I’ve used storyboarding to map out book and novel ideas for several years, but this past year I’ve begun storyboarding sermons. You could use this to prepare a testimony, a presentation, you name it. The entire process I’m going to describe must be done prayerfully, in dependent on the Holy Spirit for insight.

1. MATERIALS. To begin with, you’ll need a blank sheet of paper (I prefer 11″x17″, but you could tape together two 8.5″x11″ sheets, like I did this morning.

In addition to whatever resources you’re  using to prepare (Bible, computer, etc) you’ll also need a pen and four colors of post-it notes. Each color represents a different kind of idea, as you can see in the picture to the right. Try to use colors consistently with each project, so you don’t confuse yourself. Headings are ideas under which several points will be made.

* UPDATE: I now use a sticky note app called  All Stuck Up for storyboarding sermons I’m preparing.

2. BRAINSTORMING. This morning I began my musings in my prayer journal (left in the picture), but as they pile up on a lined sheet, they become hard to organize (my page is full of bolding, arrows, underlining, and brackets—pretty much gibberish). I used to begin my prep typing in a stream of ideas on my laptop, but that proved to be too linear for my thinking to be efficient or productive at this stage.

The next step is to brainstorm your ideas onto the appropriate sticky notes (feel free to skip the journal step if you’d like). Don’t bother organizing at this point, though I find it helpful to group them according to color so I can work with them more easily later on. FYI, you may find it challenging to write down your ideas with so few words on such a small piece of paper. That’s usually a sign that your idea isn’t well-formed, or that it’s actually more than one idea (in which case it might be a blue post-it under which several greens will follow). Don’t worry if you can’t decide which ideas should be points and which should be headings at this point. One or two headings may emerge early, but many are formed later as y0u organize the post-its.

3. ORGANIZING. Now it’s time to organize the post-its. Cluster each of your post-its into groups with similar themes. When you’ve clustered everything, articulate headings and put everything in order. The top left hand corner is where you begin. You should probably stick a blue-post it there labeled “Intro.”

When storyboarding sermons, think in terms of rows, not columns. Let your ideas flow left to right, one row at a time, dropping down a row to begin a new point with a blue post-it, as I’ve done below. Think through how to get from one sticky to the next. Are any additional points necessary? How does it flow? The beauty of storyboarding with post-its is that the process is so tactile. If the flow doesn’t feel right, just re-arrange the post-its until it works for you. You’ll also notice I’ve got a second sheet of paper there. That’s for ideas that don’t fit with the message as it develops but are worth keeping. In my case, these will become part of a “for further study” sheet I include with every sermon I preach. I also end up tossing a bunch of post-its that won’t get used for anything.

4. ANALYZING. When you’re done organizing, step back and take a look at your storyboard. I notice several things about mine (which really is next Sunday’s sermon). First, there are no orange post-its. This means that so far, I’ve not included any media or personal stories for illustrations. What I have to do now is pray about whether the Bible stories I’m using will suffice, or whether I need to come up with a personal illustration to add here and there. This is easy to see when I storyboard, but might be invisible to me if I just typed out a Word document.

The second thing I see is that my scripture references are nicely spaced throughout each heading row. Hmmm. My second last heading doesn’t have any scripture. Why not? Again, I can see the holes in living color. It makes editing easy.

The third thing I see is that I don’t have too much material. Sometimes I fill an entire 11×17″ sheet (too many post-its = too long) but this one has some blank space. Perfect. If there was too much, I might drop a verse, a point, or a story, or even an entire heading to make things fit.

5. TRANSPOSING. Next, it’s time to transfer what I’ve got down into the format I use to preach from (which is whatever works for you). You might be asking, “Why do all this extra work?” My answer is, every message has holes and oversights that become obvious using a storyboard. Have you ever practiced a message and thought, “What’s wrong with this? I can feel it, but I’m not sure.” Storyboarding would probably reveal the answer. Secondly, most teachers and preachers are pretty good at articulating ideas, but have trouble weaving them together into a meaningful flow. Storyboarding helps on that front, too. Someone else might say, “Isn’t this just outlining?” And I would say, “Yes, but it’s outlining in Technicolor.” Try it, you’ll probably like it.

What do you think? Will you try storyboarding sermons? What are your prep ideas?