The Wonderful World of Files and Records



Before you begin sermon preparation, decide how to keep track of your sermons and series.

With a business background, I am comfortable using Microsoft Excel for record keeping. Whatever system you use, you will need to make sure that it is easily accessible and logically organized.

First, you need to create a record system for your entire preaching and teaching ministry. For this step, I have a single Excel file with several tabs. My current file includes worksheets for each year’s preaching from 2007 through 2015 (June or July is a good time to begin thinking about next year). The file also contains the following worksheets: tithing verses (I read these before we take up the offering), baptisms, weddings, funerals, Sunday school (what class I substituted for and what I taught), Easter sermons (for quick reference when planning), sermons by invitation, and ordination councils.

My yearly preaching worksheets are divided between Sunday morning and Sunday evening. I include the date, preaching text, and location.

Below is my worksheet for the morning services of the first quarter of 2014.  The spreadsheet also contains a column for Sunday evening. You will notice that on 3/2 and 3/23 I list a guest preacher. For the purpose of this blog I have removed the names, but on those Sundays I was out of the pulpit because of illness and vacation.

Morning Service
Date Text Location
1/5/2014 John 1:1-5 Meridian
1/12/2014 John 1:6-13 Meridian
1/19/2014 John 1:14-18 Meridian
1/26/2014 John 1:19-34 Meridian
2/2/2014 John 1:35-51 Meridian
2/9/2014 John 2:1-12 Meridian
2/16/2014 John 2:13-25 Meridian
2/23/2014 John 2:23 -3:15 Meridian
3/2/2014 Guest Preacher Meridian
3/9/2014 John 3:16-21 Meridian
3/16/2014 John 3:22-36 Meridian
3/23/2014 Guest Preacher Meridian
3/30/2014 John 4:1-30, 39-42 Meridian

By keeping these records, I can see what I have preached every Sunday since 2007. I began pastoring in 2004, but I did not create the this system until later. As you’ll see below, I could recreate those years through the individual sermon file names. But, I would rather not think about those early sermons. Cringe worthy stuff, better forgotten.

Once your overall system is set up, the second step is to name and categorize your individual sermons.

I do all of my sermon preparation in Microsoft Word, so these instructions will be PC, rather than Mac, friendly.  Whatever operating system  you use, the principles remain the same.

First I created a folder titled “Sermons.” Within that folder, I have subfolders for each book of the Bible. In those subfolders, I’ve created further subfolders for individual sermons and sermon series.

Within the individual sermon folder, I create two files. The first I call “sermon prep.” This document contains my structural analysis, study notes, and sermon application form. The second file contains my pulpit notes. I name this file according to date, location, and time of day.

This past Sunday I preached from James 1:12-15. To retrieve the sermon notes I would go to my “Sermons” folder, to the “James” subfolder, to the “James SEP 2014” subfolder, to the “James 1:12-15” subfolder, to the file “Sermon Notes 6-29-2014 MBC Morning.”

This system may seem overly detailed, but it allows me to find files quickly. While I make it a practice not to re-preach sermons at my church (If I revisit a text, I work from scratch), I will reuse sermons when invited to preach for another group.

These suggestions are simply that—suggestions. Whatever system you use, make sure that you use it. You will save time later by organizing now.

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