Sermon Survival 2: Mining for Stories

In finding stories for messages, I’ve never found success using canned story resources (illustration books, sermon websites) so instead, I “go retail” when mining for stories – I find them one  at a time.

Here’s where I find them:

— My own life.  I don’t think odd/fun/powerful things happen to me any more than someone else, but I think as a preacher, I’m more apt to notice them.  This can get pretty crazy at times, for example, two weeks ago I found out I had missed a court date on a driving ticket (driving with a broken headlight, in case you’re wondering.)  I called two days after realizing I had missed the date.  Missed court = bench warrant.  Woah!  As I’m driving to the court house, under the speed limit with hands in the “10 and 2 position,” I’m not going to lie, there was a part of me hoping to get arrested so I could preach about it.

— by far my favorite resource for stories outside my own life is podcasts.  My current favorites:  This American Life, The Moth, Naked Scientist, Stuff You Should Know, NPR’s Fresh Air. I subscribe to 40+ podcasts, but these 5 consistently provide great stories for me.

— podcasts have turned my commute time into sermon research or devotional time.  Any drive that lasts longer than 3 minutes and I’m listening to a podcast.  For the record:  kids in the car=no podcast.  family trumps research.

Here’s how I capture stories:

— I used to have a few tools to capture stories, now I’ve fallen deep for evernote.  Its free, easy to use, captures in various formats (voice, photo, text etc) and best of all it syncs across all your devices.

— sometimes I hear a story and I tell it into the evernote voice recorder in my own words, which gives me a way to already shape it for a sermon

sometimes I look like a crazy man in my car, one hand on the steering wheel, the other reaching down to record a podcast clip direct from my car speakers.

— Evernote can recognize text in photos, so I can capture a page of a book and evernote will transcribe it for me.  Yep, pretty amazing.

— I keep everything categorized in evernote, so each sermon series has its own file folder to capture ideas and stories.


how about you?  care to share resources or techniques that keep you ahead of the weekly deadline grind?

3 Replies to “Sermon Survival 2: Mining for Stories”

  1. Hey Steve…
    Came across you via a comment you left on Mark Batterson’s blog…so I thought I’d check your blog out. Good stuff.

    Good thoughts here. I am just getting into Evernote so your ideas were very helpful!



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