The average church sermon in the United States is 37 minutes long, although the length differs significantly depending on the specific Christian tradition, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
Catholic sermons are the shortest, at an average of 14 minutes, while sermons in historically black Protestant churches are the longest, at an average of 54 minutes. The average sermon length in mainline Protestant congregations (25 minutes) and evangelical Protestant congregations (39 minutes) falls in the middle.
Pew examined the transcribed texts of 49,719 sermons posted online that were preached between April 7 and June 1, 2019. The sermons came from 6,431 churches.
Pew also examined the sermons for words and phrases that were more frequently used by certain traditions than others.
The study found that the following Christian traditions had unique phrases that were distinctive and used more than in other traditions:
- Evangelical: “eternal hell,” “lose … salvation,” “trespass … sin,” “home … heaven” and “absent … body.”
- Catholic: homily, diocese, Eucharist, paschal and parishioner.
- Mainline Protestant: “always … poor,” “house … Thomas,” “gospel … lesson” and “disciple … betray.”
- Historically black Protestant: powerful hand, “hallelujah … come,” “neighbor … tell,” “hand … praise” and “praise … got.”
Meanwhile, among all four traditions, 90 percent of all sermons mentioned a book from the New Testament while 61 percent referenced a book from the Old Testament.
Pew cautioned that the survey was “not necessarily representative of all the sermons delivered” in the U.S. because “not all Christian churches make their sermons publicly available online.” Additionally, the sermons were collected during an eight-week period that included Easter. Sermons during that time may be of a different length and content, Pew said.
“Nevertheless, the nearly 50,000 sermons collected in this analysis offer a window into the messages that millions of Americans hear from pulpits across the country,” Pew said. “The view is limited and does not come close to revealing all the meaningful communications between American clergy and their congregations, but it is an attempt to look systematically and objectively at a large portion of those communications.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Juan Pablo Rodriguez/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.