Browsing links from the most recent Pastor's Tool Box (from Rick Warren), I came across this helpful piece from Dave Stone. It struck me because it is almost exactly what I do in my own notes. The only difference is that my color coding system is different (orange for main points, yellow for sub-points and key thoughts, blue for Scripture, pink for illustrations, and green for application).
Can a highlighter make you a better preacher?
by Dave Stone
Oral communicators love to find the winning technique that can enhance their delivery. The president has his teleprompter. The news anchor has a live feed in her ear so she can sound as sharp as she looks.What is your technique as you stand in the pulpit each week? You know that part of striving for excellence is polishing the way you speak. The longer you teach and preach, the more you seek methods that can give your lessons an edge or a boost.
I've worked out a color-coding system by highlighting my manuscripts with magic markers. For example, I mark outline headings in green, key words in orange, Scripture in blue, humor in pink, serious illustrations in purple. Usually I circle each paragraph with the designated color.
The choice of colors isn't important as long as you consistently use the same ones to designate the same things. And you'll love the benefits of using this simple method. Color highlighting will help you:
Improve eye contact. I select key words throughout the manuscript to help guide me as I tell the story. I highlight them in orange. This allows me to glance at my notes for shorter periods of time, which enhances my eye contact with the congregation and increases the impact of what I'm sharing.
Find your next point quickly. If you're accustomed to reading your outline or manuscript a couple of times before you deliver your sermon, then the colors will help you even more. Your eyes won't need to frantically scour the page in search of your next phrase. You will know where to look.
Be more persuasive. Think of it this way: Why don't you like to change Bibles every five years? That answer is simple: You've learned where certain verses are on certain pages, so your eye naturally looks there. In the same way, you can learn to associate colors with their placement on the page and what they represent. The less attention your notes require, the more persuasive you can be.
Present a balanced message. At times, highlighting has helped me to see whether or not my material is balanced. Too much pink and very little blue informs me that I've skimped on Scripture; I have an entertaining speech instead of a sermon. (The colors can also help in editing. If I have two stories that illustrate the same point, and they are in the same color, it may cause me to consider dropping the weaker of the two.)
Why not give this method a try with your next message? Any change from the norm will be confusing at first, but it's well worth the effort and has the potential for a huge payoff in your delivery.
This article was adapted from 60 Simple Secrets Every Pastor Should Know by Dave Stone and Rick Russaw (Group, 2002).