Preachers failing to inspire congregations, researchers claim

Preachers are failing to inspire as teachers according to new research.

Studies by St John's College at Durham University for the College of Preachers has found sermons are not doing enough to motivate congregations.

Only a small minority of the people questioned say that sermons frequently change the way they live.

Despite that, congregations look forward to the sermon. Almost two thirds said they do so "frequently", another third said "sometimes".

More than half those questioned said sermons frequently give them a sense of God's love and helped them to understand Jesus.

However, sermons seem to have comparatively little effect on Christian behaviour.

Fewer than 17 per cent said sermons frequently change their attitudes towards others, or help them to look afresh at controversial issues or events in the news.

The research suggested sermons are better at helping people to reflect internally than at challenging them to act.

This research was commissioned for the 50th Anniversary of the College of Preachers.

It was carried out by a team from Codec, the research centre at St John's College, Durham University, led by the Rev Kate Bruce, Fellow in Preaching and Communication.

She said: "People said they wanted sermons which are biblical, but also relevant to contemporary life and issues.

"And in a culture which values entertainment and likes stand-up, over a quarter of them said they want preaching to be entertaining, too."