ORLANDO, Fla.--The old church song says that Jesus' eye is on the sparrow, but at the Family Bible Church in Eustis, Fla., the Rev. Allen Speegle's eye is on the clock.

From the pulpit of his nondenominational congregation, the 43-year-old minister has a clear view of the second hand sweeping the clock that hangs on the wall of his simple, rectangular sanctuary.

Speegle knows all about the competing pressures of modern life.

``So many people are in a time crunch, but they don't want to leave the Lord out,'' he said.

Unlike many of the harried, Speegle has done something about it, something dramatic.

His solution is a new, 9 a.m. Sunday express service at his church, guaranteed to finish worship within 45 minutes. There are three upbeat hymns, a collection and a speed-reading of announcements. Sermons run 23 to 25 minutes. Tops.

``It's a condensed version of the larger message, with a service that is not as long in preliminaries, announcements and connections,'' Speegle said. ``Attention spans have changed.''

Busy Sunday schedules and diminishing attention spans are not problems unique to Eustis.

Congregations around the country and across the denominational spectrum are trying to address these concerns.

Few churches have gone to the extreme of establishing express services, but many churches are searching for ways to fill their pews, including shortening sermons and establishing multiple services.

First United Methodist Church in Orlando, for example, has three Sunday morning services, ranging from 45 to 50 minutes to 55 to 65 minutes.

Whatever the ideal formula, the new service at Family Bible Church, which began in early March, seems to be working. Attendance has been running about 100 worshipers a week.

``I saw a lot of new faces, a lot of people who were out of touch because of work schedules,'' he said. ``It's working out real well.''

The express service is not seen as a cure-all.

Speegle's church, which has about 450 members, still has a full-length service every Sunday after the condensed version, one that runs about 90 minutes.

But Speegle believes his new approach fills a need.

``We started the new service as an outreach. It's an opportunity for people in our church who were running in the fast lane, but still love the Lord. If we, as the church, don't change to meet the needs of society, we're going to lose a lot of people.''

Speegle said newcomers dominate the short service, although some switch to it from the longer 10:30 a.m. service if they have some special event planned, or, as often happens in the current economy, they are required to work on Sunday.

``You don't feel like you're spending all day in church,'' said Joy Easton, of Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. Ernie Quinton, of Mount Dora, Fla., attended a recent express service and said he also understands its appeal.

``Some people don't want to spend an hour or an hour and a half in church,'' he said.

The idea for the express service came from a church staff member. Speegle said he had to warm up to it. ``The more we talked about it with our staff, the more we liked it,'' he said. The new service means ``people didn't have to choose between church and their family.''

Carol Childress, of the Leadership Network, a Dallas-based organization which tracks trends in church life, said she has not heard of similar fast services anywhere else.

She also was critical of the innovation, saying leaders of Family Bible Church ``have confused marketing their church with cultural understanding.''

However, Childress acknowledged widespread concern in the religious community that the attention span of worshipers has been affected ``by the last 40 years of media, especially television, as people have become accustomed to having information and programs delivered in sound bites.''

The length of weekend religious services varies by faith and denomination, although most range from 60 to 90 minutes. Catholic Masses on Sunday and Friday afternoon services at Muslim mosques run about an hour. Baptist services average about an hour and 15 minutes. Pentecostal services can run two hours or more, and Saturday morning services at a Conservative or Orthodox Jewish synagogue can last three hours.

How long people are willing to worship, researchers say, is influenced by factors other than culture, tradition and the increasingly hectic pace of modern life.

These range from the mundane to the spiritual: Wooden pews or cushioned seats. The thermostat setting. The amount of kneeling. Whether people get up and move around during services or if young children sit with their parents. How inspirational the speaker in the pulpit is.

One solution is to establish multiple weekend services. Northland Community Church in Longwood, Fla., has gone the furthest in this direction, offering a half-dozen complete worship services over the weekend, from Saturday through Monday.

Other churches offer a choice of services, ranging in format from contemporary to traditional. Many churches also incorporate dramatic skits, lively music and video clips to keep worshipers engaged.

The Rev. Jack Jackson, associate pastor at First Methodist, uses clips from CDs and movies such as ``Star Wars'' and ``Schindler's List'' to illustrate his sermons. He uses them ``when the videos can tell the story better than I can say it'' because ``today people are so used to the visual encounter.'' Sermons and messages at most weekend services in the United States run from 20 to 40 minutes, experts say.

There are exceptions.

John Lord, a Winter Park, Fla., consultant, recalled being on a search committee for a priest at St. Andrew's Episcopal church in Marblehead, Mass. He was told, only partly in jest, that sermons at the congregation were to be ``about God and about 10 minutes.''

Despite his own self-imposed 25-minute limit on sermons, Speegle of Family Bible Church acknowledged that this brevity was ``an adjustment, to say the least.'' Congregations with multiple services on Sunday morning have to run on time.

However, Southern Baptist pastors report concern in their congregations that, if their last morning service runs too long, the Methodists who are known for finishing on time will beat them to the restaurants for lunch.

``That's a concern,'' said the Rev. James Fortinberry, executive director of the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. ``If people are used to getting out at noon and the service stretches to 12:30, that can be a major upsetting problem.''

Adds Jackson of First Methodist: ``Even our long-term folks start looking at their watches when the noon hour comes.''

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