How Long a Sermon Should Be?
What is the trend? Are church members and church leaders saying sermons should be longer or shorter? The answer is “yes.”
If my answer is confusing, I understand. But the reality is there are two major trends taking place related to sermon length. I have been following these trends through anecdotal information and social media polls for three years. There are growing numbers of respondents who believe sermons should be longer. There are also growing numbers of respondents who believe sermons should be shorter. And there aren’t many people in the middle of those two divergent views.
By the way, there is a smaller, but consistent, number that feel the pastor should preach “as long or short as God leads” with no constraints at all. That view is the third of the three perspectives.
I am reticent to put my numbers in statistical percentages since my social media polls of the past three years are not scientific. Since numbers, however, can provide greater clarity, I list them here with the caveat that the accuracy is definitely not precise.41%: Sermons should be shorter, in the 20 to 30 minute range. These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans. Any sermon over 30 minutes, they say, does not connect with the typical mind of today, especially in Western culture. We, therefore, must keep the message shorter and pack more information into a relatively brief time period. 37%: Sermons should be longer, in the 35 to 55 minute range. A solid exposition of Scripture, this perspective argues, cannot be done in just a few minutes. The sermon is the central part of the worship service, and the time allocated should be significant. We do a disservice to the Word of God when we move toward shorter sermons. 9%: There should be no time constraints on the pastor’s sermons. The pastor should have a sermon length that is only subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else lacks sensitivity to God’s work and involvement.
Obviously, if you add the numbers, another 13% had a variety of responses that fit none of the categories. By way, some of the responses in my most recent social media poll and in previous polls advocated sermon lengths from 8 minutes to 75 minutes. We church members definitely are not in full agreement on these issues.
One group is advocating longer sermons; the other group embraces the shorter sermon. What do you think of the two trends moving in opposite directions?