I have been studying the Bible for more than 25 years. In that time, I have gone back & forth on how I take my Bible notes. There have been years where I have gone all in with handwritten Bible notes in a physical notebook. Then, there have been times when my love for computers and all things digital kicked in, and all my notes went digital. These days, my personal system involves more of a hybrid method.
With that in mind, I want us to take a look at the benefits of both Bible note taking systems. First, we will explore benefits of handwriting your notes. Next time, we will look at the benefits of typing your notes in a digital platform. Then, we will look at whether there is a right or wrong method for taking your notes. But, first up is handwritten Bible notes, so let’s dive in!
The Benefits of Handwritten Bible Notes
When I first started taking Bible notes, it was in a physical notebook. I wrote them by hand, and found immense benefit to this practice. These days, when I take sermon notes, I write them, I’m just writing them with my Apple Pencil and iPad. There are lots of benefit to writing your Bible notes. Let’s explore five of my favorite reasons.
1. Writing Increases Your Focus
When you handwrite notes, you are selective in what you write. You can only write so fast and you only have a finite amount of space. This means, you cannot write any and every thought that comes to mind. Instead, your brain has to focus on what is being read or heard, and choose only the most important parts.
Let’s take the example of listening to a sermon. When your eyes and ears are the only parts of your body engaged in the activity it’s easy for your mind to wander. The act of taking notes keeps your mind actively engaged throughout the entirety of the sermon. Not only are you listening to the sermon, but your mind processes the information in a tangible way that allows you to write it down. This helps with both focus and retention.
In addition, handwritten Bible notes provides a distraction free environment. With a digital platform, there are endless distractions, such as email, social media, text messages, YouTube, and so on. Handwriting allows you to unplug and focus on the task at hand.
2. Handwritten Bible Notes Improve Comprehension
In much the same way, handwriting your Bible notes improves comprehension. Think about it; because writing with pen & paper is physically slower than typing, you cannot write things verbatim. Instead, you are forced to process the information and write it succinctly in your own words. This process means you have wrestled with the data at some level and interpreted it before putting pen to paper.
Consider your typed notes. How much of what you typed do you remember, especially when taking notes for a class or sermon? Probably very little. Your brain has less to process because the speed at which you can type allows for word-for-word notes, versus ones you had to put in your own.
Over time, the more time you spend thinking through your notes before writing them, improves your ability to understand a given subject, and in turn remember it.
3. Writing Improves Your Memory
Improved comprehension naturally leads to improved memory. Handwritten notes are held in your brain longer, which means you have more of an opportunity for that information to move from short term to long term memory in your brain. Plus, the more you use your memory, the better it gets. Our brains are amazing machines and they aren’t like computers that have memory limits. We can remember lots of stuff.
Handwriting your Bible notes gives you a better chance to internalize God’s Word, which is never a bad thing. It’s one of the reasons why we recommend writing out Bible verses as a method for memorizing Scripture.
4. Handwriting Improves Organization
As you are starting to see, the key benefit of handwriting your notes is that it slows you down. The process of moving slowly while studying has many benefits. Yet another benefit is that it improves your organizational abilities, which is an important skill to have.
Writing your Bible notes by hand encourages you to slow down and plan. Why? Because you do not want to waste your effort as you write, so you are more meticulous with figuring out the what and where of the process. What do you want to say? Where will it go in your notes?
Eventually, as you spend more time thinking about your subject of study and its main ideas, you can begin to categorize the information and relate it to sub-ideas or related passages, all of which comes from improved comprehension and memory.
5. It Forces You to be Concise
There is only so much room on a page or in a notebook. With a digital medium, there is practically no limit to what can be captured. Thus, having finite room brings in the benefit that it forces you to be concise.
Why is conciseness important? Simple. It ties all in all of the above benefits for handwriting your notes. When you are focused you are more attentive to the material at hand. When you are more attentive, you can better comprehend the subject. This, in turn, improves your ability to remember the subject and recall related subjects. Finally, it allows you to organize your thoughts into appropriate categories. Together, this time spent thinking before writing allows you to be concise with your words because you can more easily summarize.
You might think you would have more to say when writing your notes because of the extra time spent; but, it’s the opposite that’s true. You have the ability to filter the data & the fluff, and get to the main idea, which is what ends up getting carried over to your notes.
Handwritten Bible Notes is a Winning Combination
When you look at the benefits of handwritten Bible notes, there isn’t much downside. Sure, you’re limited on space and it takes longer; but, the overall benefits are much greater than the downside. Who doesn’t want to have better memory and comprehension? Not to mention, your physical handwritten Bible notes can be read by your family long after you are gone, becoming a family heirloom.
If you haven’t given handwritten Bible notes a try, I encourage you to give it a go. At the very least, start with a HEAR journal and see how that improves your Bible study. You’ll be surprised with how much you come to love the process!