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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Comments 35

  • It’s a interesting piece. I was recently at a service the young minister spoke for approximately 30 minutes. He taught out of 1 Peter 1:23 being again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
    He really handled the word of God well. Afterwards we talked. He recently graduated with a master’s in divinity. He said it took him ten hours to prepare. I mention this because preparation is an important factor for a “sermon” of any length. Maybe it should be part of the conversation.
    Along those lines it might be mentioned also sermons have many settings. So the question could be asked does the sermon serve the setting, or does the setting serve the sermon? The sermon being defined in simplest terms, a presentation of Bible truth.

  • 25 min tops – Terry Wiles Michael Ellis Carter Jr.

  • 40 minutes on weekends. 1-2 hours in teaching sessions

  • 40 wow? Have never had much luck with 400+ congregation on a Sunday. 45min per session when e have all day seminars is OK

    • People are hungry for the word of God. They are turned off by hype. Sermon must have substance. Most large churches have sermons of that length. At least the ones I am aware of. Unless of course they are in the ‘bible belt’ where everyone has already decided and are waiting to get out to fill the restaurants or go to the football game. That just my observation.

  • I think it depends on the culture and structure of the church. In most settings 24-30 minutes is long enough

  • Just get me out at noon. My blood sugar drops & anything you say after that is “noise.” If you gotta preach longer, cut the 45 minute song service to 20 minutes. Just remember, in today’s culture, you are competing with better music and better sermons on XM radio. The only reason we need “church” anymore is the fellowship of believers. ……………. Besides, sermons were started back when the population was basically illiterate. We can now read the text ourselves & can expound on what we read better than most of the expository sermons I’ve heard. Tell me something I DON’T know if you want me to listen.

  • Jan Dixon Sykes Same with Trump Dont jog and eats cheese burgers Michael Ellis Carter Jr. I very much like to HOW exactly do you clock yourself @ 24min. Have you ever gone 24 and a half?

  • Eat a large breakfast and give the man of God his time to deliver the word from God.Which is usually 45minutes to an hour.It is a shame to put God on a timetable.

  • I knew a man who did his sermons in 20 minutes… He say if you didn’t get in in 20 you never would if he went for 45 minutes.

  • ha – seems you know me IRL then 🙂 or heard me

  • There are many like you…I went to Billy Graham’s at the Rosebowl one year…he preached for 15 minutes and gave an altar call and thousand came to Christ.
    My old pastor preaches 1 and 1/2 hours and nobody responds to the altar call.

  • Not as many as we need right now. Teaching is one thing. I understand that but preaching. If you cant say it in 25min you just cant say Get over with it

    I was there in 1994 in Indianapolis when Benny Hinn preached for roughly 12min and world heavy weight champion Evander Holyfield got saved. This was about the same time Mike Tyson had bit his year off so the Lord healed and restored that too

    Also, if you cant preach it without power point presentation you just cant preach it Get over it #noughsaid

  • I knew a Foursquare preacher who gave everybody a outline and id look at it and knew what he was going to say…I would get bored with him minor points and want him to hurry up. So I prefer to open my Bible and take notes…When I am listening to a preacher.

  • In the church I attend it’s one hour and sometimes even more. But we are a small congregation, with the majority of the age 50 and more.

  • 25min tops then closing and the good stuff

  • If it is a human sermon between 15 to 30 and a max of 45 if the congregation is still focused…
    But if it is God Himself, there is no short or long sermon…Nobody would want to live even if it is three days……
    “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
    Mark 8:2 //
    This is Jesus.
    If He was on earth today would you give Him 25 minutes to preach Troy?…
    Most sermons today come from the head not the heart and that is a big problem…
    A 15 minutes sermon is enough..let people go back to their homes because to listen to other things..

  • I saw Billy Graham preach at the Rosebowl a while back… 15 minutes and gave an altar call…thousands came to the altar.
    I heard one sermon one Sunday morning
    …one hour and a half-hour (1 &1/2) and nobody got saved!!! If you can’t say it in 30 minutes, you would say it in an hour!!!

  • On average, our pastor’s sermon is anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes. But we are a teaching Church. Hard to cover anything in the 15 to 20 minute time frame that seminaries and mainstream churches push.

  • Alot of us can watch 90 minute movie, but can’t tolerate a 90 minute sermon lol

  • 15-20 is short indeed but 45 is way out of reach for anyone to follow especially in large congregation. I stay in the 25-30min range given we still have pretty long altar services afterwords

    • Not really. We have gen Z members all the way to 90 year olds who consistently, faithfully attend our services which always have a 45-55 minute sermon. If anything should be shorten in American Church services, it’s the time of announcements, special songs and anything not Worship or teaching time.

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