Skip to comments.Would You Go to Church if Services Were Shorter?
Posted on 07/06/2011 7:07:50 AM PDT by Bed_Zeppelin
One church leader says worship services today are too time consuming, speaking out during an era when discussions about long church services seem to be a touchy subject for many Christians.
The Rev. Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield, told a group of clergy in a speech in his London diocese this week that church services have become too long, recommending clergy should aim to keep the time of worship to no more than 50 minutes.
The bishop continued to say that worship has become too complicated, leaving people who are not regular churchgoers feeling confused and excluded.
"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."
Most religious leaders say Sunday morning church services already have to compete with shopping, lying in bed, or taking the day off, and the idea of spending two hours dedicated to worship is not very appealing in todays society.
One blog reported that people who are in favor of longer church services frequently use the argument that we need to give God the time that he deserves. If we can make time for everything else, we can make time for God.
In my opinion, being in service for 3 hours on Sunday is not a badge of honor. It means that there are a lot of people in your church that waste a lot of time during service, said Clifton Holmes, a Christian writer for the Gospel Blog.
There is no point in any of us bashing people for how much or how little time they spend in church on Sunday. If you really want to score points and find favor with God, then focus on how much time you spend with him outside of the walls of your cathedral, worship center or sanctuary.
Research conducted over the last year by anonymous worshippers for the church website Ship of Fools found some Anglican clergy are preaching for as long as 42 minutes. Throw in songs of praise, fellowship and prayer and the worshipping public spends about two hours in church.
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 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."
Attention spans remain a major area of investigation within research for psychology and neuroscience. Medical professionals generally believe that there is an"epidemic-level shortness in the attention spans of American citizens, according to a federally-funded study on improving attention spans of Americans.
Kirk Johnson, a behavioral psychologist at the University of Minnesota who took part in the attention span study, said one explanation for the plummet in American attention spans may be, in part, an increasingly intrusive overabundance of often irrelevant and distracting information.
From reality television to advertising on mobile phones to giant screaming headline broadsheets on every street corner contributes to the problem, he said.
In another recent poll conducted by City Data, nearly 20 percent of those surveyed said their church services were timed just right.
Others surveyed for the poll, reveal 50 percent saying they spend about 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes in church.
Recent research shows only 26 percent of the world attend church services.
Last year, the Vatican told Catholic clergy to keep their sermons under eight minutes to cater for people who found it hard to concentrate for long periods.
According to Christian Research, there is no doubt that the long term downward trend in Church attendance continues as does the increase in average age of Churchgoers.
So far, research shows nothing the Church leaders have done seems to have brought about any change in the decline in church attendance that started in the 50's.
The comments after the article are a real eye-opener.
Yes, Christians should be clamoring for more church time than less. If not there is a problem.
No. I have found that most, not all, of the churches that finish in less than an hour, present a watered-down or even a liberal interpretation of the Bible. When the exposition of the Word is the pinnacle of corporate worship, it isn’t uncommon for a service to be longer than an hour.
How about we skip the sermon and just hold hands and sing a few hymns? Why bother with that pesky old Gospel?
How about take those new 7-11 praise songs they sing at my church (7 words repeated 11 times), and instead repeat them only 3 times. This would take 15 minutes out of the service that provide no spiritual nourishment.
Catholic Masses run about an hour and I’m in no hurry to leave. Plus we can get some Knights of Columbus business discussed because more members go to Mass than go to meetings.
Exactly. Our preacher goes for at least 40 minutes and he may only cover a couple of verses. Our service is almost always 2 hours by the time you get the singing, the sermon, any special music and then prayer and praise time in.
I’m a Christian, though not always a good Christian, and I attend when I’m not working, and I always fight sleep during the sermon and always wish for a shorter service. Recently noticed an aside in one of Bruce Catton’s Civil War histories in which President Buchanan usually answered the same lady in the same way, on his way out of church: “The sermon, ma’am? Too long, I thought.”
Best Pastor I ever had, limited his sermons to around 25 minutes. Asked him about why it was so short. His reply was that people can only pay attention for 20-30 minutes in a stretch; and that if you can’t say it in under 30 minutes, you can’t say it in 45 minutes.
When he was getting ready to retire, he asked for people in the congregation for suggestions on which past sermons they would like to hear again. It was amazing that some of the most requested had been preached originally many years prior to his retirement. He preached sermons you actually remembered. With most preachers, it’s had to remember was was said the following Tuesday.
Gerald Marvel ws a Godly man with an extraordinary talent for preaching.
That’s about the right time. Mass is Mass. It’s not a circus or a picnic which is what it has turned into since Vat11. Attention spans my foot. We as children sat through Masses and special Masses and listened to and responded over and over again to the Priest during a Litany. It’s self discipline. However, someone giving a speech for over an hour or so is absolutely ridiculous and seems to me to be all about the one giving the speech. Three hours in the church??? We used to go to Mass then home to be with our families and enjoy a nice Sunday dinner prepared by our mother. Mass was Mass and the rest of the day was the rest of the day.
It’s difficult to get a non-Christian or immature Christian to sit longer than an hour. They just will not do it.
If you want to win hearts and minds (aka souls) for Christ then you need to deliver the message in a format they’ll accept. It can still be a biblically correct message and be done within 1 hour.
Once people grow in their relationship with Christ they will develop a hunger for more.
Coming soon, drive thru services.
See my post #10.
“Our services on average run around three hours, the same length as watching a football game or going to a concert. So what’s the problem? “
Today people seem to get more from a football game than a church service (and, no, I’m not talking about the entertainment aspect of football).
Churches with long services can pack ‘em in if they are actually feeding the flock. But that happens rarely these days IMHO.
I’d go if services were shorter. I’d go if services were longer. However, if they were much longer, I’d make sure we didn’t have all the little boys with us going ballistic.
I have no objection to spending time in church. I go to religious lectures on my own initiative, and sometimes even pay to hear a speaker.
There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.
But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him. Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted." Acts 20:7-12
I go for God, not to feel good about going. If God’s in the service, time doesn’t matter.
I was just reading it.
I don’t think God cares how long we sit in church so much as how the time is used and how the sermon is applied the rest of the time.
A lot of churches that have services lasting 1:00 to 1:15 also have extensive Sunday School programs for all ages and encourage people to join small groups.
This is especially true for churches that have more than one service because the sanctuary can’t seat all the attendees at one time.
A church service that goes for two hours probably only has one service and not a lot in the way of Sunday School; and especially adult Sunday School.
I wonder how may would do the same thing at work if a meeting when past the normal time? My guess is few if any. And as someone mentioned, I'm sure many of these folks would have no problem sitting through a football game or movie of similar length. To me, it's just another sign of the sort of universal disrespect and rudeness that is taking over our culture. Sad thing is, I doubt any of the offenders even considers it rude, which is much of the problem
I go to worship but preaching about stewardship makes it seem longer than it really is.
Our services run 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. Didn’t really bother me as a kid and doesn’t bother me now.
Uh. Come to my synagogue. We usually go three hours plus on Saturday mornings. (Of course most of the folks only show up toward the end!)
To me its more important that people go to church than worrying about how long church is.
Our church runs about 1:15-1:30 and there is bible study available before or after. What annoys me is most of the people who volunteer in bible study bolt during the invitation. I know they need to get to their class or other activity but why can’t they wait 5 more minutes?
“Come to my synagogue. “
Only if you’ll let me talk to you about Jesus. :)
I find myself having/getting to give stewardship “moments” from time to time at our church, both at the 8:30 and the 11:00 services, each of which seldom (but occasionally) last more than an hour. If people would give maybe 5% of their income (forget the tithe, for most that just ain’t gonna happen) there’d seldom be any stewardship talks.
With some of the comments above, I wonder why people go to church. I happen to enjoy the fellowship, the music and the messages (although our wonderful pastor does trip over his tongue from time to time, he gets his points across). More than that, I come to worship God. I think we are called to do that, and an hour or two a week is precious little sacrifice for what He has given us...
Since the Bible says that we’ll be praising God constantly in heaven, it seems to me that people need to get used to a Sunday service of reasonable length.
We were created to glorify God. Seeker-centered worship fails to do that, treating church as some sort of exercise in marketing.
A ping to my Texas friend.
You do know, don't you, that the only song that's allowed to be shortened in church these days is a hymn, right? But honestly, I'm with you.
Sure! Come on by. There's plenty of time for talk at the luncheon (free) that follows the service.
Your post led me to remember a church I went to about eight years ago. It was in a suburb of Minneapolis. I’m a Catholic and this church was on the evangelical side.
But what I liked most about this church was the pastor. he was not hell and damnation pastor. He was not a slick speaker - although he was a good speaker.
His sermons resonated with me. They incorporated real-life experiences with the points he was trying to get across. So many times I found myself nodding in agreement during the sermon.
It’s so rare to find a pastor, priest, etc. with the ability to reach out and make you (a) think about what they said and (b) remember it days, weeks and months later.
>>>How about take those new 7-11 praise songs they sing at my church (7 words repeated 11 times), and instead repeat them only 3 times. This would take 15 minutes out of the service that provide no spiritual nourishment.<<<
I love your “7-11” label for those songs. Those used to drive me crazy at a church I used to attend.
I could sing great hymns by Wesley, Crosby, Montgomery, Watts, etc. for hours and want more, but those “7-11” choruses are maddening. Some are totally worthless, others would be fine if they were sung 2 or 3 times, rather than 11.
What would really bother me was when they would sing 2 shallow, “7-11” choruses for a half an hour, but then feel the need to skip 2 verses from a great hymn. (Not enough time, I guess.)
Personally, I think a service of about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with opportunity for those who want to stay longer to pray, sing, study the Bible, etc. for about another hour or so seems about right.
However, quality is more important than quantity. I’ve sat through a 3 1/2 hour service with a bunch of time wasting, nonsense that had little or nothing to do with God.
My Pastor is a godly man and a worthy spiritual leader. But I have told him on numerous occasions that someday I am going to remove the clock that hangs on the back wall of the church so that he doesn’t have time staring him in the face as he preaches. Whether he preaches short or long, I want the Holy Spirit to be the One determining how long it should go. As far as I can determine, God doesn’t punch a time-clock.
Our church service has two main parts. Sing 5 or 6 worship songs followed by a good 30 minute sermon. Never takes more than an hour and is all red meat. Some times communion takes an extra 10 minutes but big deal. This is the way all church services should be IMO.
That’s how Crystal Cathedral got started in Garden Grove. In the late 1950’s my dad went to Schuller’s drive-in church a few times. He said the services were in an old drive-in movie theater lot. He and some of his friends would go to church in swim trunks and then head to the beach. He said even then he thought it was ridiculous, but he went because his girlfriend loved it. He has also said that at the time Schuller’s messages were closer to orthodox.
“Recently noticed an aside in one of Bruce Cattons Civil War histories in which President Buchanan usually answered the same lady in the same way, on his way out of church: The sermon, maam? Too long, I thought.”
My extended family went to a church service awhile back at one of the family member’s church.
After it was over, someone asked my uncle what he thought about the sermon. He replied, “I thought it was good. I found several places along the way where he could have gone ahead and finished up, but other than that it was fine.”
No matter how long or short, I will always be at Mass. So long as no “Spirit of Vatican II” type innovations are present. It’s His House, and His world. I’m just happy to be with Him.
>>>Its difficult to get a non-Christian or immature Christian to sit longer than an hour. They just will not do it.
If you want to win hearts and minds (aka souls) for Christ then you need to deliver the message in a format theyll accept. It can still be a biblically correct message and be done within 1 hour.
Once people grow in their relationship with Christ they will develop a hunger for more.<<<
You are probably right about attention spans. However, the purpose of church services is to honor God first and edify His saints, second.
I think a big problem is that most churches have made evangelism (and often a soft, wishy washy, worldly form of it) a primary function of church services. As a result, church services are being designed to appeal to unsaved, unregerate, carnally minded people.
Reading the Bible, you will see that nearly all evangelism was done outside of church services. I believe that is the way it should be today.
It is not only the fault of the modern “Seeker Sensitive” movement. Reformed churches who made many great strides towards returning to the Biblical faith, but held on to the Roman Catholic error of baptizing babies into the church and taught and warped version of the doctrine of the visible and invisible church started the problem. For centuries, European, mainline protestant churches have been dominated by unsaved “members” as a result of this false doctrine.
The church is for born again BELIEVERS. Unbelieving visitors are fine and good, but only those who belong to Christ should be allowed to be members or have any influence over how a church is run.
The Gospel should be preached in church for visitors and to remind believers of it, but services should be designed to honor and glorify God. There is perhaps no more powerful evangelistic tool than unbelievers hearing about the Glory of God, His Holiness, His Mercy, etc., and our sinfulness and unworthiness, both in sermons and in song. We are supposed to magnify the Lord , not attempt to shrink Him down to a size that a carnal mind can handle.
The length of the sermon isn’t always why people get bored or loose interest. The sermon should belong enough to fully express the subject while understanding that the mind can not understand what the seat and not endure.
While living in Texas I attended a church where the interim pastor preached for 40 minutes to a hour and more sometimes. He was a very good speaker and he was a also professor of hermeneutics at a local seminary. When the church was offered TV time on a local network affiliate the guy that prepared the tapes told the preacher either you need to edit your sermons or I will need to so they fit the time slot. While not loose any quality his sermons were all about 40 minutes.
“How about we skip the sermon and just hold hands and sing a few hymns?”
Even better, skip the actual hymns and hold hands and sing vacuous, insipid, inane crappy contemporary choruses with the lyrics projected on a screen. eeewww.
I’m a teacher. If people are disengaged, it’s because your lesson plan needs work.
Things that bother me.
1. Setting aside a song just for the choir. If I’m here to just sit and listen, I’d go to a concert. I’m here to participate.
I felt that way when I sang in a choir. I told the choir director that we should try to get everyone involved in the singing, and dropping the ‘song just for the choir’ drove home that message.
We dropped the song before the giving, and added one during the mass, so that we were alwasy singing while people got up to receive.
One collection, no announcements. I usually cannot hear the sermon so I have to sit and nod politely. Would be great if the church had a handout for the sermon, not the announcements, but it never works out that way.
You mean “7-11’s” as opposed to hymns? You don’t need the screen for those.
“lyrics projected on a screen. eeewww.”
I wish they had a screen with the sermon on it too. It really helps us deaf folks.
Hymns in protestant churches were always intended to be devices not only for praise, but also for teaching sound doctrine. Read the lyrics to some of the very old hymns and you will find just that.
Unfortunately in our postmodern culture, truth is supplanted by emotions, so these songs no longer appeal to many people my age (20-35). The appeal to have bigger churches (which means more $$) has caused leadership to abandon doctrine for emotionalism (what Micahel Horton refers to as “moralistic, therapeutic self-held deism”). Jesus, on the other hand, intentionally made statements of truth that caused nominal followers to fall away (”eat my flesh... drink my blood”). But you can’t operate a business on such principles, and your pastor sure as heck couldn’t afford his BMW if he did. Church is for true believers, but there are so few of them that a churchianity business has to appeal to many unbelievers to make money.
I was at a baseball game that went over 4 hrs once and not many people left. Priorities I guess... Sort of sad really. God’s word is “boring” if it goes on more than an hour but sports! that’s another matter. Yessiree.
You've hit on the key here. Church is not supposed to be a show run by a few men or women while the congregation is primarily an audience.
"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." 1 Corinthians 14:26
When the body of Christ comes together for a service, not just to receive but to give to others, then the time flies by.
Another thing that annoys me are the teenagers and sometimes even adult that will sit there and play with their smart-phones, sending text messages and playing games during the church service. In my younger days, I remember the preacher stopping and reprimanding teens in the middle of his sermon if he thought they were talking and not paying attention.
What you describe is all too common.
I have been blessed to find a chruch that has a Traditional Service that is actually Traditional. The morning service is practically all hymns. I’m not sure what goes on at the “blended” service, as I have never attended that one, but I get the feeling it is not nearly as bad as most. I guess that is why my pastor doesn’t drive a BMW. :)
For me, nothing brings out more emotions than hearing and singing great hymns that eloquently express the great truths about God. The “emotional” choruses and shallow modern songs generally bring out no emotions (except sometimes grief and anger) in me.
I belive the “emotional” modern songs bring out largely phony emotions, the way watching a manipulative “tear jerker” movie does.