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A Habit Of Note taking

Over the next few weeks, we are going to post some interviews with avid note-takers in our congregation. They will share why they started taking notes during the message, what the benefits are, and provide some of their tips on how they take notes and what they do with them.

As both pastor Phil and I shared over the past two Sundays, we want to help all of us engage and participate on Sunday mornings. One way we do this is through sharing times, when people in the congregation share how they have heard from God or how He has acted in their life. But we now want to encourage a more active listening and engaging during the message portion of our worship service. That may look like note taking, or maybe it’s an encouragement to sit with a Bible in your lap and follow along through the message. Whatever the method, we want to encourage each of us to participate more and engage more actively. We have designed the message notes handouts and folders as a tool to help us.


We recognize that note taking may not be for everyone. We all learn in different ways and some of us are natural active listeners without the aid of taking notes. But maybe you struggle to pay attention during the message and your mind wanders to all kinds of things other than what is being said by the speaker. Or maybe you don’t read your Bible often because you don’t know what to read or how to stay engaged with what you do read. Note taking can help with issues such as these, and they are a part of my own journey of note taking during the message.

I am going to start off our interviews with my own story.

Why do you take notes during the message? Why did you start and what are the benefits?

I shared this past Sunday that note taking has helped me in a number of ways. I came into a relationship with Christ in my late 20’s. I had not attended a church since my family had stopped attending the Catholic church when I was 12 and my parents divorced. My new faith gave me a passion to understand more about God and to understand the Bible and what it all meant for my life. But I sat through my first adult person of faith church service and struggled to focus. That church I first attended would put an insert in the bulletin each week that would have the main points of the pastor’s message with a blank in each sentence. You would then have to listen to the message if you wanted to fill in the blanks. That became a way for me to focus and pay attention, and over time I would jot down other things the pastor said that interested me or that I wanted to know more about. I was only at that church for six months when I took a job offer and moved to Toledo. I then had to develop my own habits of note taking.

Over the years note taking from the Sunday messages have benefited me in a number of ways. As I followed the pastor or speaker it helped me learn where the books of the Bible are located. Note taking helped me retain what I heard. Writing things down helps me remember them. Note taking also helped stir up a desire to know more about God and to understand the Bible. What started out for me as a way to pay attention and focus during the message led to so much more.

How do you pay attention to the message and take notes at the same time? Any special tips?

Listening and taking notes does require some practice, but over time you learn the ways that work best for you. Probably the biggest tip I can give is that note taking is not writing a transcript. Don’t write what the pastor/speaker says verbatim, word-for-word. Just jot down and summarize the key points. Jot down Scripture passages that are referred to. Jot down things that stand out to you. If there are quotes, write down the name of the person quoted and a few words of the quote; you can always Google it later. The more you do this the easier it will be to take notes during the message. I have found this to also be beneficial in other settings, such as meetings. I write down ideas or questions when someone is speaking, to remind myself to ask it later rather than feeling the urge to interrupt.

Do you do anything with your notes after Sunday? If so, how has this benefited you?

Early in my years as a Christ follower I began a habit of using my notes from Sunday’s passage as a way to study the Bible throughout the week. I would re-read whatever the main passage was and use my notes to guide me through it, writing down my observations in a journal. I would then explore other passages that were referenced in the message as well as following the references in the margins of my Bible. This practice would help me gain a deeper understanding of what had been taught as well as a deeper understanding of the Bible, and it gave me a desire to study deeper. It also gave me direction when I wasn't sure what to read and study on the Bible. Through studying and journaling about what I studied I would then pray about and learn how to apply the Word to my life. In later years I have also used my notes and further study as ways to inspire creativity and would fill pages in my art journal.

There are two verses in the Bible that have fueled my habit of taking notes and using them for deeper study. They are not the only passages that speak to this, but are two that have impacted my practice.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11

A former grace teaching pastor, Tim Loyola, was my pastor as well before he joined the staff at Grace. He used to tell us often not to believe things because he said it in a sermon, but to dig into the Word and find out for ourselves if what he said is Truth.

The other verse is: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

In order to do what the Word says, we must understand it. This requires reading, studying, and praying.

So, be Bereans and examine the Scriptures, and be doers of the Word.

Next week we will hear from another avid note taker in our congregation.


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