Millions of people all around the country begin their week in worship. Whether in-person or online, we aim to provide engaging, encouraging, and practical content each Sunday in the form of a sermon.
Chances are, you have listened to many sermons in your life! Now, how well are you retaining everything you are hearing?
We want to give you some tips on how to get the most out of each week’s sermon.
But before we get into some practical things you can do, let’s first set some proper expectations. If you are like most people, then come Monday you can hardly remember the majority of what you heard during the Sunday sermon. There is no shame in that! Most people cannot memorize material off one hearing. Rather than thinking of listening to a sermon for memorization, think of listening for integration.
You may not recall precise statements or quotes from sermons over the years, but you probably have integrated the knowledge to where it is part of who you are and what you believe.
Integration is more important than memorization.
Integration refers to the process of taking smaller parts and combining them to a composite whole. In this case, integration involves taking all of the spiritual content you’ve heard over the years, and allowing that to form you as a whole person, a person who looks more like Jesus!
Churches are intentionally repetitive when it comes to the content that is covered on Sundays. Themes like God’s grace, forgiving others, trusting God (and so on!) are all so important for our spiritual lives that they bear repeating. The repetition is not necessarily so that you memorize what is said, but so that you integrate it. And think about how valuable repetition is in other areas of our lives. It is like exercising at the gym. You do more than one repetition to gain strength. And as your muscle memory increases, so do your ability to do more repetitions! Repetitions are key to growth; they produce something lasting.
We must make sure the Gospel, and all of its components, are part of our annual sermon calendar. That is how the Gospel will become integral to who we are. Use the following tips to prioritize internalizing and integrating the beneficial content from weekly sermons.
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of each week’s sermons.
1) Take notes during the sermon.
Whether it be with pen and paper or on a digital device, studies are conclusive that notetakers retain more! Every week we (at Newbreak) build out an outline that has fill-ins for you to track along with. However, do not feel constrained by those. Take notes one whatever is said and whatever sticks out. And do not worry about taking notes verbatim. Actually, one of the best things you can do is take notes utilizing your own verbiage.
By writing notes using your own choice words and vernacular, you will more likely recall what you wrote—because it sounds like you!
The other tip for notetaking is not something many adults consider. Ready? Doodle! Yes, you read that correctly. Those who doodle to complement their notes actually are more likely to retain information. Drawing small pictures or doing simple word art will really help your creative side of your brain harmonize with the intellectual. One of Newbreak’s own, Ashley Bruce, has some great examples of this, like this one on her Instagram.
There are plenty of websites and free resources (like this one) which provide tips on how to take effective notes. The point is simply this: whatever method you choose to use for taking notes—take notes!
2) Revisit your notes during one of your devotional times.
We suppose there is a presumption here that you schedule devotional time (which we highly encourage). We have written a few blogs on this topic. Consider reading (or re-reading) our blog on spiritual delights; meditating on Scripture; or the reason for it all in the first place.
During a devotional time, you can revisit your sermon notes as a means to recall what was encouraging and what can be meditated on further.
Revisiting sermon notes is a way to get God’s truth cemented into your mind.
If something was inspiring or thought-provoking enough to write down, it is probably worth re-reading.
3) Start a conversational tradition after church each week.
Let’s say you are a married couple with two kids. Each week is a perfect opportunity to start a conversation regarding what everyone gleaned from their church experience. Simple questions like go a long way in getting everyone thinking and sharing insights with one another.
Try these questions:
- What did you learn at church today?
- How did God speak through today’s message?
- What was encouraging to you?
- How do you feel inspired or challenged moving forward?
- How did the message shape your identity in Christ?
- What truth about God’s character are you taking with you?
The point is to have the worship experience go with you as your family shares what inspired them from the Sunday gathering.
This is also a fun opportunity to hear how one-another processes and encourage them where they are. As for the setting, you can have this conversation in the car ride home, at lunch, at a park, basically anywhere. And of course, you can do this with a group of friends or your Life Group, too.
4) Commit a verse or two from the sermon to memory.
At the end of the day, no words of our own will ever trump God’s Word. For this reason, we believe memorizing passages of Scripture has immense practical value! Consider what David wrote:
I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. (Psalm 40:8, NLT)
David treasured God’s Word as life-giving instruction to guide Him and ground Him through every season.
Let’s have a similar passion!
Maybe this is something that excites you. If so, then it can become a weekly routine! If this is a new practice for you, try it once a month. Instead of choosing a passage to commit to memory every week, choose one passage once a month spurred on by the sermon series we are in. Write it on a notecard and read over it a few times in the morning and evening. You will be surprised how quickly you can memorize a passage by doing something as simple as that!
5) Write out a weekly challenge.
Our teaching team works hard to give at least one practical thing you can do from every sermon. You can either take our challenge or write your own, but the point is to do something with the sermon content! Your weekly challenge can respond to this question: “How does God call me to live in light of this biblical truth?” A weekly challenge is a way of putting feet to the message; it is being a “doer” and not just a “hearer.”
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22, NIV)
This follows our formula for spiritual growth: Information + Application = Transformation.
You need to be informed before you can apply anything. And information is useless if not applied. Transformation, then, is the process of hearing and doing. You are “wise” in Jesus’s eyes if you put your learning into motion (Matthew 7:24).
We hope these five ideas stoke your excitement to get the most out of the Sunday sermon each week!
We want to hear from you. Which of these have you tried? Which are new ideas that you will try? Anything you would add to this list? Comment below with your thoughts!