How to Behave in Church
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:40,
"...everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."
In this passage, Paul was addressing both the leaders and the attenders of the church at Corinth in regards to their services.
We can learn from Paul's advise today as well. And though we can't control how other people behave, our good choices can set an example for others to follow. Then being in church will become a richer, more worshipful experience for everyone.
Good behavior is basically showing respect to other people. That's what Jesus meant when He said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You know how you like to be treated, and the kind of actions and words that make you feel comfortable.
Simple Ways To Show Respect
Before you go:
Find out the church's values and "culture". If you're going to a new church on a given day, go to the website to get a sense of its personality. The more you discover right away, the better you'll know what to expect and what is expected there.
How To Discover A Church's Culture
"Culture" in this sense means the atmosphere a church fosters for it's attenders. Decisions about many aspects of church life will define the culture. Some examples include:
- Demographics - The programs offered will tell you the church's focus. Are there a lot of children's programs? How about singles groups, or activities for older people?
- Music - Is there usually a worship team leading songs, or an organist accompanying hymns?
- Dress Code - Do people generally dress up formally, or do you see a range of attire?
- Visitors - Are new people made to feel welcome? What about "seekers"?
Most churches fall somewhere between the extremes, even incorporating different approaches to these and many other categories. And each choice effects the guidelines for and the running of a church.
Before dropping your children off in any nursery or class, check if the staff has had any first aid training. Also, see if the church offers programs like Good Shepherd that prepare volunteers to work with children responsibly. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and to make sure they can contact you if needed.
While You're There
Make plans for any children you'll have with you. Most churches offer a nursery for infants and toddlers, and some also have programs for older children. My church runs a "Children's Church" ministry - children from grades 1 to 5 are invited to go just before the sermon starts. Utilize these opportunities.
If you have to keep them with you for the whole service, consider bringing silent activities for them to do in the pew. When my kids were still young and stayed in the sanctuary, I had them draw a picture about what they were hearing. They created some pretty powerful images, and it kept them focused and quiet.
Connecting With Others
When you arrive, greet those around you in a friendly way. This can be challenging to do if you are the one visiting, but being approachable really helps put other people at ease. You may strike up a new friendship right away, or plant the seeds for later. And you'll definitely make a positive impression.
Find someone to encourage while you are there. Sometimes the smallest of compliments (sincere, of course) can make the difference in a person's day. Decide to be a cheerleader for others, and it will come back to you!
While in your pew or seat, do your best not to distract the people around you. Keep talking to a minimum, and avoid shuffling papers or unwrapping candy during quiet moments. Remember, the focus should be on worshipping God first, and anything that takes away from that should be avoided.