Sermons: How Long is Too Long?

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Sermons: How Long is Too Long?

Just how long should your average Sunday morning sermon be? There is no real ‘right’ answer to this question because it largely depends on you and the congregation you serve.

I say this because I have heard well-prepared pastors speak over an hour and have left me wanting more. Then again, I have heard pastors speak as few as 10-15 minutes and it seemed like the longest sermon ever.

On-Line Survey Reports

You may find the results of this online survey which reported how long pastors typically preach, of interest, especially in determining where you rate compared to the average.

  • 49% preached 20-25 minutes
  • 44% preached 30-45 minutes
  • 7% preached greater than 45 minutes

Facts About Human Behavior & Response

I thought it would be helpful is sharing some research about human behavior and response in order to assist us in getting a grip on what is reasonable considering the times we live in.

No one knows people like the media giants, especially in terms of what it takes to get people to buy. They study human behavior and responses to a variety of sensory inputs such as sound, sight, color, etc.  Did you know that 40 years ago commercials use to be as long as 90 seconds and now the average commercial is only 15 seconds long? That’s more than an 80% reduction!

Can you guess why?

If you guessed budget you are partly correct, but the main reason they cut the length of commercials is because of the shorten attention span of the public viewers. 

Attention span is the amount of time that a person can concentrate on a task before becoming distracted.

It seems people would glance at the commercial and move on whether it was for a bathroom break, to get a snack or to change the channel.  The media moguls had to make the necessary adjustments based on people’s behavior, and had to come to terms with the approaches which ONCE worked were NO longer working.

As a result, they created more attention grabbing clips, used clever and more innovative ways to attract views to their products all in less time. This forced them to focus on what was important.

Shrinking Attention Span – Growing Epidemic

If the world has determined that the attention span of its viewers is shrinking overall and has made certain adjustments, doesn’t it make sense that the CHURCH would have to do NO less?ADD-Squirrel

We are living in a mobile media technological age where the Internet, smart phones, tablets and computers are all competing for our attention.

Gone are the days where we can even expect people to give us two hours of their undivided attention as we preach long auditory sermons from our pulpits.

I read an article that stated that we are processing information at 400 times the rate of our ancestors. Everything is quick and instant. We text messages in short hand and tweet in 140 characters or less.  It is no wonder that more and more people young as well as old are being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

A Different Generation

We are in front of a different generation of people – people who are consumed with social media which, by the way, is ONLY 8 years old.

Don’t let them get bored or believe me they will be Facebooking, texting, tweeting, etc. in your church services or worse yet, you will simply start seeing your attendance decline where they have stopped coming altogether.

That being said, let’s be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I challenge you to be like the media giants to a degree.  Find creative ways to respond to human behavior.

Here are some suggestions

  1. Always prepare and plan your sermons
  2. Aim for a goal of 20-25 minute sermons
  3. Consider some visual aids (props or video clips) to accompany your sermons
  4. Consider implementing a 2 minute skit before or into your sermon
  5. A good rule of thumb is for a 2 hour service, 25% dedicated to ‘audible’ sermon (30 minutes tops)

How long are your sermons? Do you know many pastors who regularly preach greater than 45 minutes and keep their congregation’s attention?  If so, are they using any of the above suggestions?

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3 thoughts on “Sermons: How Long is Too Long?

  1. If the sermon is inspired by the Holy Spirit, one minute will seem like and hour.
    And one hour will seem like a minute. It is like courting, the time goes by to fast.
    If it seem to be to long, it is tolerated much better when it is RELEVANT.