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    15 Minute “Quickie” Church Service is Increasing Attendance

    15 Minute “Quickie” Church Service is Increasing Attendance

    OK... hows about we open a huge can of worms?  In Ireland, a Catholic priest has changed his morning mass from 9 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., taken out the sermon, and reduced the time of the service to just 15 minutes.  What if a church in the US did this?

    Here's the typical church service in the US:

    1.  20 minutes of worship

    2.  5 minutes of announcements

    3.  5 minutes of offering

    4.  40 minutes of sermon

    In the past 20 years, we've changed up everything about our worship services.  We've changed our worship style, who were targeting.  We've changed our programs, our focus.  We're even letting people drink coffee in the 'sanctuary' and wearing jeans to worship.  But one thing has not changed:  The length of the sermon.

    And I'm not saying it should.  I'm just saying that the one thing that has not changed is the length at which we try to capture people's attention.

    Where else (other than a college classroom) do we in our society sit and listen passively to one person talk for any longer than 15 minutes?

    Am I advocating shorter sermons, or no sermons at all?  No.  I'm just asking the question:   How did we come to the time that we use for our message?  And why do we guard it as passionately as we do the Bible in many instances?

    Having produced two online conferences recently (THE NINES and AHA!), I've come to realize that a good, well tailored message can be done in six minutes.

    Seriously.  Six minutes.

    Six minutes is really ample time to present an idea and a call to action.

    Why is that?  Because that's how much time we gave the speakers.  "You have six minutes".  And each and every one of them delivered.

    What if your board gave you SIX MINUTES per Sunday for the next month.  I bet you would make it work.

    Here's what six minutes would do for you:

    1.  It would cut the fluff.  About 35 minutes of it.

    2.  It would cut the repetitiveness.  You'd make your point and move on.

    3.  It would up you passion.  You have to fit everything in in six minutes.  You would only talk about what your passionate about.

    4.  It would increase your intensity.  All of a sudden, you HAVE to communicate what you need to very quickly with great intensity.

    My guess is that each and every one of you could do it.  If you had to.  In fact, the end result might surprise you.  (It would definitely surprise your church).

    Present a nugget of truth in six minutes with a call to action?  Yes, I think it can be done.

    Will it ever be done?  No.  Because too many pastors like to preach.  Many would rather take time over quality.

    Again, I'm not advocating we all switch to 6 minutes sermons.  Not at all.

    I guess the question I'm asking is:  Why do you speak the length you speak?  Is it because it takes you that long to say what you need to say, or because you have that much time to fill?

    It seems to me that the former should be driving our sermon length, not the latter.

    For what it's worth, those are my thoughts.  What do YOU think?

    (Don't worry, I'm wearing my full body armor this today, so have at it!)


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    1. Jason Fairbanks on Thu, March 11, 2010

      Good stuff this morning, Todd. I only have time for one comment so I am choosing this entry. Not only do we pastors like to preach, in many cases, that is where we find our identity. If there is only a 6 minute sermon, we think, and imagine our congregation thinking (and some of them are) “What the heck was she or he doing the rest of the week?”

      Of course, church leadership is more, and becoming even more, than just preaching, whether we are leading a suburban megachurch or smaller community based urban or rural church. We ignore this at our peril.

      Great food for thought!

    2. Vanessa on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I had heard of a church in NYC doing that for the lunchtime crowd and I LOVED THE IDEA!!!!  I just might take it on.  Might attract a LOT of unchurched people who get bored in a long (traditional, in most cases) service that they don’t understand the majority of anyway.  Makes it nice and simple.  =)

    3. jWinters on Thu, March 11, 2010


      I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea of a 6 minute sermon.  I’m a pastor in the Lutheran church (LCMS) and our sermons on average run much shorter than the 40 minute mark - normally 10-20 minutes. 

      However, I think there does need to be some caution when it comes to minimalizing the sermon - especially if the only primary reason is to boost attendance. 

      People need the word of God, and I think they need it for more than 6 minutes in their week, so if the plan is to cut 34 minutes out of what they’re usually receiving on a Sunday - where does that 34 minutes show up during the rest of the Sunday or rest of the week?

    4. david on Thu, March 11, 2010

      i think you are right that we CAN preach shorter sermons.  from time to time, we split the sermon into 3 parts and have different guys do each part.  we are always able to hone our message down to 10-12 minutes.

      however, (and i know this goes against the conventional wisdom) one of the real benefits of a longer, “less-focused” sermon is that you have the ability to communicate the big idea in several different ways.  since people all learn differently, the more times you restate the big idea (with variety) the more likely people will “get it”.

      I’m not suggesting you just have one point and present it five times. But, I would almost guarantee that MORE people will walk away with a solid, legitimate take-a-way from a 30 minute sermon that is well-focused than from a 10 minute sermon that is laser-focused.

      but i’m not breaking fellowship over this one!

    5. Leonard on Thu, March 11, 2010

      Dear Todd, I rebuke you in the name of cheesits… 

      I think that the assumption that the only point of a sermon is to get a point across and to call to action is too small of a view of a sermon.

    6. WallyGator on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I believe 40 minutes to be a little on the high side; I viewed one survey that found the average sermon time to be more like 15-20 minutes. That said, let’s get down to a basic question, is the sermon time always to be exclusively evangelistic or to be edifying(teaching)?

    7. Dee on Thu, March 11, 2010

      vanessa, do you have any specific info on the NYC church? Name, website, etc?


      BTW, as an on the sidelines pastor, I can tell you that there are waaaayyy too many pastors who love to hear themselves talk.

    8. Randy Willis on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I’m challenged by this idea! (FTR, my sermons are usually 25-30 minutes.)

      However, there’s a significant difference between what we do on Sunday morning (or whenever) and what the communicators did in The Nines and Aha! The audiences are different.

      Communicators in The Nines and Aha! had an audience who was ready to go. In preaching, we have to raise the question, expose the mystery and/or create tension before we can get to the point.

      That said, though, *most* sermons (including mine) would be dramatically better *and* more effective if they were more concise!

      Interestingly, I’m preaching in a community Lenten Lunch service in two weeks and I will only have 10 minutes. It should be good practice for me! grin

    9. CS on Thu, March 11, 2010

      There’s a church in my town that offers, “The 29 Minute Sermon Guarantee.”  Their website says:

      “Don�t you hate it when people waste your time? When we go to the movies, a restaurant or a doctor�s office we often evaluate the quality of that product or service by the efficiency of their presentation and how that business or service values our time.

      “At Summit Church we value YOUR TIME. We commit to NOT wasting your time with pointless announcements, rambling sermons or song-services that fail to inspire. In fact, we recognize that most Americans have opted out of church because they value family time more highly than going to some out-dated, highly-theological-but-irrelevant sermon.”

      It was specifically because of this, “guarantee,” that my family never wanted to go there.  We actually want to hear about God and spend time learning about Him with other believers.  We believe that setting a time limit like this church, and the effort to, “make a point and get on with your day,” is wrong and misses the point of getting together for worship and teaching.

      “Six minutes is really ample time to present an idea and a call to action.”

      I hate to say it, but that doesn’t sound like a sermon; that sounds like an infomercial.


    10. Will on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I think CS nailed it.  Sermon length is mostly about spiritual appetite and interest.  Few complain about the two-hour length of a good movie.  It really comes down to what you’re hungry for (Matt. 5:6).

    11. Leonard on Thu, March 11, 2010

      We recently had a guest speaker in our church who spoke for 25 minutes, about 12-14 minutes shorter than the average message.  While our people loved him they I had quite a number of people say it was too short.  They liked it a bit longer.

      I had another guest speak for 52 minutes and they said it was too long…  I think th 35-40 in our church is about right and our folks do too.

      I would also add that preaching doesn’t have to be boring.  It can be engaging, create emotions and communicate passion and excitement.  Preaching is huge when it comes to how people perceive God, both in content and in style. 

      when I was younger and speaking at youth camps I used to preach anf fire it up… it was always well recieved and many students were impacted.  Then in my mid 30’s I started to be about the same age as these students parents and their perception of my preaching was an angry dad not a loving father.  I changed my delivery that day.  Still have great impact in the lives of students, just finished a couple camps and saw dozens come to faith in Christ.  But the style is different. 

      This is all a part of preaching.  To measure sermons by length in my opinion is kind of like measuring food by the plate size.  Sure it matters if you have tiny plates and big meals or big plates and tiny meals… but in reality we measure food by taste, presentation and health, quality of food… 

      I am just not a fan of measuring preaching by time… 

      Is it biblical and true to the text?
      Is it understandable to the hearer?
      Does it accurately represent our God?
      Can it be used today?
      Did I say what God wanted said?

      These are all better measurements than time. 

      That said, I am for being tight in a sermon.  Discipline yourself to say well what you need to say.




    12. Chip Sanders on Thu, March 11, 2010

      Why is it that every time I read something about the length of sermons the assumption is that a 40 minute (or longer or shorter) sermon is boring? Another assumption seems to be that the pastor talks to hear himself talk, the people aren’t interested in what he has to say and if it was only shorter more unchurched people would come.

      Some pastor’s shouldn’t preach 40 minutes because they can’t hold people’s interest for longer than 10. Other’s can preach an hour and most of the people love it. Length of sermon should be tailored to the church culture, community, audience and purpose. If people can only give six minutes to hearing the exhortation they likely have other priorities (and I can’t change their priorities no matter how entertaining I am.)

    13. Aaron on Thu, March 11, 2010

      Very interesting thought. I guess it goes back to, what is church for? Reaching lost people on Sundays or equipping disciples to live out their faith the rest of the week and evangelize in their sphere of influence.

      I do not think you can be effective in preaching God’s word in six minute sound bites that will equip and train someone on what it says. I listen to pastors from huge churches that speak for 50-65 minutes and don’t check out. If the word is being preached in a relative way people want it.

      Part of the problem with churches is that we are doing it backwards. Jesus did not set up a mega church in Jerusalem and say come to me, he went and trained the disciples to go to the lost. I believe church is for equipping, bringing unity in the community, and fellowship, and then sending out disciples into the harvest fields.

      I don’t think 6 minutes can accomplish that. Just my thoughts.

    14. Mike on Thu, March 11, 2010

      Interesting Read! I am currently reading a book entitled, “Say It In Six, How to Say Exactly What You Mean in 6 Minutes or Less”, by Ron Hoff

    15. Peter Hamm on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I think our sermons often do the wrong thing.

      Often we try and teach a bunch of principles from God’s word and hopefully gain a reaction, giving information that will lead people to some kind of more Christ-centered life.

      I say stop teaching and start preaching. Inspire them more then educating them. It’s too short a time if it’s 40 minutes for them to be in God’s word anyway. If they aren’t doing that on a daily basis then their Christian life is going to be weak anyway.

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