General Ministry
Josh Griffin

I’ve blogged before about how I create my entry-level sermons each week for our high school ministry – how I start with literally a blank Word document on Tuesday morning and follow My 6 Steps to Writing a Youth Talk. Then, after the 2,000+ word manuscript is complete and I take the stage, occasionally making notes and adjustments to the talk for the remaining 3 times to deliver it on the weekend. Many of these notes are inspired by ad libs, tweaks from my team or inspiration/ideas in the lull between the 1st and 2nd service.

A few other things you might be interested to note:

  • I call out all media/slides/object lessons in yellow highlight. Timing is critical on these elements, so I try to make it clear for the students and volunteers involved.
  • Sometimes, I make a significant edit to the document, cutting out a whole section, deleting a line, replacing a joke or drawing arrows to fix the pacing.
  • I’ve never once delivered a message without some notes/adjustments on it – seems I’ll tweak to the last minute and then some.
  • I prefer the manuscript form for teaching to this crowd/audience, but use other styles as well.
  • I practice the sermon 2-3 times alone in a room before I give it. Let’s me hear it out loud and make sure it flows well.
  • This is for our entry-level program, a discipleship talk would look very different.
  • This particular week I didn’t have fill-ins, just the verses and some space for them to write down the different attributes of the foundation of sand or rock. I also had them write a couple key thoughts/questions off to the side in their program as well.

So here’s an example of what it looks like after a weekend … this talk was our new year kickoff message about Doubting Thomas (you can read the full weekend in review here).

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One last thought … posting my message notes is a very vulnerable moment for me … play nice please. Thoughts and questions? Would love to hear how you craft a talk, too!


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  • J.C. Thompson says:

    Thanks for doing this. I love to see what others are doing to prepare and put together sermons.

    As a young guy it’s really helpful. Thanks!

  • Bob W says:

    Thanks for the peak behind the curtain! Amen to creating a manuscript, even if you’re going to teach without notes; it forces you to make a decision on how to say transitions, choose words, etc, so you aren’t stumbling over your words as much.

  • Joseph says:

    It’s nice to get an inside look at how someone else does it once in awhile. Thanks, Josh!

  • john says:

    you know, I’ve heard that manuscript preaching is good, but I sure can’t figure out how to do it without either losing my spot all of the time or just looking like I’m reading.
    I usually just make a notesheet with the points, illustrations/stories, and maybe a few other things jotted down. But I know sermons work best when I practice a few times through and mostly memorize it. Otherwise transitions are tough.
    I just never feel “right” writing everything down- is that just a gifting thing, or is it something you train yourself into?

  • Terry says:

    I will write out in manuscript form (7+ pages) and the widdle it down to about a page and a half that will fit in my Bible that I speak out of. I typically have the entire manuscript on stage with me in case I just lose my thought…my shortened version typically includes the lead-in to each paragraphed point, story titles, transitions, etc. No one else on my staff uses a manuscript, so it is a relief to see others that use it. Thanks for letting us see what you do – it is, for me, encouraging.

  • mookie says:

    Hey Josh! Let me just say thank you for being vulnerable and for putting yourself out there! I think it took courage and I appreciate it! I’ve never done the manuscript because of what John said. I’m always afraid I’ll lose my place if I do the manuscript so I do main points and then build storys, media and examples out of that. My scripture is always coded RED, media and stories (video, pics, etc.) are in BLUE, transitions are GREEN and everything else in BLACK.

  • Brett Ayers says:

    Yo Josh! Good stuff. Great to hear that someone else rehearses their messages a few times before they preach it, too. Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Tim says:

    Thanks Josh! That is helpful. Any way to get more info on using the Hero Archetype? I read your post on it from 2008 but don’t quite understand how to use it. Any help would be great.

  • Chris Wesley says:

    Josh, thanks for sharing your notes I know it can be nerve racking to show others what we do. Over the last few years I’ve modeled my format after Andy Stanley’s Book Communicating for Change. It’s a great way of fleshing out a talk, but I think one of the best things we can do is listen to other pastors and youth pastors, try a little of this and that until we develop our own voice…until then what you are doing is great. Thanks again.

  • Ethan says:

    Josh, thanks for sharing this.

    I’m another who writes out a complete manuscript. One thing this guards against is (1) rambling and (2) saying things that are not consistent with Scripture. Sometimes we say things that we are feeling at that moment, but they aren’t always biblically sound.

    If you don’t do well reading from manuscripts, I would highly recommend a public speaking course. I took one in college, because it was mandatory. But I know there are even groups for business people that meet during lunchtime, e.g. Toastmasters.

    Anyway, a manuscript is good, but speaking extemporaneously is also good.

    Another good resource (along with Chris’s) is Speaking to Teenagers.

  • Josh Griffin Josh says:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone, glad you liked the post! JG

  • Gabe says:

    thanks…. as ethan noted above, i am also a manuscript writer. One thing I wanted to ask out of curiosity is how long of a talk is this? how many minutes does one page usually equal

  • 4granted says:

    Wow, I’m impressed with the effort and time you obviously put into crafting a talk. As a mom of jr. high kids, that’s inspiring. If you or other youth leaders are looking for a free curriculum that would provide four weeks of lessons and cool activities, check out the Invasion contest on Jon S. Lewis’s website, chaosnovels.com.

  • Ethan says:

    Good question, Gabe. Mine are usually around six pages and go for 20-25 minutes.

    Nine pages must be about 40 minutes.

  • Josh Griffin Josh Griffin says:

    It depends on the talk, illustrations, videos, etc. This talk clocked in at about 33-35 minutes? Which is a hair long but pretty solid. JG

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