les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Why I preach from a Mindmap

The excellent folks at 9 Marks have sparked a little discussion about preaching from manuscripts or from notes.

Jason Dees, writing in the 9Marks Journal on page 34, here, says we must manuscript our sermons because we are not as smart as we think we are.

His good friend, Doctor David Prince, writing here, says that we must NOT manuscript our sermons because we are not as smart as we think we are.

I long since gave up all hope of ever being "smart" in any sense whatsoever, and I note that Doctor David Prince has a doctorate, so perhaps this is a moment where the smart man holds his tongue, caps his pen and twiddles his fingers.

But hey...

I preach from a Mind-map. I've now done it for probably almost 20 years. Firstly I'll tell you how this came about, then I'll tell you what I think the advantages are.

How ever did you think of preaching from Mind-maps?

Well it all came about on a British Telecom Management Training Course way back in the 1980s, when everything tasted better and Britain went to work on an egg. During this training course a jolly afternoon was spent teaching us to draw Mind-maps, a technique popularised by Tony Buzan.

"MindMapGuidlines" by Nicoguaro - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MindMapGuidlines.svg#/media/File:MindMapGuidlines.svg
This Mind-map is taken from Wikipedia.

I immediately liked the way that quite complex information can be expressed on one sheet of paper, and then used as an aid to recall. I also liked the way that you are almost forced to organise your thoughts logically and in a structured way.

When I first served in pastoral ministry my sermon prep took this kind of route:

1) Tuesday - read the passages for the week and, if possible, print them out for carrying with you.

2) Later in the week, look at interlinears, lexicons, commentaries and whatever aids I could. Remember that we did not have fast internet in those days. It was books!

3) Work out my main point and my structure by producing a Mind-map. My main point should be a sentence with the main verb in the imperative - Depend Consciously On God's Holy Spirit, for example.

4) As late as I possibly could, type up my manuscript with the Mind-map propped between my keyboard and the computer screen.

I did this for some years, discarding the Mind-map after it had done its work of clarifying and structuring my thought...

The one day I thought "I type up my preaching manuscript from this Mind-map, and I type as fast as I possibly can, and it takes me three hours to type it. Then when I preach I try not to look at it. How sensible is this?"

The answer that came to my mind was, "Not very sensible at all!" so I decided to try cutting out the three hours of typing and to preach from my Mind-map.

I told close, trusted friends what I planned to do and asked them to tell me if my preaching got noticeably worse, noticeably better, or if there was really no discernible difference.

The replies were that there was a slight improvement, mainly because there was much more eye-contact.

So I stuck with Mind-maps and now I very rarely use a manuscript.

My Mind-maps are hardly worthy of the name. I use very few symbols - just big ticks and crosses for things that are right and wrong. I use colours just to mark out different sections and I hardly ever draw anything. But I do avoid sentences and long phrases. Just one word or short expressions that are easily read at a glance.

What are the advantages?

For me one advantage became obvious pretty early on, when I led some Bible studies in Welsh. I didn't have to bother about typing in Welsh or even trying to produce a Mind-map in Welsh. I could fairly easily speak in Welsh from a Mind-map in English. There's very few words, you see. Hardly any translation is involved.

Another advantage is that my Mind-map is usually on one piece of A4 paper sideways. That means that I can see my sermon at a glance. All of it. No turning the page. No getting things out of order. No dropping your notes and ending up in a terrible mess. Just one sheet. You can fold it in four and put it in your shirt pocket, then whip it out and off you go.

Another advantage is that as you go round clockwise it has a fairly obvious relationship with time. You can see how far you've got and how far you have to go. And this enables you to speed up and slow down. You can skip a whole section if you need to with no fear of losing your place.

The last advantage is that the Mind-map encourages you to use simple oral language. Because you just have a memory jogger and from that ... you speak.

In April I had to speak at the Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference. I had a subject that did not excite me, but that I felt needed to be addressed and addressed seriously.

The Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference is perhaps the most august body I have ever addressed. I know that the local church has a dignity and worth to which no ministers' conference can ever attain, but for me to address all these learned, experienced, serious men was fearsome.

I was helped by the fact that the worst sermon I have ever heard was at a Banner Conference. But this did not completely dispel the overwhelming sense of occasion.  I contemplated writing out a manuscript. I started writing out a manuscript.

Then I decided that a situation of pressure is exactly the moment NOT to change your usual habit, so a Mind-map it was. Here's one from a couple of years ago that breaks my rules!


Stephen Dunning said...

I would be interested in seeing a few more typical examples, either on the blog or in a private email.

Oh, and your Banner address came across very well!

Alan said...

OK, I'll pop some more on.

Alun said...

Hi Alan,
I'm not sure going the whole hog would work for me. But as regards shaping ideas it looks really useful. Do you integrate quotes an references into your map? Or are you really on the ball?

Alan said...

Shw mae Alun!
I think we both know that the only LIVE hog is a whole hog.
Half a hog means the hog is dead.

Quotes - well I do sometimes put quotes in, and if it's long I put a sign (*) and print the quote on a separate sheet of paper, but the method does discourage you from putting in long quotes, and that is a good thing.. Long quotes are usually in written style, and we is meant to be talking.

As for being on the ball nobody who knew me really well would ever ask that.
I am not, and have never really been on the ball.
But who said that a ball was a good place to be on?

Darnell said...

Thanks for sharing this. My mind works great this way but I’ve been looking for examples of someone doing this! Bless you and the part of The Kingdom God’s given you to tend.