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I find many pastors, especially younger ones, are regularly wrestling with this question.  The pressure to answer can be self-imposed, or forced by those in your church who complain your sermons are too long.  The problem is there does not seem to be one right answer.

The answer to this question largely depends on the kind of pastor you are, the quality of preacher you are, and the kind of congregation you serve.  In light of this, here are 3 principles that might help you answer this question in your particular context.

A pastor should determine the length of a sermon…

1) Based on where your people are, not where you think they should be.

We should always challenge our folks to grow.  Yet, I hear of many pastors preaching sermons at a length they know is overwhelming the majority of their congregation.  The reason…to push their people to be able to listen to God’s Word for the amount of time the pastor thinks they should be able to listen.

Push your congregation to grow, but not at the expense of exasperating them by trying to make them something they are not.

God must do that work.  Preach faithfully, but meet them where they are.  Let God mature them to that place as your preaching causes them to long for more of it.

2) Based on how good and seasoned a preacher you are. 

I fear so many of us who love the Puritans read that they preached 1 – 2 hour sermons and think, “Hey, I want to be like the Puritans.”  The problem is many men who want to preach an hour, are not good enough or seasoned enough to preach an hour…yet.  I realize we are treading in subjective waters.  The point here is the necessity to honestly evaluate how good and seasoned you are as a preacher.

If you are in your first couple of years pastoring a church, your sermons should probably be shorter, more succinct, and simpler than you probably think or want.

If you are not able honestly to assess your preaching gifts and allow others to speak into your life to assess them with you, I believe you will have a difficult time determining what length your sermons should be that is most helpful to your congregation.

3) To leave your people longing for more, not less.

Every preacher has been there.  We can sense we are loosing our people and we still have 10 minutes left in the sermon.  We want to make sure we give adequate time to the preaching of God’s word, but this principle to leave them longing for a bit more, is a good goal to pursue.  I would rather leave my people in a place where they wanted just a little more, verses exasperating them with too much.

Do not underestimate the discouragement that comes from someone who honestly desires a nice big glass of water and instead, got the fire hose jammed down their throat.

Remember, these are just principles.  Do not over analyze them.  Just take them and apply them in your context with your level of preaching experience.  Lastly, remember you are a shepherd of these people to whom you are preaching.  Think like a shepherd as you determine the length of your sermons.  Push them to grow.  Nurture them where they are now.  Then, trust that God will use his word and your efforts to find that balance every pastor should seek.



Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children—son Samuel and daughters Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for 15 years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University, receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Bill Pierson

commented on Jan 19, 2017

I ask Father to tell me what to preach, and tell me when I'm done !!

Dr Robert Ballard

commented on Jan 20, 2017

If a sermon contains more interesting "stories" and examples, it does not seem so long. If a sermon has lots of scripture and deep theology, the average member may be overwhelmed and not be able to take much of it. The Word is good and needs to be proclaimed, so do it in a way which draws interest.

Rev. Richard Roland Sr.

commented on Feb 13, 2017

I have been preaching for nearly 33 years. I was 44 years old when I finally gave my life to the Lord, and am 79 years old now and still preaching every Sunday twice. When I was saved I enrolled in Moody and after 3 years was called to the very same church I am still in. In the beginning, I had no idea in the world on how to write a Sermon, so every Saturday night I would spend 2 hours on my knees asking the Lord to guide me through what I felt since Monday He wanted me to Preach, and then spent 1 hour on Sunday morning on my knees asking Him to Lead, Guide, and direct me, and guess what? After 33 years I still do it the same, and just takes me a little longer now to get up off my knees! :) Also I am exactly like Brother Bill Pierson "I ask the Father to tell me what to preach, and tell me when I'm done !!" ...... AMEN!!??

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