Digital sermon prep

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For the last 6 months, every time I’ve spoken publicly, I’ve done so without paper.

In other words, no trees are killed because I preach.

I realize that I’m going against the method that many of you use to prepare, using printed pieces of paper, napkins you jot notes on, and paper outlines you preach from.


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Going digital was a big deal for me. I hate carrying around various papers. I hate writing notes down, only to forget where those notes are written. I hate wondering if I grabbed every note I need before I leave the house to preach. Hate it.

So here are the tools I use in the preparation, and delivery, of my sermon.

Digital sermon prep & delivery


YouVersion – my initial, first-pass reading comes here. I read daily from YouVersion.

Evernote – all of my notes, especially my sustained writing time, happens here. This is also my catch-all for creating a sermon over the course of time. As I’m prepping a sermon, I have two files: a “notes and ideas” file and a “final sermon” file. When I’m having lunch one day and an idea comes, I throw it in my “notes and ideas” file. Or I snap a picture for an illustration. Or I record myself speaking and come back to it later when I have time. Then, the week I’m preaching, I start compiling notes, illustrations, and ideas into my “final sermon” file.

iPhone – Instead of writing notes and ideas down on a random index card I find in my bag, I take them via Evernote on my iPhone. I don’t always have my computer or iPad with me, but I’ve always got my phone. For (as above) written notes, photos, videos, and voice records.

Things – In general, Things is a to-do list application. I keep all of my to-do lists here. For preaching, I have a “future sermon” to-do list (called a “project”) for capturing bigger ideas and checklists of additional resources to consult and additional thoughts to pursue. You can see more about Things HERE.

Google drive – at Grace, we keep our sermon series ideas, along with dates, Scriptures, and bottom line ideas, here (think “online share drive”). It’s shared (with all updates being reflected on everyone’s account) with our entire teaching team, giving all of us access to the remainder of the year’s flow of series and sermons. As I make more progress with a sermon, I’ll fill in more details on our Google drive, and everyone knows a clearer direction for my sermon.

Bible Gateway – I study a lot here, because it’s easy to switch back-and-forth between translations. They have just about every translation you’ve ever heard of. In addition, they have study tools and commentaries that are helpful (and free).

Monergism – This is a great resource of sermons and study resources such as commentaries, Bible resources, theology books, free books, and articles. This site can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. It’s well-done, but there’s a ton of information to slog through. This is never a “first pass” study resource for me. I use this in looking for specific, pointed information.


Pages – I transfer everything over to Pages, which is Apple’s version of Microsoft Word. Since it offers page breaks (and Evernote does not), it feels more natural to preach from than Evernote. This is just a preference thing for me. Combine this with the fact that Pages now syncs over the cloud with my phone, iPad, and computer, and I love this even more.

iPad – This is what I preach from. I’ve found it incredibly easy to preach from, and even making changes up until the time I begin is easy…just click and start typing. Or click and delete. Changes are quick and easy. It’s not nearly as intrusive as bringing a laptop on stage with me, and is much easier to work from than my phone.

The JoyFactory Case – I needed a way to prop my iPad up just a little so that it was easier to read. And I found a case I love, made by The Joy Factory. There are tons of cases that work well…this is just the one I use.

Is there still a place for printed resources? Sure. I’ve got loads of books that are very much worth consulting when I preach. On my shelf are volumes of commentaries, Puritan classics, and books that I’ve been given at conferences.

But when I preach, I have entered the digital age. And I challenge you to join me.


When you preach, or speak, do you use digital notes or printed notes?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jason Vana

    I resisted the move to digital format for a while. I have always been the kind of guy who will add to my notes even minutes before I go up. Much easier to do with paper. But during our trip to Czech in 2011, I drastically changed a youth retreat message and didn’t have access to a printer – so I used my iPad instead. Best. Move. Ever. Now it’s all I use when I preach. I love it.

    • Ben Reed

      Necessity is the mother of invention…or, in your case, the mother of having to do something you’d resisted. :)

  • Jeremy Sarber

    I have recently went fully digital. I love it. I use my MacBook for nearly all sermon prep and I even use it while I preach. I have my iPhone for taking notes and reading when I’m on the go.

    I’m using BibleReader and Evernote for the most part.

    • Ben Reed

      Nie. Way to go, Jeremy!

  • Jeremy

    I have seen multiple instances where digital notes have wreaked havoc on a presentation or sermon. I’ll stick to the physical notes for now.

    • Ben Reed

      Fair enough, Jeremy. I haven’t run into issues yet, but that’s not to say I won’t.

      • MichaelDPerkins

        I had issues one time, but I didn’t really need the notes from where I had prepared. So I just kept going and no one knew the difference.

  • Josh Robinson

    Great post, wish I had an iPad! Any deals anywhere?

    • Ben Reed

      Thanks Josh…if I hear of one, I’ll let you know!

      • Josh Robinson

        Thanks Ben

  • MichaelDPerkins

    Digital the whole way. Has been for nearly 2 years.

    I use evernote to capture a thought or a verse that speaks to me.

    But I do all my sermon building in Google Docs/Drive. I typically write in series’ of 3-4 messages and just label them accordingly.

    But I do however have a file called, “Not preached” that is full of sermons that are ready to use at a moment’s notice.

    Since I compose everything in Docs I email the message as a PDF to myself. And open in my email. That was until Google Drive came up with an app for iPad. Now I use that.

    For online bible reading, I use Youversion because they still have Christ’s words in red.

    • Ben Reed

      Ooooh…the “not preached” file…great idea!

  • ThatGuyKC

    I’m digging the digital tools, bro. Way to be “green for God”. (unintended #JesusJuke)

    Working in the corporate world I’m still trying to go paperless and encourage coworkers to do the same. The iPad and apps like Noteshelf & Evernote have been lifesavers.

    Have you read “Evernote Essentials”? It’s been a great resource to set myself up for success with the tool.

    • Ben Reed

      Wow. Gotta love the Jesus juke. :)

      No, I haven’t read Evernote Essentials. I feel pretty comfortable with Evernote, but I’m sure there are things I’m missing. I’ve been using it for ~2 years. Think it’s still worth picking up to read?

      • ThatGuyKC

        Totally unintentional :)

        I’ve been using Evernote for awhile as well and I thought it was still informative. However, it’s kind of steep and hasn’t been updated for the latest version of Evernote.

  • Mark Twain

    Evernote is informative one. There you get new information altogether. i also got to know about white board paint there only.