How long for Worship Service? Is this just another way of saying how long should a pastor preach? :)

The idea for this blog came from reading an email from Steve the editor of CCMag, when he posed the question “How long do you preach and why”?

My next stop was Google to see what others had to say. I also wanted to see if others had similar thoughts as I did on occasion when listening to a sermon. Tom Rainer did an unscientific survey just to see what kind of responses he would get back on sermon times. Most sermons fell into the 26 – 45 minutes time range as seen in his survey results. In addition to the survey there are over 150 comments from others including pastors, that I found insightful.


Below I listed some of the more insightful ones that I came across.

  1. The more prepared a pastor is the shorter they go in the sermon. Examples were – reading a manuscript verses an outline which allows adaptation, adding time to the sermon.
  2. One pastor that visited another country had this to say – He asked the country’s native pastor ‘how long should I preach’? The native country’s pastor, looked at him and said ‘Preach until the Holy Spirit tells you to stop’.
  3. Some say it is a form of art for speaking in front of an audience and maintain their attention. You have to be in tune with majority of your audience.
  4. Others say it is a poor measuring tool and should not be considered.
  5. Does it have something to do with content and delivery that make people either ignore the clock or watch it?
  6. While others advised, with elderly or others that are sick, they can’t sit for long times and need to move.
  7. Some say there’s a formula to figure out how long you should preach.
  8. Does it depends on the generation you are asking – youth vs. middle age vs. elderly?

All of this to say there are a lot of views about this subject, and I don’t think any one person knows the right answer as any of them can be valid.

I found number 8 to be of interest as there is a lot of chatter and some studies about why certain demographics are leaving the church. Some people say this is happening at a faster rate among the younger culture. Other say that they eventually come back to the church.


The youth culture:

Is there a growing chasm between the older and younger generation? Are pastors torn between trying to please both when sermons are delivered? Is this why larger churches have different venues which are geared to various generational preferences (old hymns vs. contemporary or upbeat songs)? The older generation grew up in a church with an authoritative voice, whereas the younger generation wants to participate in discussions and voice questions expecting them to be answered, raise doubts, or other ideas that are worthy to be explored. Should this questioning be looked down at or dismissed?

This is the first part of a two part series.