I tell my homiletics students: “A boring four-minute sermon is twice as good as a boring eight-minute one.” A priest in Ireland seems to agree.
Fr Paddy O’Kane, who is parish priest at the Holy Family Church in the Ballymagroarty area of Londonderry, decided to cut the length of his sermons in order to encourage parents to bring their children to Mass on a Sunday and to keep his congregation fully engaged.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Fr O’Kane said: “When you are up on the alter preaching, you can be under the false impression you are being more interesting than you actually are.
“I have just come back from a sabbatical in Texas where we were told as far as possible to sit in the pews beside the congregation to get a lay person’s perspective on what was going on.
“I found the sermons were quite long and I found my attention began to wander after around five minutes no matter how interesting the person was.
“There were some sermons I heard that were short, sharp and to the point and I found those very uplifting.
“A parent of a child recently asked me why he should bring her to Mass when all she does is yawn with boredom while a priest goes on for around 15 minutes talking about things they didn’t understand.
“What that parent said really struck a chord with me and made me think maybe having sermons, shorter, to the point and child-friendly would be the start of getting more families to come back to church.
“It is easier to write a longer sermon so my decision to keep my sermons to around five minutes is not a matter of me taking it easy. It is difficult but my congregation seem to be on board with this. In fact one wag said: ‘Could you not make it four minutes Father’?”
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