Sermon Length

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Dr Mixer GED, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. Dr Mixer GED

    Dr Mixer GED
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    Firstly, thank you in advance for your replies. I believe I have been called to start a church/preach. I have been writing sermons from scratch (some helps used) and when I read them aloud to practice, I seem to be usually in the 20 minute range, give or take a few minutes.

    My questions are

    1. Is this "too short" a sermon?

    2. Does it imply a lack of knowledge?

    3. Would you take seriously a preacher who regularly preached 20 minute sermons?

    I don't know why, but I always seem to naturally stop there. I feel I cannot say anymore, so I stop. I do give a few anecdotes, stories, but try not to overdo it or be overly redundant. The thing is, everywhere I look, I see preachers going for 40+ on a regular basis. Is something wrong with me?
    Any suggestions/comments greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Siberian

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    1. That is on the shorter side of things. It is hard to give a text a proper treatment in only 20 minutes. Nevertheless, in some churches 20 minutes is the norm. I usually preach 40 minutes, and I try never to go beyond 45.

    2. Not necessarily. Neither does going on 60 minutes imply knowledge. 20 minutes of substance and rich content is better than 40 minutes of droning rubbish. If you cannot seem to go beyond 20 minutes, though, it might just be a sign of your lack of experience. And that is okay, we've all got to start somewhere.

    3. It depended on what he said in those 20 minutes. But I will say, I have never heard a preacher worth hearing that usually preached for only that long.

    At the end of the day, it seems to me that your problem is one of preparation. I could be wrong, but my guess is that you spend more time thinking about what you are going to say about a passage than you do wrestling with the text. Thus, I suggest that you spend more time studying to determine what the text means - discovering the main idea, the propositions, etc. Study until you 'see it' and understand the author's intent clearly. Once you nail that down, spend serious time studying the implications of the main idea, and the applications that are necessary.

    After that requisite work is done, you are ready to put it together into sermon form. If you do all that, you'll have plenty of meat to serve God's people on Sunday morning.
     
  3. Siberian

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    One more thing. I am a "manuscript preacher", meaning I write out my sermons long form (as opposed to an outline). I don't always take my manuscript into the pulpit - but I've always spent the time necessary to write out what I intent to communicate. For me, that helps me communicate clearly and forces me to think through what I will say in greater detail.

    Here is a helpful thing I have noticed. Every 1000 words takes me about 10 minutes to preach (I don't read them, I preach them). Thus, a 4000-word manuscript takes about 40-45 minutes to preach, if I stick to my preparation.
     
  4. Dr Mixer GED

    Dr Mixer GED
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    Thanks for the response. Glad to hear I'm not alone in regards to manuscript style. Most of the sermons are approx 3k words, so by your rate of speech, which is 100 wpm, that would take me 30 minutes, however, I think my rate of speech is more like 140 wpm. That would give me just over 21 minutes. I think Curtis Hutson probably was more like 80 wpm, which would make that closer to the 40 minute mark. So, what it just may boil down to is simply rate of speech.
     
  5. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    I'm not a preacher, but occasionally do lay preaching (Baptist Men's Day, for example).

    I have developed a deep appreciation for my pastor and other preachers who have to prepare two messages and an Wednesday Bible study. I don't know how they do it.

    I, too, prepare a manuscript. If all I had was an outline, I'd ramble all over the place and probably spend 30 minutes giving a 20-minute sermon. So the manuscript imposes some discipline on me.

    I wouldn't worry about the short sermons right now. We had a young man surrender to preach, and shortly thereafter, the pastor had him preach one Sunday night. It lasted ten minutes. But the more he got to preach, the longer his sermons got.

    My pastors over the years have preached 35-40 minutes. I will say this: if you preach 45 minutes, it better have some meat in it. My bottom can't handle more than my mind can absorb.
     
    #5 Tom Butler, Feb 2, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2012
  6. Tom Butler

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    A side question: Have any of you ever just gone blank and couldn't remember your next point or anything you'd planned to say? I saw it happen with a young ministerial student. He had an outline, but it didn't help. He simply apologized and gave the invitation, but I know he was mortified.

    Another question. Have you ever been preaching, and somebody from the audience rises to challenge something you said? I saw it happen when I was a child.

    Okay, back to the OP.
     
  7. mont974x4

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    I run 20-25 minutes...unless I am preaching at the rescue mission where I am only allotted 15-20 minutes, with 10-15 for singing.


    All that said, the challenge for the preacher today is to find a way to deliver a good meaty sermon for a audience that largely thinks in sound bites. We hope as people mature they crave the Word and don't mind longer sermons.
     
  8. preachinjesus

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    Good question...its always a fiesty thread of course :)

    1. Sunday Mornings - 20 minutes on message 5 to wrap up. We try hard to stay in our timelines. Our plan is to present a terrific environment that speaks to people's needs and draws them in deeper to our community.

    2. Wednesday Evenings - 35 minutes. We like to dig deeper outside of Sunday morning. Its a strategy and one that works for us. We have such minimal programming on Wednesdays it is a great fit for more exegetical and theological conversations.

    I'm a big fan of working from one big idea out of a text. Keep it simple is my motto. If I think its too long or too much...it probably is. I've listened to amazing communicators who can keep an audience with them for 45+ minutes of course. But I've also struggled under spiritual despots who shouldn't go longer than 15 but stretch it to 50 minutes every Sunday.

    Effective communication, for your context, is the best rule of thumb. :)
     
  9. Siberian

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    Well put - I have too. Long doesn't equal meaty.
     
  10. mont974x4

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    That's a good nutshell of it.
     
  11. Dr Mixer GED

    Dr Mixer GED
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    Thanks for the responses. I will just say all I think I can say on something and then quit and let the time fall where it may.
     
  12. mont974x4

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    I know of one preacher who goes thought by thought, as opposed to verse by verse. This means if it takes half a verse or 6 verses then that determines his sermon for any given service. It may take 10 minutes, it may take 30. I have visited his small church on a few occassions and the people there are showing some real growth and an appreciation for the Word.
     
  13. gb93433

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    The messages Jesus preached tend to be easily understood and tougher to apply.

    A lady once told me, "Just remember to quit before the people do."
     
  14. 12strings

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    I would add a few thoughts:

    1. I would make sure you have specific applications spread throughout your sermons (drawn from the text..."because it says this, you should do this."

    2. I generally speak about 20 minutes to the teenagers I teach on Wednesday nights, but would aim for a bit more (25-30) when I'm filling in for the senior pastor (he usually goes 30-40).

    3. Go here: http://www.worldwide-classroom.com/
    -There is a free entire preaching class "Christ-Centered Preaching" that I have been listening to, and it has been incredibly helpful for one such as myself who somehow made it though Christian College and Seminary without ever taking a preaching class!!! :)
     
  15. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    A preacher of my acquaintance was asked once, "how much preparation time do you use to prepare a 50-minute sermon?"

    "Oh, I can do 50 minutes with about 90 minutes prep."

    "What about a 30-minute sermon?"

    "Gee, probably about three hours."

    "Okay, what about a 20-minute sermon?"

    The preacher replied: "I don't think I could ever have enough time to prepare that short a message."
     
  16. mandym

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    Preach until God says your done. do not worry about setting predetermined time frames. sometimes it appears that the excuse that people can only stand so much time is an excuse for laziness.
     
  17. Petros

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    1. My opinion is that there is no sermon "too long" or "too short". Obviously, that cannot and should not be taken to extremes (5 min or 3 hours, for example). Prepare, prepare, prepare! Preach in your head as you write, write out your thoughts on pen and paper as you go along in your study, and preach to yourself in the car, office, anywhere that people won't think you're a loon. If you are prepared, then present what you have prepared and suddenly 20 minutes or 50 minutes seems to be of little difference if you have properly exegeted the text, follow the Holy Spirit's guidance, and stay on topic. You and the congregation will give little regard to the clock. :thumbs:

    2. Preaching for an hour, rambling incessantly on off-topic drivel, and over-using illustrations, quotations, etc, will make you seem unprepared. Try the advice of Dr. David Allen- Exegete the Scripture, form the main points, and then in your sermon "Explain, then Illustrate, then Apply each point". The Lord will get His message across, not limited to our finite timeframe.

    3. If the man bringing the Word of the Lord does so with the authority of the Holy Spirit, carefully hidden behind the Cross, and with faithfulness to the text, then I couldn't care less if I'm out of Church by 11:45 or 12:30.
     
  18. Jkdbuck76

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    1. Is this "too short" a sermon?
    Yes. If you get cut off or if you just didn't do the work of studying.

    2. Does it imply a lack of knowledge?
    Not so much as lack of study.

    3. Would you take seriously a preacher who regularly preached 20 minute sermons?
    Yes. But he'd better get down to the nitty-gritty. Was it Christ-honoring? Did he expound the Word well? I don't think Steven's sermon was 20 minutes long. Some folks just get to the point quicker. Now you have to pray about this kind of thing and ask God to show you if you're giving enough "food" to His people. I wish I had a better answer. Last night's sermon: 25 minutes.
     
  19. thegospelgeek

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    My pastor taught me to "Stand Up", "Speak Up", and "Shut Up". The only message too long is the one that took 50 minutes to preach a 20 minute message. The only one too short is one where you didn't speak what God gave you.
     
  20. RG2

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    One thing that you should probably do is actually record yourself and listen to it back. It might be surprising that you might be rushing your delivery and not even notice. I agree with the others, time does not = depth or a good sermon.
     

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