ready to hear it, wrestle with it, etc. What results is people know they have to answer with something so they through out an opinion that may not be very well thought out or informed which leads others to throw their opinion in the ring. Now, this is not all bad and much good can come from it. Wouldn’t it be better if people had already thought about all this before they came?
  3. This makes people equals around the table rather, as those who have studied the same material and are ready to learn and grow.
  4. This disconnects the idea that a professional minister does all the work for you, presents it to you, you absorb it and go home. This involves and engages them in the study and makes them active participants.

I don’t really have an idea of how much benefit has come from this but I plan on doing it from time to time in the future, especially if the topic is a more difficult one.

Thoughts?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

5 Responses to How Useful is Giving Out Class, Sermon and Small Group Notes in Advance

  1. As far as sermon notes, I think it would be less beneficial and more distracting.

    Bible study and small group notes would be very helpful, I’d think. I teach NT and OT Introductions at the community college where I live (Southwest Virginia), and giving out notes in advance would not do much good, mainly because most of my students would not look at it in advance. A bible study, however, would mean that the members actually want to be there and learn, so I can see how it would be very beneficial.

    Also, I was born and raised in St. Pete. Which church are you pastoring?

    • mattdabbs says:

      HMJ,

      I think you are right about actual sermon notes. James has some good thoughts in his comment on alternatives. Glad to hear you are from St. Pete. I minister at the Northwest Church of Christ on 38th Ave N.

      God bless and thanks for leaving a comment.

  2. James Wood says:

    In the book Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkins discusses the phenomenon of reading text while hearing it spoken. Retention and comprehension drop drastically.

    Don’t give notes that repeat what you’re saying. Don’t read your notes to the class and don’t duplicate your notes in a PowerPoint presentation. That will be worse than giving people nothing at all.

    Giving some discussion questions in advance, however, could be very helpful. I’ve done this by posting the questions to Facebook during the week leading up to the sermon or class. You might also give out a bibliographic outline so they can see what you’ve been reading to prepare for the class and read it themselves if they want.

    You don’t want to introduce competition to what you’re trying to teach. If you give people a handout just before you start to talk, they’ll be reading it instead of listening to you. They will read ahead, try to guess where you’re going, or just tune out assuming that they’ve got the salient points already.

    • mattdabbs says:

      James…those are really good points. I like your suggestions there in the middle of your comment as well. I will implement some of those things at some point. I am not sure that many people would go to find the resources in a bibliography but I am sure people would like to start thinking about the topic in advance of the sermon so it isn’t hitting them fresh and they can learn more from it/invest more in it.

  3. Jason Patz says:

    I’ve participated in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for about three years now. My favorite thing about the small group discussions is that you get questions to answer in advance then you come to class and discuss them. Class time is used much more efficiently and the discussion stays almost completely on the subject matter.

    We’ve tried for the first time implementing a “BSF-lite” class in a Sunday morning Bible study. We selected a book for a class of about 15 people. Everyone in the class has read the book and the discussion revolves around a particular chapter of the book in a given week. In my opinion, this has been our most successful class to date.

    Perhaps at some point we’ll, take it up a notch and have homework questions to answer as well. The other thing that works very well in BSF is that if you didn’t answer a particular question, you are not supposed to get in on the discussion of it during class time. This helps rein in knee-jerk responses and off-topic opinions.

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