Church Services (and Sermons) Need to be Shorter?

With most people torn between using Sunday mornings to go shopping or lie in bed, the prospect of spending 90 minutes in church has an increasingly limited appeal.

There is a simple answer to this problem, according to one senior bishop who has urged clergy to cut the length of services in an effort to reverse declining levels of attendance.

The Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield, said worship has become too complicated and time-consuming, leaving people who are not regular churchgoers feeling confused and excluded.

He said that services have become too long, recommending clergy should aim to keep them to no more than 50 minutes and make sure they are careful not to preach for too long.

Research conducted over the last year by anonymous worshippers for the church website Ship of Fools found some Anglican clergy preaching for as long as 42 minutes.

“One of the reasons for our recent decline in churchgoing is we are not making the occasional worshipper feel welcome,” he said.

“You have got to be quite tough to come to some of our services if you are not a regular attender.

“We’re praying for longer and we’re singing for longer.”

In a speech to clergy in his diocese, which has seen growth in recent years, Bishop Gledhill said there had been a tendency to devise “more and more intricate and beautiful services for our own use – forgetting those who might come if we made things simpler for them to start with”.

He said services, which used to last for 50 minutes are now taking an hour and a half, adding: “Sometimes I find myself thinking that this is a good way of saying ‘Go away’ to young people who come to visit us.”

The bishop said that clergy need to make sure that their sermons are not too long, arguing that people’s “attention spans aren’t what they used to be”…

There’s more here.

And also in the Telegraph today related to the above is:

The Bishop of Lichfield thinks he has worked out why people don’t go to church: it takes too long. He has urged vicars to slash the length of services – and of their sermons. The Catholic Church, too, has taken against prattling prelates, asking priests to limit their lectures to eight minutes, since people now find it hard to concentrate for any longer…

Personally I don’t think that there is much that can be said – at least not of any real substance or depth – theologically in just eight minutes. Moreover, the problem isn’t really with the length of the service (or sermon) more than it is with the abandoning of the received Faith and with it, sound Biblical teachings. As a result of some rather wishy-washy pulpit teachings, stemming from a position of compromise with the world and its ways, the Church in many parts is becoming more than a little irrelevant. Without that voice of relevance, edifying, guiding and leading the people in truth, they simply are not growing; instead, becoming indifferent, they choose to stay away. Unless that changes, the length (or brevity) of the service (or sermon), will not make any difference.     


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