This is a common question among youth workers, especially within an American culture where attention spans matter. I wonder sometimes if ministries in foreign cultures that are used to longer church services ever have to even ask the question, but that’s perhaps another blog post for another time.
Most youth workers set aside a certain amount of time for their message to make its point, dabbling somewhere in between 10 to 30 minutes. Others might offer that a general rule of thumb is one minute of preaching per the age of your audience (i.e., an audience of 15-year-olds equals a 15 minute message).
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Perhaps another way to consider the question is, “How long should you preach before engaging students another way, and then preaching some more?”
For example, if you watch major TV shows or movies that do this well, they’ll give you a thick scene…then shift it to something completely different…then shift it back to the thick scene…so on. Sometimes the shift is lighter, like in the Passion of the Christ when you’re watching Mary look at Jesus being beaten—and then there is this little mental flashback of them being playful with each other years earlier, or him needing her help as a child—and then we’re back to the heavier stuff.
If you do this well, a “message” can last longer than it would otherwise. The catch is to make sure things complement each other versus distract from each other.