“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” – Acts 20:9
How long should a sermon be?
- If you ask a preteen pastor, they’ll probably say 15-20 minutes.
- If you as a junior high pastor, they’ll probably say 20-25.
- If you ask a high school pastor, they’ll probably say 25-30.
- If you as a lead pastor, they’ll probably say 30-35.
That sound about right?
Let’s talk about those first three. When I started teaching in junior high ministry back in 2002 I was told that the students only had an attention span that could last for about 20 minutes. Anything more than that and they’d check out and my sermon would be ruined.
Here’s my problem with the 20-minute limit, or the 25-minute limit, or the 30-minute limit: When The Lord of the Rings came out in 2003, my junior high students waited in line for hours to see the midnight premier. They sat there, past midnight, for 201 minutes!
Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t get the memo. Or maybe he did, and he completely ignored it.
What he did was create 201 minutes of compelling material, and my junior high students sat there glued to it, soaking in every line and moment.
The problem with most sermons isn’t that they’re too long, but that they’re… boring… or confusing… or unhelpful.. or all of those.
If you’re a boring speaker, then yes, please keep it at 20 minutes. Or become an author. But if you have something worth saying, and you can say it in a compelling way, then nobody is going to complain.
I’m not saying we should preach 201-minute sermons… people have got to eat, but that we should prepare and deliver sermons that are interesting, compelling and useful.
This blog post is getting too long so I’ll stop now 😉