Why Write an Outline?
Often when I’m teaching the Bible I will provide some sort of outline. This practice began when I was in college doing Bible studies, and a friend suggested that a written outline be given because people were having difficulties retaining what I was saying. And ever since then, that philosophy kind of stuck.
Further than this, I think we do see the power of the written word in Scripture itself. Though Paul spoke many things in his ministry, we only retain and remember what he committed to writing through the Holy Spirit (which is now Scripture). Of course, our writing will not be Scripture, but it does show us a principle that the written word has value to preserve teaching even long after the teacher or spoken teaching pass on.
So, I’d definitely recommend writing an outline or something of the sort if you want extra reinforcement of your teaching.
How to Write an Outline
Now, to explain how to write a teaching outline is honestly more difficult for me. I think it just comes naturally/supernaturally, so it’s difficult to teach. I also think there is clearly no right/wrong way on doing this. Rather, whatever works best for you will be the best.
With that said, here are some principles that work best for me in writing my outlines:
- pray for revelation and the Lord’s wisdom and care BEFORE starting to type
- keep in mind this goal: the outline can stand on its own as a skeleton even when people don’t hear or forget your teaching
- use Google Docs (or similar thing) that can easily be accessed from other devices, so you can refine it during your day as God reveals more to you
- start by writing down anything that seems relevant to the teaching to come (at this point, it only has to make sense to you)…this is your brain dump
- start giving shape to these thoughts by writing down main points / headings
- then place subheadings and supporting points under these
- add Scripture references that support your main headings (refer to the “brain dump” mentioned above)
- if you have only 0-1 Scripture references for a heading, lose that as your main heading and get one that is more Scripturally supported
- if you have a lot of references (which is good) you probably want to disperse these passages in the subpoints/subheadings rather than dump a ton of Scripture in the main heading
- write out the entirety of any Scriptures or quotes that you wouldn’t want them to miss (these are the things that if they don’t remember anything else they NEED to know these) – there shouldn’t be more than 3 of these
- try to keep it to 1 page (if some content needs to be longer, consider writing an article and attaching it to the 1-page outline)
Again, these are just some general principles I might think about (while occasionally breaking all of them myself :). So please see principle #1 and abide by that first and foremost: “pray for revelation and the Lord’s wisdom and care BEFORE starting to type”