IN A survey of 1800 churchgoers, by Christian Research, almost nine out of ten of those questioned agreed that sermons were still an essential part of Sunday worship.
Although ten per cent of them thought that a sermon should last more than 30 minutes, the favoured duration was between ten and 20 minutes.
Fourteen per cent of the men questioned thought that a sermon should last more than 30 minutes, compared with six per cent of women. Nineteen per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds thought that a sermon should last more than 30 minutes, compared with nine per cent of those over 65.
Biblical exposition was more favoured by men (49 per cent) than women (39 per cent), who preferred more practical applications (44 per cent) compared with men (36 per cent). Neither sex favoured personal anecdotes or attempts at comedy: a sense of humour was seen as important by only two per cent, and personal anecdotes by one per cent.
The survey found strong regional variations. In the East Midlands, 12 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that sermons were outdated, but in Scotland the figure was six per cent, and in Yorkshire and Humberside, four per cent.
When questioned about female preachers, 79 per cent had no preference; 20 per cent of those who did have a preference favoured men; and one per cent preferred women. Among women who declared a preference, fewer than two per cent wanted a female speaker.
The research was carried out in advance of a new competition next Friday to select the Sermon of the Year, organised by Christian Resources Exhibitions International at the ExCeL, in London.