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Using Scrivener to Write Sermons

Preachers use different tools to write their sermons, from Microsoft Word, a simple text editor, word processors built into Bible software or something like Scrivener. Wes Allen, one of the Theotek Podcast contributors and American Baptist Church pastor, uses Scrivener to prepare his sermons. We talked about his workflow and why he uses the program in a recent Theotek Podcast that we recorded live on our Theotek Podcast Facebook page.

Scrivener is a word processor. That’s the simple way to describe it, but there’s more to it than that. Some people think of the program as a tool for writing books or long form documents, like a doctoral dissertation. Wes uses it that way, but also uses it for shorter form documents, like his weekly sermons. That’s because the built-in organization and writing tools work better for him that what most preachers probably use – Microsoft Word.

Please watch the video above from our YouTube Channel. In it Wes talks about…

  • The way to format text using styles
  • Setting up templates for outline forms
  • Using the dual pane view to see the text of the sermon next to the other documents
  • Organizing the files and folders
  • Exporting for use in preaching and writing books from a sermon series

… and more!

Scrivener Organization for Sermon Prep

scrivener sermon organization

He uses one Scrivener file per year. He then creates folders inside Scrivener for each sermon series or season. This lets him organize things easily within Scrivener. Under each series or season, he creates folders for each sermon. Then in those folders he places three documents (see image above).

  1. Translation of the primary text – he creates his own translation of the Greek or Hebrew text.
  2. Big Idea – the main idea of his message explained in a single document.
  3. Sermon Text – this document where he writes the sermon itself.

My Scrivener Organization

I really like this way of organizing each sermon. However, I don’t do a full translation of my sermon. So I might organize things in Scrivener similarly, but in a slightly different way that better fits how prepare my sermons.

First, I will organize my sermons around sermon series instead of year. That’s because I sometimes preach through a book of the Bible and this might take more than one year or I might start it in September, take a break for the holidays, and then go back to it in January. Organizing that series by year would break it into two files. So, instead, I’d create a Scrivener file for First, Second and Third John, the last sermon series I recently finished just before the Easter season in February.

Next, in each sermon folder I plan to create one Scrivener document for study notes called Text Notes. I create these notes in my Bible software while I’m studying the text. Then, I’ll copy and paste the text of the Bible passage and the notes into the Text Notes document in Scrivener.

scrivener templates

I usually use one of a few sermon outlines and I will create templates in Scrivener (see the video to see what I mean by templates) for each of these formats.

  • Motivated sequence
  • One-point inductive
  • Negative options indicative outline

Motivated Sequence Outline

A Motivated Sequence outline comes from the book 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill, my seminary professor who taught at Southeastern Seminary. Here’s the outline for this kind of sermon:

  • Attention Getter – a way to grab the audience’s attention with an anecdote, controversial statement or quote, joke or video.
  • Need Element – some call this the Fallen Condition Focus; it’s a way of showing the way the passage deals with our problems, which draw people into listening to your sermon and show the answer from the passage.
  • Solution – the body of the message will offer the solution to the need mentioned above with as many outline points as needed to cover the ideas in the passage.
    • Explanation – explain how text solves the problem.
    • Illustration – illustrates the meaning of the text’s main ideas and illustrate how to put the ideas into action.
    • Proof – shows that the ideas are true since people don’t just assume that the Bible is true like we believers do.
    • Application – clear and concrete ways to apply the ideas presented.
  • Visualization – show what the solution looks like with an illustration, story or video that helps people see how to apply the message.
  • Appeal – tangible way or ways that the audience can respond to the message with specific and concrete steps.

Inductive Sermon Outlines

The other two outlines I use are inductive outlines. They both offer a single main idea. The one-point inductive approach will follow the outline below:

  • Grab attention.
  • Share a need that the passage solves.
    • explain that need
    • illustrate how that need affects the hearers
  • Explain how the how the passage deals with the need.
    • sharing details first
    • then offer the main idea
  • Illustrate how that passage solves that need.
  • Prove the idea
  • Apply the passage’s solution in that Big Idea with an appeal to the audience to do something with the idea.

The last outline follows a negative solutions offered by people and then turns to the way the passage shows that God solves this problem. It is also inductive and a single main idea presented after exploring some ways the humans try to solve the fallen condition focus. These come from the passage just as the main idea.

Kevin

Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.

One Comment

  1. Hi, is it possible to email me your scrivener template? I love how you have organized your prep work.

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