Monday Morning Insights

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    How do you measure Sermon Length?

    How do you measure Sermon Length?

    What do you think of this quote:  "Sermon length is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest, in the amount of time the minister continues to preach after he has lost the interest of his hearers."

    That's from a book entitled "Why Johnny Can't Preach" (by T. David Gordon).  JD Greear shares this quote on his blog recently.

    Gordon continues:

    Some preaching is so bad that the best we can say about some preachers is that they themselves realize it, and are merciful in the length of their sermons (ouch!). By contrast, I've heard ministers whose sermons I was disappointed to have come to an end. These entire sermons had been so well delivered--so thoughtful, so faithful to the text without being pedantic... so well-organized as to appear seamless, so challenging and nourishing to my soul--that I just didn't want the experience to end."

    What do YOU think?  How do you measure the length of your sermons?

    My 2 cents:  Very few preachers have the communication skills to go over 30 minutes.  Very few.  Unless you're Andy Stanley, is it really necessary to take 50 minutes to bring home your point?  (I realize this may open a can of worms, but seriously, most sermons would be 100x better if you wacked them in half.  And the thing is... you don't have to cut that much content... just choose it more wisely.  Am I wrong?)

    Love to hear your comments...



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    1. Peter Hamm on Mon, January 25, 2010

      First… even if you can preach 50 minutes doesn’t mean you should.

      If you left them wanting more, you preached the right length.

      If attendance drops dramatically the next week, maybe you didn’t.

    2. Dave on Mon, January 25, 2010

      loss of interest is not always an indicator of “bad preaching” or “too lengthy preaching.” One may have 500 people hanging on every word but that one guy who just came off a double shift whose wife badgered into coming to set a good example for the kids may have a drool string 6 inches long hanging from the corner of his mouth.

      Or one may have 400 people engaged in the message, including 25-30 college students, but that one 19 year old who is running from God and only there out of “following the family rules” so that she doesn’t get kicked out of the house may be totally disinterested and find every excuse possible to go to the bathroom, go get a drink of water, text her friends, etc.

    3. steve baker on Mon, January 25, 2010

      C’mon!  The 30 minute rule is so archaic.  The bottom line is, are people engaged in the message being presented?  You can preach 15 minutes and not engage people with God’s truth.  Time is not the issue.  Connection is!

    4. Paul Graham on Mon, January 25, 2010

      The preaching is done when the message is over ie, when God tells you you’re done. You need to be listening to the Spirit on the pulpit. If you’re not, you’re not really preaching His message. Time is immaterial.

      If you are putting a significant part of your flock to sleep, (There will always be one or two) you probably weren’t teaching/preaching his word to start with. Time to get back into prayer /before/ the sermons.

      At the same time, be respectful of your flocks time and bladder…

    5. Leonard on Mon, January 25, 2010

      There is much more to preaching than the length of a sermon.  There is the relationship between the pastor and the people.  When a solid relationship is formed, this will impact how people stay connected.  There is in addition to the relationship people have with the pastor, how the sermon is delivered.  It there use of appropriate and real life illustration. 

      Is 50 minutes too long?  probably.  Warren, Driscoll and some others usually go about that distance.  Andy Stanly is in the 38-40 range.  I know several African American preachers that go 50-60 minutes.  Most of my friends in churches that are thriving go in the 35-42 range. 

      I believe too much content is developed outside of relationship.  Simple said… too many preachers are sitting all by themselves building sermons.  We need more people involved in the process.  I believe this involvement allows people to connect better so that we are not thinking time but rather impact.

    6. Rich Schmidt on Mon, January 25, 2010

      I sometimes feel like I’m preaching too long (usually when the service goes 5-10 minutes beyond the hour we’d planned for it)... but I was thrilled a week ago when someone who has been attending for 2-3 months said that she never looks at her watch during the service.  She never feels bored or finds her thoughts wandering to what she needs to do that afternoon.

      So, for her at least, my sermons must be just the right length.  Hopefully that’s true of most of the people present on Sunday mornings.

      BTW, my “time spent preaching” has shifted over the years.  When I started preaching weekly 9.5 years ago, I was determined to stay within 20 minutes.  Over time, that grew to 35-40 minutes.  Now I’m getting better at keeping it in the 25-30 range, which seems about right for a 1-hour service.

    7. Neil Schori on Mon, January 25, 2010

      I almost always speak in the 28-31 minute range.  I don’t plan to do that but that is almost always how it plays out.

      I think a lot of pastors think they need to say everything they know about something.  I don’t feel that need and just want to drive one point home.  Simple.  Impactful (hopefully).  Done.

    8. David Huff on Mon, January 25, 2010

      I have one cardinal rule I try to follow, “When you run out of things to say, shut up.”  That usually results in a 20-25 minute message.

    9. RevJay on Mon, January 25, 2010

      Stand up, speak up, shut up! this is what I was taught in Bible college. It has worked for 23 years. Amen

    10. Peter Hamm on Mon, January 25, 2010

      If you prepare and plan well, you can deliver what God is saying in the time that people will actually listen to you.

      If you don’t, you will talk too long, and you will end up being a bad steward of your gift.

      The amount of time absolutely positively does matter.

    11. Dane Gressett on Mon, January 25, 2010

      it’s almost entirely a culture defined issue.

      I just got back from 2 weeks of preaching in southeast Asia.  If you preach for less than one hour they wonder why you don’t have more to give them.  They will wait for hours for the preacher to just arrive.

      Hungry hearts not only desire fresh bread, their faith can actually draw on the preaching gift in a man/woman.  If you’ve never preached in front an on-fire, prayed-up group of people, you may not understand how this works.

      Brothers, we are not professionals…..

    12. Bill on Mon, January 25, 2010

      I keep the following quote, from Dr. Evans Crawford, in mind as I prepare my sermon:  “A sermon should be as long as it is interesting, therefore some sermons should stop as soon as they begin.”

    13. Michael on Mon, January 25, 2010

      Dane.. right on.

    14. Lanny Smith on Mon, January 25, 2010

      Heard Bob Russell on this a couple weeks ago at Mid-Atlantic Christian University. He said to rate your preaching skill on a 1-10 basis. Now subtract 2. Multiply that x 5 mins. That’s your optimum preaching length. So if you rate your preaching a “6”, then 6 - 2 = 4. Times 5 minutes = 20 minutes! So, I need to shave about 10 minutes off on average!

      A little tongue in cheek, perhaps, but pretty good advice.

    15. steve baker on Mon, January 25, 2010

      I’m wondering…if you had only one chance to preach Jesus to someone, would you put a time limit on how much you have to say?  If network television and Hollywood movies can engage people for several houra at a time, then it’s not a matter of attention span.  It’s a matter of delivery.  And if we can’t deliver the Gospel to people in compelling ways, regardless of time, then maybe we shouldn’t be preaching.

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