How Long Should a Sermon Be?

“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 😉



Utilizing Skype in Student Ministries

early computer

Last year I was an interim Freshman Bible Teacher at a local high school. Our students were reading through a book, and I thought it would be awesome to finish out the project by doing a Skype Q&A with the book’s author. The classroom has a smart board in it (which is basically a 6-foot iPad on the wall). That never panned out, but my dream… wouldn’t… die. Are you inspired yet? 😉

Years ago I flew in an incredible apologist to come and speak in my High School Ministry. After paying for the flight, hotel, food and honorarium it got a bit expensive. It was worth it, but it was expensive. I wanted to bring him back right away.

And then it hit me… why not Skype him in?

No flights. No meals. No time away from his family.

We have the technology available (laptop, strong internet connection, mics). SO WHY NOT?

And it’s working out. It looks like we’ll lock him in at about 1/4th the cost! He’ll have to do some prep and do two 30-minute Skype sessions, so I want to honor his time with an honorarium… but he’ll get to speak from his house, with all his resources right there in his lap, his family down the hall, while getting piped into our youth room hundreds of miles away.

Is anyone else utilizing this kind of technology in a ministry setting? It seems like such a win-win!

The Still Face Experiment

I learned about this short video from Jim Furrow at Fuller Seminary. It was hard to watch, but worth it. Take a look.

The emotions you likely felt make it clear that we are hard-wired to care about kids getting appropriate attention.

Nothing changes as we get older. I’d argue that the need for attention and affirmation is just as important in the teen and adult years.

The attention you give, or don’t give, to the people in your world has more of an impact than you’ll ever know.

Be fully present today, even now.

Couch Races

Here’s an event idea for youth pastors.

Last week we had 14 teams face off for our first-ever High School Ministry Couch Race. We transformed our church’s parking lot into a simple race track. We piled hay bails at the sharp turns, but thankfully nobody crashed into them! We decorated with race flags I found on Amazon for next to nothing, set up some speakers, and I did the color commentary. We got couches from local thrift stores from $6-$20.

We had 14 heats, then the 2 teams with the top times raced to determine the overall champion. I got some fun trophies from a local trophy shop to award our overall champs, 2nd place, last place AND the couch that was “Most Likely to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse”. That team got Chuck Norris bobble-heads.

It was a GREAT way to kick off the school year- giving a handful of our groups something to work on together. The kids are already asking for us to do it again next year.

Take a peek: 

<p><a href=”″>Couch Race Recap</a> from <a href=””>Mission HS</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I’m Going to Africa

I’m taking 25 high school students and 5 adults to Malawi, Africa tomorrow night. We’ll be there for two weeks, participating in a number of activities. We’ll be visiting some people who are very ill on our very first day, many who have AIDS. Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and I’m taking our team right into the heart of the hurt. Our next couple days will revolve around the thousands of children that live there. We’ll take part in their feeding program, which we’ve been honored to help make possible through the generosity of the people at MISSION Community Church. We’ll also spend time working on roofing, making bricks, distributing blankets, mosquito nets and other needs, training their youth pastors, and of course… playing soccer. I’ve got some college-level soccer players going on this trip, but apparently they are about to get schooled by the home team in Malawi.

Please pray for us while we are gone. Pray that God would open our eyes and hearts, that He would stretch us, use us, and be glorified through everything that happens. Pray that our team would be united as one! We have a very diverse group of students and staff going with us, which is a good thing 🙂












This Church Sucks…

One of the risks of having a large church or youth ministry is that people can go unnoticed.

We’ve taken steps to make sure that new and current students are greeted, included, and followed up with after they visit on a Sunday, but apparently our process isn’t perfect.

A student wrote this on the patio outside of our youth room a couple weeks ago:

Every single Sunday we have two small groups scheduled to do all of the greeting and new student check-in. They stand in our hallway, at the doors, and even inside the room. They’re there 15 minutes before service and 15 minutes into the service. It seems like a perfect setup… but we missed one.

For 3 years this kid has been coming, and for 3 years he has felt ignored.

Jesus leaves the 99 to go after the 1 who got disconnected. I love my 99, but this is a pretty clear cry for help.

This story does have a good note. One of my leaders saw this student right after he wrote this. He went up to him to talk to him but the student was angry and brushed him off. I looked for him the next week and saw him in the back of the room, in the farthest corner. He was sitting right next to another one of my students who had no idea about this little graffiti incident. He saw him sitting alone so he went over to talk to him and to sit with him.

I take a lot of pride in my students and our greeting format, so at first I got defensive and wanted to write this kid off. I want to blame him for not doing his part to get connected. I’m not going to do that though. I’m going to use this as inspiration to work even harder on making sure every kid feels like they’re noticed and known in our gatherings.

Summer Camp 2010

This was my 9th Summer Camp, and it was my favorite by a mile.

I took 90 students and 12 leaders with me to Forest Home last week. I’ve spent the past 8 summers at Hume Lake (minus 1 Summer). I love Hume. Every year was amazing. But this year was just different.

I don’t think it had anything to do with the location. It had to do with what happened among my students and leaders. I’ve never, ever seen a group this tight-knit. Usually when you take that many students somewhere it’s very difficult to feel a sense of unity, but not this year.

The theme of the camp was brokenness, and our students and staff bonded so deeply in their shared need for a Savior who can take what it broken and make it beautiful. Their transparency and humility was contagious. There wasn’t a faker among us. Everyone spilled their guts, and found so much hope in the acceptance of God and His people.

I’ve said it a thousand times… this has been the best year of ministry for me yet. I’ve never felt closer to a group of students and leaders- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve had some pretty remarkable students and leaders over the years 🙂


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Q & A with High School Students

A couple weeks ago we asked our students to write down any questions they have about Christianity, faith, spirituality, and that sort of thing. I’m going to answer a handful of them from the stage over the next few weeks, and then I’ll answer the others on video and post them on our ministry blog. Here are a handful of good ones I am looking forward to answering. (Side note: I will do my best to answer them. I don’t want to come across like I’m some answer machine when it comes to all things spiritual).

  • What will heaven be like, specifically?
  • How does predestination work?
  • What makes this religion (Christianity) different from others?
  • Where do religion and evolution meet?
  • Are the stories in the bible supposed to be taken figuratively or literally?
  • Are only Christians going to heaven?
  • What does God say about dating?
  • Can God help me get better at something?
  • Does God believe in love at first sight, or is it a myth?
  • How do I know if God is mad at me?
  • Is it OK to be mad at God?
  • Did Jesus feed 5,000 people or 4,000 people? The gospel accounts don’t say the same thing.

California Trip!

I’m headed back to California this weekend, to the very neighborhood I just lived in for a year. I’m taking 93 of my closest friends to Magic Mountain for the day, and then over to Huntington Beach the next day. The purpose of the trip is twofold: 1. It’s a sweet bonding trip for students that are already a part of my youth group, and 2. It’s a perfect onramp for a student to come hang with us who isn’t already plugged in.

There’s only one problem with this trip: I personally don’t like roller coasters! I have a good reason.

A few years ago I rode Goliath without my lap bar/seatbelt in place! True story, dozens of witnesses. If you watch the video of someone’s Goliath ride at the top, you should know that I was saying, “Well Jesus, I’ll see you in a minute” at the :49 mark, and then I floated up and out of my seat at the 1:02 mark.

As the little seatbelt checker guy was doing his final walk-thru, he came to my seat and noticed that I had shoved the lap bar between my legs (instead of locking it OVER them). He said, “Oh that’s not good” and looked around for someone to help him fix the problem. But then the girl who hits the GO button hit the GO button and we lunged forward. Everyone started panicking/giggling and I sat there confident that someone would hit the STOP button.


That’s gonna have to do!” the little guy says to me as we clickity-click out of the loading area.

Lesson #1: Magic Mountain needs to do a much better job at screening potential employees.

Lesson #2: It should be impossible to shove that stupid bar between your legs, rendering it useless. Sometimes an idiot will actually do it. I’m the idiot.

Lesson #3: My students saw that day that I’m willing to lay my life down for them… sort of.

So here we go, off to a nauseating, life threatening, roller coaster of a weekend.

Because I’m a youth pastor, and that’s what we do.

Because I love these guys 🙂