Fewer than 10% of Evangelicals want shorter sermons; 30% want more in-depth teaching: survey

Attendees raise their hands in worship during Franklin Graham’s Route 66 “God Loves You” tour in Springfield, Missouri, on Sept. 23, 2021.
Attendees raise their hands in worship during Franklin Graham’s Route 66 “God Loves You” tour in Springfield, Missouri, on Sept. 23, 2021. | Courtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Fewer than 10% of Evangelical Protestants want to have shorter sermons during worship, while nearly a third want more in-depth teaching, according to recently released survey data. 

Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts released a new report last Friday titled “The Congregational Scorecard: What Evangelicals Want in a Church.”

The researchers surveyed 1,000 American Evangelical Protestants, asking for their views on 14 different elements about the churches they attend for worship.

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According to the report, a copy of which was emailed to The Christian Post on Monday, only 7% of respondents want sermons to be shorter, while 85% believe the sermon lengths are acceptable as they are. About 8% percent said they wanted sermons to be longer.

These trends were fairly consistent across generations, as 10% of Evangelicals under the age of 40 preferred shorter sermons, while 11% over the age of 70 responded the same.

Evangelical respondents between the ages of 40 and 54 were the least likely to want shorter sermons, with 3% agreeing with this idea. Respondents between the ages of 55 and 69 were the most likely (88%) to believe sermon lengths were fine as they are.

“One of the more surprising findings was that so few Evangelicals want shorter sermons, since such a common and unfortunate stereotype is long-winded pastors,” Grey Matter Research President Ron Sellers told CP. 

“Not only that, but we keep being informed that younger adults have short attention spans, and pastors really need to cut down their sermons to reach this population. I expected to find a higher proportion of evangelicals (especially younger people) who wished for shorter sermons, like maybe 20% or 30%. Instead, it is just 7%.”

Additionally, the data shows that 30% of respondents want more in-depth teaching from their churches, while 69% responded that they felt the depth of teaching was “fine as is.”

Mark Dreistadt, CEO of Infinity Concepts, said that he considers the nearly one-third of Evangelicals wanting more depth in sermons to be especially surprising.

“The most surprising insight was that 30% of evangelicals want more in-depth teaching than their church is currently providing,” said Dreistadt.

“This demonstrates an opportunity for pastors to go deeper into the Word of God. This is good news at a time in our culture when biblical literacy is so low — there appears to be a desire among Evangelicals to deepen their understanding of biblical truth.”

In 2019, former LifeWay Christian Resources CEO Thom S. Rainer reported that a social media survey of 1,000 people found that the average length of sermons was declining compared to four years earlier.

“The median length of the sermon of those surveyed was 27 minutes, down from 29 minutes four years ago,” explained Rainer.

“Though a number of respondents indicated changes to sermon length were longer than previous years, by a 3:2 margin more pastors were moving to shorter sermons.”

The Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts report also found that around two-thirds of respondents liked the political messages or political involvement of their churches, while 22% wanted less political involvement from their churches. 

Sellers told CP that this finding did not “surprise me much, because any time a topic is controversial, I expect to see some reaction to it.”

“There have been many stories and a lot of anecdotal evidence, plus a variety of studies, showing people switching churches or even leaving the Church due to political differences, either overall or on a specific position such as abortion or same-sex marriage,” he added.

“So if people leave or switch due to political differences, it won’t be anything new — just a continuation of what’s already been happening in our society for some time.”

In addition to questions over sermon length, depth of teaching and politics, respondents were asked if they believe their church needs to change the amount of music, styles of music and  styles of worship. Respondents were asked for their thoughts on their churches’ focus on evangelism, social issues, outreach, overall service length, congregation size, racial diversity, how often donations are requested and the number of women in leadership.

For each element listed, on average 74% of respondents said they were content with how their church handled the matter and did not want to see a change.

Dreistadt hopes the report will “give church leaders some benchmarks to measure and some insights to consider.”

“However, it is important to note that there is a wide variety of church styles to choose from and evangelicals tend to look for churches that fit their personal preferences,” Dreistadt said.

“So we want to encourage pastors and church leaders to learn from the data and increase their awareness of potential changes. However, we also want to encourage them to always pursue the calling God has placed on their hearts for the congregation.”

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