While some of these segments carried the actual program title of "Sermonette," there were a variety of names used by individual stations, such as "Prayer for Today," "Meditation," "Give Us This Day," 'Devotions", "Five Minutes To Live By", "Reflections", "Words of Inspiration", "One Minute With Your Bible" or the like.
Sermonettes were generally about three to five minutes in length, and featured religious clergy from churches in the local station's coverage area. Reflecting the majority religious faith in the U.S., the clergy involved were almost always Christian (Protestant or Roman Catholic), although in TV markets with a large Jewish population, a rabbi might occasionally be called upon and TV markets with a large Muslim population, an imam might be called upon. The segments were pre-taped for airing at their normally scheduled early morning or late night time slots.
Articles written for church bulletins are often sermonettes in essence. They contain an introduction, frequently a really stupid joke, a body or situation that is being addressed, a Biblical/scriptural equivalent and a wrap-up or point tying the illustration and scripture together in a meaningful way. Similar articles often begin with a dumb joke or comedic opening that was supposed to lead to a serious discussion and pointed statement for the audience.
Some stations also presented a nationally distributed filmed or videotaped inspirational message, either in addition to, or replacing, local messages. One of the best-known national sermonettes was A Seed from the Sower, presented by Michael Guido.
Along with films featuring the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (the U.S. national anthem) and other patriotic or inspirational short features, sermonettes gradually disappeared from U.S. TV schedules as more and more stations switched to 24-hour programming, eliminating the classic sign-on and sign-off routines.
In the United Kingdom, similar short religious programs used to be broadcast at end of schedule, but were called "epilogues" (the BBC's was called The Epilogue) rather than "sermonettes" and broadcast on BBC and ITV. "Epilogue" was also the name of sermonettes aired in Australia at the end of each broadcast day. CTV affiliates in several Canadian cities aired sermonettes at the beginning or end of each broadcast day. In Mexico local Televisa and later TV Azteca affiliates transmitted sermonettes featuring Catholic clergy.
In the 1970s, comedian Chevy Chase delivered a parody sermonette as a regular on Saturday Night Live, speaking as the pastor of the "Church of Confusion". This type of programming was also parodied by Scottish comedian Rikki Fulton in his comedy show Scotch and Wry, where the "Last Call" segment featured Fulton as a number of different ministers, including the unwittingly intoxicated David Goodchild, the frustrated W. E. Free, and (most frequently) the dour-faced and ironically named Reverend I.M. Jolly.