Friday, March 11, 2011

Using a blog to organize sermon illustrations

Back in seminary I inherited my childhood pastor's illustration file. This involved several file cabinets of illustrations, upwards of 4,000 illustrations of all types collected over decades of ministry. My pastor was a man of immense organization. The illustrations were filed away simply in the order they were collected, each labeled with a number. Then, in a small box, were hundreds of index cards each with a heading: marriage, sacrificial love, missions, etc. On these cards were written numbers that corresponded to various illustrations. This system had several advantages to simply filing the illustrations themselves according to subject. Most illustrations can be used for more than one topic. Unless one wants to make multiple copies of an illustration, you risk missing a good illustration because it's in one file and not another. With Dr. Land's system, that problem is solved. You simply write that illustrations number on all the subject cards it fits.

In many ways, Dr. Land's system anticipates what happens when I file my illustrations on a blog. I simply type the illustration once, then tag (or label) it with all of the subject headings I think fit that particular illustration. Then I can search the entire system by simply searching that tag word. The advantages of the blog, are that I don't have to retype things if I find them in electronic form. I can simply type a brief summary that will jog my memory and then link to the original article.

I've been keeping my illustration file this way for about five years. I keep this particular blog private because most things on there are copyrighted. With it being for my eyes only I avoid any trouble on that front. When I use an illustration I simply write in a comment noting the date and setting in which I used it. That way, a few years from now (or even months the way my memory is going!) I don't have to go by my memory alone to determine if I've used that illustration before.

This works for me. What works for you?

- The Short Preacher

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