Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Should Sermons Be Less Than 8 Minutes?

…according to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic they should be:

“The homily in general should not go over eight minutes – the average amount of time for a listener to concentrate…”

Father Andrew Headon offers his thoughts:

“There is a saying among clergy, If you haven’t struck oil in seven minutes, stop boring.”

Now I’ve heard my far share of “injurious” 3+ hour sermons back in my Pentecostal days. Those sermons really should have come with a health warning. I’m also aware that this media saturated generation has trouble sitting down and concentrating. But surely the answer isn’t cutting the sermon down to 8 minutes is it?!

I think when looking at the subject of sermon length it’s important to make a big distinction; length of sermon does not equate to quality of sermon. Believe me, I’ve suffered through sermons that were less than 8 minutes in length but were more painful (or as painful) as some of those 3+ hour sermons I mentioned before.

I’m not sure if this is original to him or not, but to paraphrase what a preaching lecturer once said to a class I was in:

“Every sermon should feel as if it were 25 minutes long. The sermon’s actual length may be much longer (or shorter if you’re not that skilled yet), but it should feel like only 25 minutes.”

Although it’s a painful job, if preachers forced themselves to hear recordings of their sermons I think we could really improve homiletic skill. A preacher may be surprised how unclear, confusing, repetitious (sometimes even contradictory) his sermons can be.

I don’t think 8 minutes is the answer. Let’s teach our congregations how to listen and concentrate longer instead of encouraging the problem. Yet at the same time, I’d much rather hear and understand God’s Word clearly in 25 minutes than sit there for an hour because an hour sermon is considered “solid” or “serious” or simply because the preacher likes the sound of his own voice.