Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, I was able to visit other churches for some of their special services. It was quite an eye-opener, and it’s clearly apparent that church etiquette has changed over the years. It seemed that many of today’s churchgoers have never been taught exactly what behavior is properly respectful of God’s house and respectful of the other people in attendance. So on behalf of my fellow pastors everywhere, here are a few thoughts for consideration:
1. When the service starts, be polite to the pastor and those who came to listen. Find your seat and stop chatting. During the sermon, pay attention. The pastor faces the congregation and sees those who are walking around, yawning or checking their watches. It’s insulting and distracting. If you have trouble staying awake, try taking notes.
2. Put something in the offering. Even if you tithe (10 percent of your income) on a monthly basis or give online. Even if you are a visitor in the church. An offering is appropriate when the plate is passed. How much? Since you are receiving a spiritual meal, how about at least the price of your latte at Starbucks, or the cost of your last restaurant meal? I certainly don’t fault those who can’t give. But on Christmas Eve I visited a church service where a visitor bedecked in gold jewelry, and another checking emails on her new iPhone, just passed the offering basket along. As did five well-dressed folks in the row in front of me.
3. Stay in your seats/pews until the final song is over. Heading toward the exit after receiving communion or before the service ends is disrespectful to the worship leader, and very distracting to the other parishioners. Those who wouldn’t leave work before quitting time, or school before the final bell, or a movie before it ends, or a family gathering without saying goodbye, think nothing of walking out on God before His worship service concludes.
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4. Turn off those cellphones. If you forgot, and your phone rings, for goodness sake, don’t answer it. Push the off/vibrate button and go outside if it’s a call you have to answer.
5. If your baby won’t stop crying quickly, please take them to the restroom, nursery or cry room.
6. Finally, if you are coughing or sneezing, out of love for the parishioners seated near you, who you will certainly infect, please stay home. (No, it’s probably not “just an allergy,” and yes, you probably are “still contagious.”)
Having gotten that off my heart, God bless all you parishioners who are sincerely seeking an encounter with the Living Christ. Who come faithfully to church, respect the experience of those around you, partake of the entire service, give regularly and cheerfully to the Lord’s work, and volunteer in some ministry within your church. You are the backbone and life blood of your congregations. The Lord sees your faithful service, and will indeed reward your efforts.
The Rev. Anne Barber is pastor of My Father’s House Church in Parrish and also a member of the Florida Bar. She can be contacted at myfathershouseellentonfl@
gmail.com, or at My Father’s House, P.O. Box 1042, Ellenton, FL 34222. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald written by local clergy members.