I am on a never-ending quest to find the perfect Bible study note-taking tool. I’ve tried many tools and apps, but the program that has offered the best features for the best price is Notion. It’s an incredible app, flexible enough to be used in just about any situation. And it just may be the best app for taking notes on the scriptures.
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you why I think Notion is the perfect tool for collecting Bible study notes. I’m also going to walk you step-by-step through my Notion Bible study workflow. Stick with me, because at the end of this post, you’ll have a chance to receive for free a full Notion template based on my own workflow.
But before we get into the practice of taking Bible notes with Notion, let’s talk about the theory. What should we look for in a Bible study note-taking tool?
The Ideal Bible Notes Note-taking Tool
In my search for the perfect Bible note-taking tool, I was looking for a few things. In order for a smooth workflow, it was important to me that the tool had a simple and quick capture method. I wanted to be able to take a quick note anytime and anywhere. Second, it also had to have a simple and quick retrieval method. I wanted to be able to find any note without a whole lot of effort. These two features together are equally important for developing a good workflow for taking notes on scripture.
The first feature I look for when trying out a new note-taking tool is the ability to capture notes quickly from any time and anywhere. Whether I’m in my office at home or somewhere on the go, I want to be able to take a quick note anytime inspiration hits. It needs to be simple enough that I can take the note as fast as possible. But it needs to be structured enough that I can easily find the note later.
One feature that can come in handy here is templates. It’s so easy to be able to push a button and have a whole structure built for me already. Then I just punch in the appropriate information and be done.
At this stage in note-taking, I don’t want to get too bogged down in details, such as filing the note in an appropriate place, adding appropriate tags to the note, etc. I don’t want to have to think too hard. Because if I have to think too hard, it’s probably not very likely that I’ll actually use the system.
So, to sum up, the perfect Bible note-taking tool…
- Is simple enough to create a new note quickly
- Offers the ability to create and use templates
- Does a lot of the heavy lifting on its own, allowing the user to focus more on writing and less on filing
The ability to quickly capture a note is important for a note-taking tool. In fact, this is where many people stop. But there is another feature that is just as important as actually taking the note, if not more important: functional note retrieval.
At its most basic function, I should be able to find a particular note that I’m looking for. Since I won’t always remember the title of the note, the tool has to have a powerful search function. But I also want to be able to find a note when I’m not specifically looking for it.
For example, if I’m working in Romans, I want to be able to see other notes I’ve taken over the book of Romans. I want to see any sermon notes I’ve taken over the years. I want to see notes from other books I’ve read.
If I’m taking a note about the Holy Spirit or about salvation or about social justice, I want to be able to find other notes I’ve taken on that subject.
In other words, it’s important to me that note retrieval can easily be contextual. I want to be reminded of notes that I take when it would be beneficial for me to read those notes, and not only when I’m looking for those notes. I want the tool to be able to make connections for me between notes that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to make myself.
With all that in mind, let’s talk about how Notion is the perfect app that meets and exceeds these feature requirements.
The Concept of Notion as a Second Brain
Notion markets itself as the be-all-end all of the productivity apps. It’s the one tool you need to keep all your tasks, to-dos, notes, and more. In other words, it tries to be your second brain. And for the most part, I think it succeeds. It’s still a relatively new app, and it has a long way to go. But I have yet to find an app that rivals Notion in terms of its functionality.
When it comes to taking notes on the Bible, Notion is a fantastic option. It has incredible capture capabilities and it allows several opportunities for quick and contextual retrieval, depending on how you want to go about it. It’s a flexible tool that can work pretty much however you want it to.
In this post, I’ll show you how I use it. I’ll even give you my Notion template. But at the end of the day, the best thing is for you to use this as inspiration for your own workflow.
So, how does Notion work as a note-taking and note retrieval app? Let’s take a quick look.
Notion’s Quick Capture
The basic component of Notion is the block. A notion block can be anything from a paragraph, to a link, to a bullet list, to a to-do list item, to a cell on a table, to an event on a calendar, to a phone number, to an image, to an email address, to a card on a kanban board, to so much more. If you can imagine it, there’s a good chance you can turn it into a block.
Now, these blocks work together to produce pretty much any kind of note-taking or productivity system you can think of. You can create pages, just like any note-taking tool. You can nest pages inside each other to create a hierarchy of pages. But the true power of Notion lies in the databases.
A database is like a table of information, but it’s so much more than that. It’s essentially a group of items with like attributes that can be displayed as a table, a kanban board, a calendar, a list, or a group of index-card-like objects. You can manipulate the data through functions, mathematical formulae, checkboxes, and more.
The great thing about databases is that you don’t really have to think about where things go. They all live in the same database. If you have a tagging system for your notes, you don’t really need to think about what tag you should apply to a note, since you can simply click and select from a list of all your tags.
You can have as many databases as you want, so you can keep every area of your life separate if you need to. However, since you can create custom views and filters for your databases, you can also just dump everything into one database and build separate pages and separate views for each area of your life.
When taking this to Bible Study, this means we can have one giant database that holds all of our Bible-related notes, whether they be from our daily devotions, our sermon notes, our random thoughts while taking a jog, or anything else. We can dump all of these into one database without having to think too hard about where to file these notes. Then we simply apply some attributes to the note, such as “Type: Sermon Note,” or “Theme: Grace,” or “Book of the Bible: 1 John.” Or any other attribute you can think of. Then, when the time comes, you can retrieve those notes based on the attributes given. But we’ll get to that in the next section.
The next incredible feature of Notion is the creation of templates. We can make templates for anything. If you can make a block for it, you can make a template for it. This means, if we’re going to be dumping all of our notes into one database, we can build a variety of templates that we can create with just one push of a button.
So, for instance, let’s say I wanted to take some notes on a sermon. I could create a new note with a pre-built template called “New Sermon Note.” This template would automatically apply the “Sermon Note” attribute. I would then give the note any other applicable attributes, such as the theme of the sermon or the book the pastor was preaching from.
I can then use the template to fill in a few areas within the note. For instance, I can have three headings called “Sermon Outline,” “Main Point or Call to Action,” and “Personal Reflection.”
Or maybe I wanted to take notes during my personal devotion time. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, there are certain questions I like to reflect upon every time I have my quiet time. I can place these questions within the body of the template so that they’re always there without me having to start from scratch or copy and paste from another note.
Since this app is cross-platform, you can use it anywhere and anytime. For me, I have an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook, and a Windows PC for work. It’s hard for me to find a good app that I can really use everywhere. But Notion is one of those apps! I can use it whenever I have a new thought to write down, which makes it perfect for quickly capturing new notes.
The possibilities here really are endless. As you can see, this tool is highly adaptable to however you prefer to take notes.
Notion’s Contextual Retrieval.
Here is where the true beauty of Notion lies. As I mentioned before, if you set your notes up in a database, you can then come back and create custom views of that database.
So, for example, let’s say my default view is a table containing all of my notes and showing their various properties. But I could also make a calendar view that shows me all my notes based on the date I created the note.
But we can go further than this. Let’s say I only wanted to see a calendar of my notes labeled “Daily Devotion.” Or maybe I wanted to see a list of my prayers on a kanban board, grouped by “status.” As I prayed for a topic, I could move it to “Currently Praying.” Then, when I feel led, I could drag it to a “Seeking Answer/Response” column, and eventually an “Answer Received” column. You get the idea. Again, the possibilities here are endless.
The important thing about this retrieval process is that it’s contextual. Sure, if I was looking for that one note I took about Jacob’s ladder, I could just do a simple search for “Jacob’s Ladder.”
But what if I forgot that I’d taken that note? Well, the next time I studied either Genesis or John, I could look back at all my notes take on Genesis and John. And since I tagged my “Jacob’s Ladder” note as related to both Genesis and John, that note would appear with all my other Genesis and John-related notes. I would be able to make a connection with that note and with whatever I was currently studying. A connection that, perhaps, I wouldn’t have made without this contextual grouping of notes.
And this, I believe, is the power of Notion, and why it’s the ideal tool for taking notes on the Bible.
How I Use Notion for Taking Notes On Scripture
So, we’ve talked a bit about why Notion is the best tool out there for taking notes on scripture. Now I want to walk you step-by-step through my own Bible study note workflow using the Notion app.
First, I have a simple home page that I’ve placed in my shortcuts. This way, I can quickly find my Bible notes and add a new one at any time. On my home page, I have a calendar view at the top of the page, which shows me all my Bible notes based on their date of creation. From here, I can click “Add Note” at the top to quickly create a new note.
Underneath the calendar view, I have a card group with two views: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then I have one card for each book of the Bible. If I click one of these cards, it opens up the page to that book fo the Bible, which contains a list of every note I’ve taken about that book. From here, I can create a new note specifically about that book. Or I can just spend some time reading my past notes.
Also on my home page, I have some links to other pages that I might want to access during my scripture note-taking, such as my prayer list and some commonly-visited website.
It looks pretty simple on the surface, but it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds. I’ll go ahead and explain exactly how I set this up. But if you just want to try it out for yourself, you can sign up for my newsletter. The first email you’ll get will contain a link to the Notion database I personally use. From there, you can just click “Copy As Template” at the top of the page.
Alright, if you’re still with me, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.
The Master Tables
I have two main databases to make this workflow work. And flow. One table is called “Books of the Bible.” I have attributes set up like “Testament” and “Section.” So, for instance, I have Genesis labeled as “Old Testament” and “Pentateuch.” Isaiah is labeled as “Old Testament, Latter Prophets, Major Prophets.”
I suppose you could add other attributes if you wanted. You could add a “status” property, with items like “Currently Reading,” “Waiting,” “Unread,” and “Read.” Anything else you find helpful. But for me, I never use this table. I only have this table set up so that when I’m taking notes, I can refer to this table to apply a book of the Bible to the note.
I use this table for reference more than anything. For instance, I can come here to see all the notes I’ve taken about that book of the Bible. But, as I already mentioned, I have a view set up on my home page for this.
The second table I have is a list of all my Bible notes. I have a “date created” property, a “Book of the Bible” property (which is a relation to my Books of the Bible table), a “Theme” multi-select property, a “Type” property, and a “Notes” text property. I also have a place to upload appropriate files or paste any appropriate links. I’ll go over each property here.
I have this property set up to automatically record the date that any particular note was created. I have it set up this way so I don’t really have to think about it. It just saves me time in the long run. I rarely take notes that apply to a different day than the day I created the note.
However, if you often find yourself transcribing notes that you take by hand, whether it’s sermon notes or just notes throughout the week, you may need to change this from “Date Created” to just “Date.” Then you can manually add the date here.
I use the “Date” property to create a calendar view of all my notes, so I can easily see which notes I created on which days.
Book of the Bible
This property is a relation to my Books of the Bible table. So as I apply one or more books of the Bible to a note that I’m working on, it will automatically be pulled into that table and grouped with all other notes about that book.
I toyed around with creating a “Chapter” attribute as well. This way I could create pages for every chapter of the Bible and filter the notes to include that book and that chapter number. But I don’t have that much time! That may be a project to work on in the future.
This attribute just makes sense to me. My Bible notes have always been topical. I have my own personal color code that I use for highlighting and taking notes in my Bible. So, naturally, when I took my note-taking workflow to Notion, I needed a “Theme” or “Topic” property.
My themes include “Ministry and Leadership,” “Kingdom of God,” “Holy Spirit,” “Social Justice,” and more. Obviously, this would have to be completely tailored to your own Bible study methods. This may not even be a priority for you. However, I’d encourage you to come up with some kind of topical property. This is just going to give you more ways to tie notes together and take advantage of Notion’s powerful contextual retrieval.
I have several types of notes that I often create from day today. My most common note is “Daily Devotion.” I’ll create one of these notes for every time I sit down in the morning for my ritual quiet time. I have a template set up for this, so I can go through the same reflection questions every morning. Other types of notes I have to include sermon notes, book notes, translation notes, historical notes, random reflections, etc.
I have this set up as a multi-select property. So if I’m sitting in a sermon and the pastor goes over some historical information, I can tag the note as both a “sermon note” and a “historical note.”
Again, you’ll have to create your own “types” that make sense for you and the way you take notes.
Is it a bit much that I have notes for my notes? I don’t always fill out this property, but there are times that I want to include more information about the context of this note. For instance, if I had a random reflection while on a morning run, I want to include the details that led me to that reflection. Instead of including these details within the actual notes, I would rather include these in the meta-information.
Files and Links
I don’t often add files or links to my notes, as it clutters up the “quick capture” process. However, there are times that this comes in handy. For sermon notes, for instance, I can attach a picture of one of those fill-in-the-blank handouts. If I read a blog post that led me toward a particular reflection, I can link to that blog post. This additional information isn’t necessary, and I don’t have any custom views based on whether or not there’s an attachment or a link. But it does help add more information when that information is pertinent to the note.
The Different Views
With all my notes and properties set up, this gives me plenty of room for custom views. Besides the two views I have set up on the home page, I have several views accessible from the database page itself. I have a view set up to see all my daily devotion notes on a calendar. I have a view set up to see all my sermon notes in a list. I have other views set up to show me different inter-related themes. For instance, I have one view that shows me all my notes tagged with either the “Holy Spirit,” “Jesus,” or “Father” themes, which allows me to reflect deeper on how my various notes relate to one another.
Again, the possibilities are endless. If you can think of a certain combination of filters and views that could help you better understand what God is showing you in your journey through scripture, you can set that up with Notion.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of my Notion template to use in your own personal walk, here is the link:
Click the “Duplicate” in the top right corner, and you will get a free Notion template on your account.
Keep in mind that this template uses a lot of blocks. So if you’re on the free version, you probably won’t get very far. You may need to upgrade to unlimited blocks for only $5. It’s totally worth it because I do believe Notion is the last tool you’ll ever need to contain all the information you need.
If you want to try it out, you can sign up for an account here. You’ll also get $10 worth of credits by clicking that link, which will pay for your first two months of the full app. That’s plenty of time to try it out and see if Notion is for you!
Do you use Notion for taking notes on the Bible? Or is there another tool that you prefer? What does your workflow look like? I’d love to hear about it all in the comments below.