How Long Should a Sermon Be?
Twitter survey asks pastors how long they preach.

Thom Rainer undertook an unscientific survey via Twitter to discover how long pastors preach. Admittedly, how long a pastor perceives his sermon to be and its actual length may be different. But as Rainer notes, "I do believe most pastors watch the clock rather carefully."

Here's what pastors reported:

Less than 15 minutes - 1%

15 to 20 minutes - 1%

21 to 25 minutes - 5%

26 to 30 minutes - 18%

31 to 35 minutes - 23%

36 to 40 minutes - 18%

41 to 45 minutes - 26%

46 to 50 minutes - 1%

51 to 55 minutes - 4%

56 to 60 minutes - 1%

More than 60 minutes - 1%

The findings fit into a class bell-curve with only 6% preaching less than 25 minutes, and only 6% preaching longer than 50 minutes. Most (85%) preach between 26 and 45 minutes.

Without historical data it's difficult to say whether sermons are getting longer or shorter on average. The more interesting part of Rainer's report may be the gap in perceptions between pastors and laity. He says the some pastors would prefer to preach longer but feel constrained by schedules. Among church member, however, none reported that their pastor's sermons were too short.

The takeaway? Plenty of folks may complain if a sermon is too long, but it's unlikely anyone will grumble about a sermon being too short. If you wish your sermons could be longer, you're probably the only one.

June 25, 2013

Displaying 1–10 of 20 comments

Josh Swartz

October 25, 2013  3:51pm

I think we should focus less on what time sermons on and more on the content of those sermons. If we are exegeting the passages correctly and communicating the purpose to the congregation correctly then the time should not matter. We need to take as much time as we need to do the passage justice and not worry about hitting the perfect time so that people do not get bored.

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July 17, 2013  7:35pm

As an organist who has listened to 1000s of sermons from over 100 preachers, shorter is always better. trust me!

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July 02, 2013  9:17am

I NEVER understand why people complain! If the "Holy Spirit" is leading your Pastor–-how can you squelch Him? It must be just a ritual instead of a relationship and wanting to grow as a Christian for those who complain!

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June 28, 2013  4:43pm

Brad: I think Paul's all nighter in Troas was a very special occasion - that is he was only staying a short time. I'm not sure you can use that text to validate long sermons. Also - in Luke 9 - Jesus preached and healed and I think ministering healing to a group that size would take a very long time. I know the Oral Roberts tent meetings would go on for a very long time because he would pray for people to be healed. Damp - I think that's a very valid point. But I think I learned how to feed myself a long time ago - it's not I need someone to spoon feed me these days. When I hear people say "I'm not getting fed there" - I just marvel that they would ever say such a thing. It's like sitting at a buffet and waiting for someone to bring you food.

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June 28, 2013  4:20pm

While it is true that few of us can recall very many of the thousands of sermons we have heard, it is also very unlikely that we remember the majority of meals we have eaten over our lifetimes. And yet, we are alive today because of the nutrition received from those forgotten meals.

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June 28, 2013  3:14pm

Amos, My quotation of Eph. 4 stands on its own - "He Gave" & I'm not going to defend it further. I didn't write Ephesians, but after much struggling I embraced God's word through Paul. Your questions are valid concerning the "individuals" that claim to occupy that office. You will get no argument from me that the "Professional" preacher of today has drifted far from the mark at times. I agree, there are many "Heirlings" and false prophets out there, I just disagree that they all are. Peter said In 1 Peter 4:11 "Do you have the "gift" of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you." (NLT) This is not directed to "Pastor's" alone, but to teaching elders, deacons (remember Stephen), and others. Jesus said "I will build my Church…" and it is He that choses the building materials, not me. I am not trying to be disagreeable here. You make some valid points that contribute to the discussion. However, when it comes to choosing between God's word or man's experience – I choose to believe God's Word. Blessings!

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A. Amos Love

June 28, 2013  1:33pm

Brad I have lots of Questions - And Doubts - When You write... "Eph 4:11 teaches that Pastors & Teachers are God's Gift to the church... Are you saying? - ALL "pastors" are "God's Gift" to me, His Body? Well - How accurate do they have to be? How many errors are they allowed? Before these pastors are considered a "False Teacher?" 1 - Is a Pentecostal Pastor "God's Gift" to me, His Body? Teaching Continuationism? Tongues, healing, casting out demons? 1 - Or, is a Fundamentalist Pastor "God's Gift" to me, His Body? Teaching Cessationaism? The gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing, have ceased? Which pastor is "God's Gift?" - How do we Know? Who is accurate? Which pastor can I believe? 2 - Is a Reformed Pastor "God's Gift" to me His Body? Teaching Calvin? 2 - Or, is the Dutch Reformed Pastor "God's Gift?" Teaching Arminius? Which pastor is "God's Gift?" - How do we Know? Who is accurate? Which pastor can I believe? 3 - Is a Lutheran Pastor "God's Gift" to me? Teaching Infant baptism? 3 - Or, is a Baptist Pastor "God's Gift" to me?" Teaching believer baptism? Which pastor is "God's Gift?" - How do we Know? Who is accurate? Which pastor can I believe? You get the drift - Lot's of pastors - Lot's of different teaching... Lot's of Error - Lot's of confusion.... And lots of denominations - thousands of denominations - Most started by pastors - who you say - "are God's Gift to the church" And - How come? - In the Bible? NOT one of His Disciples called themself "God's Gift?" To the church? NOT one of His Disciples called themself - pastor/leader/reverend? NOPE - NOT so clear to me pastors are a gift from God. Calling yourself - "God's Gift to the church" Doesn't sound very humble - But maybe that's just me... Jer 50:6 "My people" hath been "lost sheep:" **their shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,* 1 Pet 2:25 For ye were as *sheep going astray;* BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. I'm Blest... I've returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul... {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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June 28, 2013  10:40am

Jesus preached all day (Luke 9:12), Paul preached all night (Acts 20:9-11), so to say preaching is not necessary or even useless belies ignorance of the scriptures. The larger question is: WHY DO WE PREACH? Jerry has a point that we must consider, though I don't agree with his logic. The bible clearly teaches in Ephesians 4:11 teaches that Pastors & Teachers are God's Gift to the church, so don't throw the "Gift out with the bathwater." In my opinion, the problem is that few of us honestly ask and answer the question: "Why do we do what we do, and Who do we do it for?" If we are preaching for the "Amen" or to get bodies in seats, then we become nothing more than "Paid Performers." I'm going to say that MOST of us preach because to not do so would be to deny our Lord! Therefore we will preach on the street corner, in the sanctuary, or at the office. We might get paid for it, we may be Bi-Vocational, or we might preach for the pure pleasure of communicating/proclaiming the Life Changing Message of the Ages. All of which are equally honorable, and seen in scriptures. "Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel!" (1Cor. 9:16) We preach to bring men face to face with the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I preach, I do so until I sense the crowd has received or rejected what the Lord led me to say. At that point, my work is done, and His work goes on! For me, that is usually between 35 & 50 minutes.

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June 27, 2013  8:48pm

Glenn, by all means rock away! I agree wholeheartedly. Rick, I suspect that most truly effective evangelistic preaching is usually preceded for the convert by long periods of an agenda-less loving relationship with a believer who models true Christian faith and integrity. Even for purposes of evangelism, I think the importance of preaching is likely overrated. Also, I suspect a lot of "decisions for Christ" that are mostly the product of the manipulation of some "hell-fire" sermon or another kind of persuasive speech don't have a lot of staying power, or if they do, too often lead mostly to external behavior change for the sake of a feeling of belonging to the new group or escaping "hell." This is a long way from the kind of change of heart and life that is experienced by those who are brought, through the work of the Holy Spirit (whether overtly "miraculous" or not), face to face with the living Christ.

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June 27, 2013  6:12pm

When Jesus taught healing meetings would break out OR they would try to stone Him. But there was never NO reaction. Never, "good sermon Jesus, you're a funny guy." Same with Peter...revival, healings, persecution. Same with Paul. In fact Paul wanted people's faith to be based NOT on his brilliant exegesis and parsing of greek verbs but on Holy Spirit miracles. But please, none of this, "What is real success?" or "How to have a bullet proof marriage" or other psuedo therapeutic silliness. Either the gospel is supernatural or it is not. Right?

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