How long are sermons? Study says: 14-54 minutes. Amen!
YORK — How long should a sermon be?
The major branches of Christianity in the U.S. have sharply different traditions, with sermons at historically black Protestant churches lasting — on average — nearly four times as long as Roman Catholic sermons.
That’s among the findings of an analysis by the Pew Research Center — billed as the first of its kind — of 49,719 sermons delivpauses ered in April and May that were shared online by 6,431 churches. Pew described its research as “the most exhaustive attempt to date to catalogue and analyze American religious sermons.”
According to Pew, the median length of the sermons was 37 minutes. Catholic sermons were the shortest, at a median of 14 minutes, compared with 25 minutes for sermons in mainline Protestant congregations and 39 minutes in evangelical Protestant conNEW gregations. Historically black Protestant churches had by far the longest sermons, at a median of 54 minutes.
Pew said sermons at the black churches lasted longer than mainline Protestant sermons even though, on average, they had roughly the same number of words. A possible explanation, Pew said, is that the preachers at black churches allow more time during their sermons for musical interludes, responses from worshippers in the pews and dramatic in their oratory.
In addition to sermon length, the new Pew analysis delved into an examination of words and phrases most commonly used by preachers from the different Christian traditions.
It found that the word “hallelujah” appeared in sermons from about 22% of the historically black Protestant churches, and those congregations were eight times more likely than others to hear that word.
Sermons from evangelical churches were three times more likely than those from other traditions to include the phrase “eternal hell.”
Pew said the sermons it examined came from 2,156 evangelical congregations, 1,367 mainline Protestant congregations, 422 Catholic parishes and 278 historically black Protestant congregations, while other congregations could not be reliably classified. The research did not analyze sermons delivered in synagogues, mosques or other nonChristian congregations.