Sermonary from Ministry Pass recently finished its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and now everyone can get it. Justin Trapp, the creator of Sermonary, offers this online sermon preparation tool to help simplify the process of preparing and preaching sermons using an online tool instead of Microsoft Word or some other installed writing tool.
Few preachers need all the tools available in complex word processors like Microsoft Word or even the simpler Apple Pages or Google Docs. What if we had a tool created with writing sermons and Bible studies in mind? That’s what you get with Sermonary.
Sermonary User Interface
To get started, sign up for the free 30-day trial and head into the Dashboard. The Dashboard shows your Sermonary tools ready to help preachers create sermons. Along the left users will find six links (see image below). The top three help sermon creation and organizing while the bottom three shows resources that will help with sermon preparation.
The first link will display sermon projects currently in progress as well as past sermons that have already been written. Click the blue Write New button to start working on a new sermon.
There is a Resources section with free and paid content including sermon series and more available for use. Anyone who buys a sermon series from the store, found in the Resources link on the left, will see these sermons in this section. I added the “WE ARE THE CHURCH” sermon series available for free while I was writing this review. It includes three sermons that I can use to create my own three-part series focusing on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Hebrews 10:19-25, and Romans 10:14-15.
Each sermon in this series shows the title, scripture reference, and a synopsis on the dashboard screen. Click the three-dot menu button to the right of the title to see a menu. You won’t see this button till you hover over it with your mouse on a computer or tap next to the title on a tablet (see below). The menu should show up all the time otherwise new users will struggle to find it.
The menu includes links to edit the sermon, put Sermonary into podium mode with that sermon showing, and a delete link to remove the sermon. You can use the edit link or click the sermon title to start working on that sermon.
An open Sermon shows the title across the top with a Settings icon, a blue button that saves the sermon, or a button to add a new block.
Blocks are the parts of a sermon. Add a block that includes your Bible Verse, a sermon Point, Illustration, Application, Quote, or a Custom block. Each block holds that content in order in the center column of the Sermon Editor.
When the user chooses Enter Manually, a WYSIWYG editor pops up with paragraph and character formatting options. It’s the same box that shows up when you add other kinds of blocks to your sermon. It’s a simple and clean way to write, offering outline tools, quotation formatting, hyperlinks, and tools like a button to clear formatting, undo and redo editing, and even a button to enter a full-screen distraction-free writing environment.
In addition to the button to add a block, there’s also a small plus icon below each block in a sermon. Click it to bring up the Add Block menu that flies in from the right.
Each sermon has a screen that shows up when the user clicks the Settings icon right of the title. It lets the user switch to the standard editor, add tags for searching for sermons later, and button to view in Podium Mode. You can also create a template from the sermon you created. More on Podium Modes and Sermon templates below.
The Standard Editor shows the blocks at the top of all sermons. These include the passage, the Big Idea of the message, and the Sermon Series that it fits with. Next, you’ll see the WYSIWYG editor that we mentioned above. The Standard Editor doesn’t include blocks for each section of the sermon. Instead, you get one editor with limited formatting. It’s like typing in a simple version of Google Docs or using Windows Notepad.
Go back to the Block Editor from the Settings box. Access it from the Settings icon next to the sermon title at the top of the page.
I’d suggest adding tags for your sermon’s passage or passages preached, main topics or “big ideas” if you’re a fan of Haddon Robinson’s model of expository preaching, and maybe other keywords, like tags for major sermon illustrations, places where you preach that sermon, and even dates preached. This gives you a great way to organize sermons for finding them quickly later on.
Sermonary offers a special mode called Podium Mode, that takes all of your blocks and shows them in an attractive and clean interface. Between each block, you get a thick line that separates the blocks. Each section of the sermon (sermon points) you see a larger bold text with a large orange number.
At the top of the page, you’ll see the current time in the center in large font. It’s handy to have it there so you can quickly change from the “Show current time” mode to a “Countdown time limit” mode. Enter the minutes you hope to preach so you can see how much time you have left before the listeners start looking out the windows instead of listening to you.
The Podium Mode Settings dialog box also lets you change the font size and export the sermon as a PDF or print the sermon.
Consider using the Podium Mode on a tablet to preach the sermon. Increase the font to make it easier to read. Enter full-screen mode on your browser so you see only the text of the sermon in Sermonary.
Sermonary offers some interesting sermon templates and lets users create their own to simplify the sermon writing process. The pre-built templates include:
- Traditional 3-Point Sermon Template.
- The ME-WE-GOD-YOU-ME Method made popular by Andy Stanley from his book Communicating for a Change.
- Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary where the preacher organizes the sermon in a running commentary format.
- The Defender’s Outline which takes an apologetic approach to preaching.
- The Children’s Leader using a simple approach best used when teaching children.
- The Youth Pastor using a creative and applicable approach best used for teaching youth.
I created a new template by making a sermon using the Bock Editor and then put all the elements that I often use in my sermons. It’s based on a combination of Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching approach which uses a “Big Idea” to come up with one main message idea. It also uses Wayne McDill’s method from The 12 Essential Sills for Great Expository Preaching which is called a Motivated Sequence outline. After I created the outlines, I clicked on the Settings icon next to the sermon title and chose Save Template. From now on, it shows up in the Templates section of Sermonary.
Sermonary Resources Available to Help Sermon Prep
Along the left, you’ll find the Resources link. Click it to see the available resources users can buy. Sermonary offers the following for purchase:
- Sermon Series – usually $49 each with three or four weeks on average that include the outlines, media and some content for each sermon
- Sermon Illustrations – usually free with ideas to explain, illustrate or apply the messages with rich content including visual media
- Research – mostly book summaries in PDF form for $5/book of the Bible and function like the introduction of a commentary or an entry in a Bible handbook or $10/book for a Bible Book Commentary
The available content is limited at this early point in the development of Sermonary. They say “More Coming Soon!” and we hope that we get better quality content in the future. I’d love to see Sermonary partner with one of the great online Bible study sites filled with great Bible study tools.
Each sermon contains the outline, some development of the points, illustrations, and graphics to help share the message visually. You’ll get a PDF file and a Word document along with the graphics.
I wish the store listings had a short description on the main page. You have to click the image to find out what the series is about. This makes it harder to discover great content.
The Bible Book Summaries and the Bible Book Commentaries are PDF files, which some will like since they can download and save these for use outside of Sermonary. However, I’d prefer to option to view it as a website online.
The PDF books get their content from Thomas Constables Notes on the Bible, a public domain book that you can find online for free. They are formatted nicely and worth the price if you prefer Constable’s Notes this way.
Search the resources to find things like an appropriate sermon illustration for your passage or topic. I searched for joy and found an illustration entitled An Act of Worship covering an article from The Gospel Coalition. It included a nice colorful photo that related to the content of the illustration. Click on the Add to Library button to add it to your library for free.
Sermonary’s sermon illustration database is still limited, but the entries I read look like fresh content. We don’t get the typical stories from the Revolutionary War or missionaries in the 1800s like you do in a lot of stale illustration databases. I’d love to see a link to do a Google search for topics. Also, searching in the Resources page returns both sermons and illustrations. I wish they’d let me search for just illustrations.
Review and Recommendation
After the free month trial, Sermonary costs $9/month plus the cost of the Resources like sermons and study tools. When more resources are added, this will be an even better value.
If you don’t like Google Docs and want a tool for Sermon preparation and preaching, then you will get a lot of use out of Sermonary. Everyone should sign up for the free trial so you can give it a test run.
Here’s a list of what Sermonary got right:
- Simple and easy to use
- Useful method of modular editing approach with Blocks we can move around during editing process
- Podium Mode helps preachers who like to use their tablets instead of printed notes
- Export to PDF is useful for those who don’t want to have their sermons trapped online only
- Sermons available include great graphics and interesting content
- Illustrations include fresh content
- Useful sermon templates
- Great alternative to MS Word for tablet or Chromebook users
Sermonary could improve in the following ways:
- Provide an alternate payment method than the subscription model.
- Offer additional sermon illustrations and content.
- Offer additional Bible study tools within the program.
- Fix a few minor bugs still present.
Something to note is, Sermonary is still in beta and the company recently opened it to the public less than 45 days ago. Sermonary is still an infant in development terms.
Says Justin Trapp of Sermonary, “We are adding new sermon illustrations every week. In fact, we just pushed three updates this week alone, so we are actively progressing the platform.”
Overall, Sermonary is a somewhat of a revolutionary tool for creating sermons. Writers have Scrivener, executives have Evernote, and now pastors have Sermonary.