Pastors might need to adjust the length of sermons after lockdown ends

According to data recently published by LifeWay Research, pastors and congregants have very different perspectives on the length of a sermon.

Pastors might need to adjust the length of sermons after lockdown ends

Attending church from home brings its own problems, including people constantly looking at the time in the corner of the tablet or computer where they are watching the worship service.

Most pastors (54%) think their sermons last between 20 and 30 minutes and 85% said they are sure they don’t go over 40 minutes. Only 14% think their messages last longer than 40 minutes.

But among churchgoers, 32% believe their pastors’ sermons are an hour long.

“As churches restart in-person worship services and other church activities, many are calling for churches to refocus on the essentials,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Prior to the pandemic, that would have meant shorter sermons for some churchgoers.”

Not everyone is happy with the length of services

“Some sermons feel like they are longer than the pastor estimates,” McConnell explained. “Churchgoers report sermons over 40 minutes in both small and large churches, but that could be related to different definitions of what elements of the church service are included in the sermon. For example, pastors may give announcements, do a Scripture reading, and conduct an altar call surrounding the sermon, which may lead to congregants feeling as if the message itself is longer.”

So when churches start filling the pews again, pastors will have to make an effort to reduce the length of their morning messages.
And what is interesting is that there is a direct correlation between the amount of education a pastor has and the length of his sermon. Preachers with a master’s degree (42%) or a doctorate (34%) are more likely to deliver a 20-minute message compared to those with less formal education (10%). Those with a bachelor’s degree or no college education (24%) are more likely to preach for at least 40 minutes than those with advanced degrees (10%).

The audience wants a shorter sermon, but not too short

Only 14% of parishioners said they want their pastor’s sermon to last 15-20 minutes. Most parishioners (52%) want their pastor to preach between 20 and 40 minutes. Only 9% of those in attendance said they want to sit down for an hour-long message on Sunday morning.

“Many pastors have likely been preaching shorter sermons while their churches have met virtually,” McConnell said. “More than a quarter of churchgoers would prefer such shorter sermons when they return to meeting in person.”

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