In the past I have written a little about my message prep in general and using mind mapping specifically (here and here). I don’t use it all the time or even normally but when I do use it, it is priceless. Sometimes I use it exclusively to craft my final message and other times it is useful to show me what is not working. In both cases it is a time saver.
Here is a case in point from earlier this year:
Back earlier in the year I taught a message series entitled Transitioning Well. I was in the fourth week of the series and wanted to talk about Joseph coming into the promised land.
Though I knew my message was in Joshua 2, I did not know exactly what it was. I read Joshua 2 and Numbers 12 multiple times trying to figure exactly what the key facts were. I opened a mind map entitled Joshua 2 to connect all the highlights I found.
I tried to group it into main themes and sub themes. Here is my first mind map (click for larger view).
At this point the only goal is to get all the info out of my brain and onto one page. The great thing about mind maps is that you can rearrange them over and over to find how they relate to one another simply by dragging them.
I had a collection of thoughts from the two chapters but that is not a message. I now needed to try to sluice through all these facts and try to organize them into a coherent story.
I wound up developing three points based on Joshua 2 with several sub points, a handful of floating points and a fairly lengthy intro based on numbers 12 and Joshua 1.
Yikes! Things are going in the wrong direction.
Time to Get Focused!
I then worked hard to solidify the points and organize all the information in a coherent talk. There were four points, two major floating points with several sub points and a few unattached points. Some of the points had sub points two and three layers deep.
This was clearly way to much information and there was no way I could deliver it in any timely manner. A larger problem was that I still did not have any peace that this was the message I was supposed to give. This lack of conviction was the reason there was a lack of clarity in the message. The more I tried to organize the info the less clear it was.
Time to Regroup!
This happens to me all the time. I find myself at the end of a trail that does not lead to a message. It just has lots of information. I never force a message out of this. I can throw it all away at any time without any regret of lost time. I look at all the work that I have done as research. I open a fresh word document, or in this case a new mind map and start over from scratch.
I refocus my prep by answering the question, “What is the main point of this scripture I am teaching?” I start with that then work backwards from there.
In this case, the main point was not a history lesson, it was that God wanted to give victory on the grounds of an old defeat. That is what He did for the children of Israel and it is what He wanted to do for the people of Revival Life Church.
I opened a fresh mind map entitled Joshua 2b and started over. I don’t remember where it came from but God lead me to Isaiah 35:3-4 which perfectly encapsulated what He was speaking to our house.
God was not telling me to teach Joshua 2. Joshua 2 was a case study of how to win new battles on old battlegrounds. This was part of a word He spoke to us the previous Spring.
Based on this I pivoted and began a message entitled, “Winning new battles on old battlegrounds.”
Since I had done so much research I quickly banged out my points as seen here.
Those aren’t even the points I wound up using but the mind map did its job. It helped me to catalog and organize my thoughts. After all that process I knew the message and wound up with these points:
- Listen to God
- Surround yourself with faith
Get people around you who will believe your vision
- Not everyone’s opinion has the same value
- Focus on the Victory
You can download the entire outline here. You will see it looks vastly different than my original mind map.
After the message I re-titled it, “Two Good Men” based on the actions of Joshua and Caleb. You can listen to it here and watch the video here.
I hope this helps you use these tools to craft your writing. Remember, even if you throw out all your work it is not lost.
Let me know if you have any questions.