On Long Series and Short Attention Spans

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  • People have short attention spans. You cannot preach long series any more. It is best to keep sermon series short – six weeks at the most.

    Many who preach and many who teach preaching have concluded that society in general and congregations in particular have short attention spans. Churches cannot endure long sermon series anymore, they say. This conclusion is stated as an irrefutable fact. And it goes unchallenged. But is it true?

    Every pastor must make a personal decision about how long to spend on a particular book, theme, or biography. And there are many factors that go into this decision.

    A sermon series can definitely go too long. Genesis and Psalms and Matthew and Romans and Revelation are great books to preach. But it may not be wise to spend multiple years analyzing the details of them. You may cause your congregation to miss the forest for the trees, if you go too slowly through a book.

    But who determined that a pastor had better keep a series under seven messages or risk experiencing a mass exodus of protesting members?

    There are many good preachers who preach long series. Expository series. Doctrinal series, even. When I hear this short series theory stated dogmatically, I smile as I think of strong preachers in growing churches around the country who do not subscribe to this theory.

    Let me offer an alternative theory: People will endure whatever they become accustomed to.

    If you only preach short series, the idea that you can only preach short series becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you take a shot at a longer series, making sure that every sermon is a solid biblical message that can stand on its own, your congregation very well may keep coming and keep growing.


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.