“The internet is changing our brains!”
“Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish!”
“Screen time harms children’s development!”
Do these scary headlines sound familiar? We’re guessing they do. As the internet becomes increasingly more prevalent, many people have raised questions about how online media shapes our thoughts and behaviors. Don’t worry, we’re not about to delve into a deep discussion about the pros and cons of technology. However, the rise of online media creates two important points with implications for preaching:
- People are consuming information differently than ever before. Instead of reading books, for example, most people are more likely to read a social media post. And, if something isn’t to their taste, they will keep scrolling or stop paying attention.
- Distractions are more readily available than at any other time in history. This means our sermons are competing with everything from ESPN to text message notifications. But technology also creates amazing opportunities, because it means that with a click of a button, the gospel can be in more people’s hands than ever.
In the secular world, many organizations have responded to these trends by cutting the length of their videos and text. For example, if you look at the most popular TED talks of all time, the average length is 13 minutes. TED is designed to appeal to those hoping to squeeze a little extra information and inspiration into their day. But is that the model we should be following?
As pastors, we have an obligation to make sure we’re preaching the gospel as clearly and compellingly as we can. At the same time, we also want to be careful not to cheapen it because we’re trying to squeeze 30 minutes’ worth of content into 15 minutes. So, how do we help people to stop, slow down, and spend time in God’s Word?
To start answering these questions, let’s look at the average sermon lengths of some of today’s most well-known pastors.
Average Sermon Lengths of 16 Well-Known Pastors
Do audiences reach a point where the sermon is too long? If you’ve been preaching for any length of time, you’ve probably heard that the answer is “yes!” from the people you pastor- but people’s attention spans may not be as short as you’ve been led to believe. As one of our founders, Justin Trapp, discovered in 2017, many of the most well-known pastors preach for well over 30 or 40 minutes, with some averaging over an hour every Sunday.
Here are updated statistics for 16 of today’s most well-known pastors:
National Community Church
Location: Washington, D.C.
Average sermon length: 36 minutes
Zoe Church Europe
Location: 3 locations across Europe: Sofia, Bulgaria, Warsaw, Poland, and Thessalonika, Greece.
Average sermon length: 44 minutes
The Village Church
Location: Flower Mound, Texas.
Average sermon length: 40 minutes
Hope City Church
Location: Houston, Texas.
Average sermon length: 42 minutes
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina.
Average sermon length: 50 minutes
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Average Sermon Length: 52 minutes
Location: Edmond, Oklahoma
Average sermon length: 37 minutes
The Potter’s House
Location: Dallas, Texas.
Average sermon length: 1 hour, 17 minutes
Fresh Life Church
Location: Kalispell, Montana.
Average Sermon Length: 46 minutes
Location: Menlo Park, California.
Average Sermon Length: 33 minutes
New Season Church
Location: Sacramento, California.
Average Sermon Length: 48 minutes
Location: Seattle, Washington
Average Sermon Length: 45 minutes
North Point Community Church
Location: Atlanta, Georgia.
Average sermon length: 33 minutes
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Average sermon length: 1 hour, 3 minutes
Location: Lake Forest, California.
Average sermon length: 52 minutes
Rich and DawnChere Wilkerson
Location: Miami, Florida
Average sermon length: 45 minutes
Why Longer Sermons Lengths Work
What about these pastors makes them able to command their audiences for that length of time? Well, let’s start by settling one point: you don’t have to be a celebrity pastor to preach a greater-than-30-minute sermon that people actually want to hear. When it comes to their preaching, these men and women understand some crucial principles:
- First, they understand that people will listen as long as you’re saying something meaningful. As John MacArthur said, “If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people.”
- Second, they invite people to engage with them and each other. They ask questions, tell relatable stories, and even solicit responses from their audience (cue Steven Furtick’s famous, “C’mon somebody!”)
- Third, they keep the focus on their main points. They choose stories, illustrations, and supporting passages that reinforce the idea they’re trying to convey. They keep things interesting, yes, but not at the expense of clarity.
Putting These Principles to Work
So, how do you accomplish this? It starts with a solid plan and the right tools to help you carry it out:
- Meaningful messages start with your foundation: the Word of God and the message He’s given you to preach. Then, you need a clear plan for how to communicate that message.Yes, by “plan” we mean you need an outline. If you’re not sure how to frame your sermon, the built-in outlines in our sermon platform will help you choose the format that best fits your chosen passage.
- Engaging sermons don’t happen by accident. You have to think creatively about how you’ll bring your congregation along.With Sermonary’s drag-and-drop interface, it’s easy to make questions stand out from the rest of your outline so that you remember to ask them. It’s also simple to add a block if you want to write out a story before you tell it during church.
- Know that you don’t have to do everything yourself. We’re here to help!,/p>You probably don’t have a treasure-house of sermon illustrations for every topic that comes up- few people do. If you’re struggling to define a term, research historical facts, or create the right picture with your words, you can always turn to Sermonary. We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating and writing memorable illustrations. Simply open the “resources” tab and navigate to the “sermon illustrations” section to find something that will help drive your point home & give your congregation a better understanding of Biblical principles.
- Finally, consistency in delivery is key: have a time limit in mind and stick to it.Although the average sermon lengths varied quite among the group of pastors we studied, most of them were fairly consistent with themselves. For example, in the sample we studied, Levi Lusko had only one (out of ten) sermon that went over 50 minutes long. Everything other message was between 41 and 49 minutes. That kind of predictability doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s something your congregation will appreciate.Once you’ve decided on your desired length and planned your service around it, you need to make sure you’re staying within the time allotted for your sermon. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to keep yourself in check. The timer in Sermonary’s podium mode will help you see how much time you have left to deliver your message and still get to lunch on time. Podium mode is also available in our app, if you’d rather not drag your laptop onstage with you.
How long should I preach?
Ultimately, the answer to this question will depend on a lot of factors, including your preferred preaching style, your typical order of service, and the expectations and culture within your congregation. If you want help figuring what your average sermon length should be, here are some resources to help you do that:
- “How Long Should it Take to Preach a Sermon?” by Chris Clovin. This article for Influence magazine has some great tips on striking the right balance for your church.
- This article by Rob Fox summarizes recent research from PEW on average sermon lengths across denominations.
- “How Do I Know if a Sermon is Too Long or Too Short?” by John Piper. This podcast gives you five factors to consider about the length of your sermon as you write it.
- “How Long, Oh Lord? Sermon Lengths for Growing Churches” by Ed Stetzer. Here you’ll find three major factors to consider when planning your church’s average time to allot for sermons: Content, Context, and Capability.
In conclusion, there’s no “ideal sermon length” across all denominations and churches. However, based on the average sermon length of the 16 well-known pastors we researched for this article, you have nothing to worry about if your message runs longer than the typical TED talk. And, if you typically preach for over 30 minutes, you now know that you’re in really good company.
How long do you try to preach your sermons? Are these findings a surprise? Let us know in the comments!