“How Long Should a ‘Sermon’ Be?”

  • And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Luke 4:4 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John 21:25

If the average person reads about 250 words per minute, that person could (theoretically) read the entire (current) King James Bible; 783,137 words, in 3,133 minutes, or in about 52 hours. Using this formula; reading the Old Testament would take (602,585 words) 40 hrs., and reading the New Testament, (180,552 words) would be accomplished in just 12 hrs. *The 1611 KJ Version is said to contain 788,280 words.

An effort is made at this blog to keep the word count of the post between 600-1500 words—or generally speaking, a post here should be able to be read in 2.5 to 6 minutes. (If the average 250 wpm rate is factored). This will sometimes vary, depending on the subject of the post. How fast do you read? Reading tests are available here and also at this site.

The average speaking rate is about 150 words per minute.  ¹

“The Bible can be read aloud in 70 hours. There are 8,674 different Hebrew words in the Bible, 5,624 different Greek words, and 12,143 different English words in the King James Version.”—Amazing Bible Timeline.

What is attention span? “The length of time during which one (such as an individual or a group) is able to concentrate or remain interested.” —Merriam Webster.

How many of these verses  ¹  apply to this subject? “God must deal with sin, and He does so with either grace or wrath. That is why John the Baptist declared that every person on earth is under either the grace of God or His wrath.” (John 3:36).–Dr. David Reagan. ¹

The average attention span of adults has been referenced in the past, as 15-20 minutes. The attention span of children (some say, age+2 minutes) is less and older adults can have a longer, or a shorter span. ¹  “The prime culprit in hijacking attention spans is the smartphone.”—AARP.

Attention Span Statistics and Trends” (The effects of social media) Quotes from this page; “Attention spans in 2008: 5 minutes.” The average attention span at present is just 5 seconds.”

Is it possible for a minister to deliver an effective message today? (Considering the attention span of the audience and a minister’s speaking rate of 150 words per minute.)

  • A 15-20 minute attention span = 2,250-3,000 words. (15-20min x 150 wpm)
  • A 5 minute attention span = 750 words. (5min x 150 wpm)
  • A 5 second attention span = 12.5 words. (5 seconds x 150 wpm)

If the minister’s ‘speaking rate’ is 100 wpm the word counts above will be reduced to:

  • A 15-20 minute attention span = 1,500-2,000 words. (15-20min x 100 wpm)
  • A 5 minute attention span = 500 words. (5min x 100 wpm)
  • A 5 second attention span = 8.33 words. (5 seconds x 100 wpm)

* Notes: This post contains 802 words. ◊ An auctioneer can speak 250-400 wpm. “Steven Woodmore is known for his rapid speech; being able to articulate 637 wpm.”—Dom Barnard; Virtual Speech.

Are ‘prayers‘ also a concern? How long should I pray? How often?

“There are many long prayers which are not worth half so much as some very short ones. There are some, the repetition of which would take a quarter of an hour, of far less value than others that would not take you a quarter of a minute. It is the importance of the things asked, the need for them at the time, and the spirit of the prayers offered, that give them any real value, irrespective of the number of words made use of.”—The Biblical Illustrator.  Please see Matthew 6:7 & Ecclesiastes 5:2 † Related Post: Why Don’t My Prayers Get Answered?

  • How long should a sermon be?” he was once asked. To which he replied: “It is very much better to get a reputation for being brief than to have people say that you preach long sermons. Say what you have got to say in just as few words as you can. Then stop when you get through.” D.L. Moody; 1837-1899.
  • “I sometimes read and hear preachers say that the electronic media have reduced the attention span of the contemporary congregation. Today’s people, they say, cannot stay with a preacher who talks too long. I differ.” “I do not argue for longer sermons. I simply point out that the length of the sermon cannot be determined by formula.”—Ronald Allen. Read the entire paper, ‘Changes In Preaching’ | By Hugh Litchfield | Southwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 42 – Summer 2000.
  • “Christ’s disciples were no orators, till the Holy Spirit made them such.”–Matthew Henry. † Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. Exodus 4:12 † For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. Matthew 10:20 † For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. Luke 12:12