Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Free Sermon Organization

Many years ago when I entered in to ministry I found a really cool freeware or shareware program called Bible Key by Paul Apple. It was a great program for keeping filing sermons, keeping track of when and where preached, where you got sermon material from, and file away various illustrations. It did lots of other stuff to like help you file it with regard to topic, scripture, was it part of series as well as there were a couple of huge data bases full of other preachers sermons that could be used for your own inspiration, devotion or aid in your own sermon prep. Well, Bro. Apple who still pastors and is still out there is no longer keeping up this program and with each update or new version of windows, the code apparently becomes more antiquated and functions less with Ms Windows. The last time I tried to install it, well it was a no go if you know what I mean. I really like that program and never found another one that I liked (although I am open to suggestions). I looked for a while but nothing manifested that seemed to equal Bible Key or it is was way out of my price range at the time. Actually, even the high dollar ones seemed to do less than the freebie.

Well, for years I just wrote sermon notes or outlines on paper. Or Post-its. Or napkins. In Notebooks. Occasionally I typed on up and saved it, but I did not always have a working computer. Sometimes good ole PC would die and you are still left with nothing. I decided awhile back that if I was going to invest the time God gives me and use the resources He allows me to obtain or borrow for His sermons, then I needed to be a better steward of what He shows me and what He gives me. This was born my lo-fi, low-tech, low-budget sermon management system.

I created a new folder under My Documents and named it My Sermons.

Then I opened up My Sermons and created another new folder and named this one John as that was the book that I was preaching though. Simple but effective

All went fine as I typed up some sermon notes until I went to save the sermon by the sermon text instead of the title (I chose to use the text since the Bible never changes by the approach to a sermon or the title may). My problem stemmed from not being able to use a colon- “:” in that sermon text. Nope, John 3:16 could not be the name. Well instead of throwing out the system that I (under the power of God) devised, I decided to use the semi-colon- “;”. Not as accurate, but John 3;16 will save to the hard drive and so will Genesis 1;1 – Revelation 22;21. Problem solved and crisis adverted. At first I placed each chapter in its own folder. This might cause some people problems down the road as complete thoughts are sometimes cut into by chapter or verse division. So if you started in Roman 1:17 and ended with oh, Romans 2:7 then you might not see that you have addressed part of the text when you go back. This is part of the reason I just save all sermons by text name in the same Book folder and allow the natural sorting by name and number take effect and do the work for me. The other reason is I hated to even to a simple right click and make another folder because then I have to keep clicking into more folders. My Documents>My Sermons>Bible Book is enough for me. I have also used alphabetic letters at the end of a name when I was working a Scripture from two angles to keep from saving one on the other. Kind of like “John 3;16a” or “John 3;16b” or for notes on a text that are not the actually sermon I would do “John3:16 notes” Sub outline for notes and you get an outline and not a manuscript although I don’t ever do a word for word manuscript. Actually what I do in prep is more to work out the text and the thoughts. I have to do this to drag the out of my head so that I can formulate them to make sense for the public.

I also have some sermons in files for special occasion, by series, a few by topic, or ones that were part of a event (like from a Disciple Now weekend), Sunday evening teaching, prayers, sermon ideas, sermons from others. I also will on occasion store a bibliography of books used freo prep in the folder of a Bible book for future reference anf anything else that I think that I might need for the furutre. For me this keeps everything from jumbling all togather and gives me a simple way of keeping everything separate and neatly tucked away for further use or review. Oh, and the best part is that it is on the cheap.

I hope this helps you and believe that just about any operating system and word processer can do this.
If you care I have picked back up preaching in Romans so if you need some sermon fodder let me know an I'll send you what I have. And if you have any suggestion on how to make this better (or criticisim - but beware I am a pretty big guy - haha) let me know. Maybe you found the perfect program that iI need and it does better job

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