How Long Does a Pastor Preach?

Preaching is central to the worship services in most churches. Indeed most services are built around the message. The sermon is critical to the life and health of a church.

So I was curious. With the sermon being essential and paramount to the health of a church, just how long does a pastor preach each sermon? I went to Twitter to find out. Though a Twitter survey is not scientific, I was amazed at the quantity of the responses. Pastors began responding in great volume at almost the point I asked the question.

Of course, my methodology begs the question: Does a pastor really know the length of his own sermon? Though further research would be needed to provide a definitive answer, I do believe most pastors watch the clock rather carefully. In those cases on our Twitter survey where a church member and pastor from the same church responded, there were absolutely no differences in the length of sermon time each reported.

Most of the respondents gave me a time range. In each of those cases, I took the midpoint of the range they gave me. Here are the results, mostly in increments of five minutes:

Less than 15 minutes - 1%
15 to 20 minutes - 1%
21 to 25 minutes - 5%
26 to 30 minutes - 18%
31 to 35 minutes - 23%
36 to 40 minutes - 18%
41 to 45 minutes - 26%
46 to 50 minutes - 1%
51 to 55 minutes - 4%
56 to 60 minutes - 1%
More than 60 minutes - 1%

Here are some quick observations:

  • Very few pastors are preaching a very short sermon or a very long sermon. Only 2% preach a sermon that lasts less than 20 minutes. And only 2% preach a sermon that goes over 55 minutes.
  • Most pastors preach sermons lasting in a relatively small range: from 26 minutes to 45 minutes. Of those reporting, 85% of the sermons fell in that time range.
  • The median of all the times reported was 36 minutes. That means that 50% of the sermons were shorter than 36 minutes, and 50% were longer than 36 minutes.
  • Among the laypersons who offered comments, six out of ten thought the length of the pastor's sermon was just right. Four out of ten thought the sermon was too long. None thought the sermon was too short.
  • Some pastors would like to preach longer, but they are constrained by radio, television, multiple services, or pressure from church members. I do not have an estimate of how many pastors would like to preach longer than they currently do.

What do you think of these sermon times? What would you like to change? Why do you think over eight out of ten sermons fall within a relatively short time frame?

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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