Church Etiquette

Updated on October 20, 2019
revmjm profile image

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Etiquette: Definition

Etiquette is simply the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession, organization, social class, or group. It is established behavior with a set of expectations for social behavior.

It could be school etiquette, workplace etiquette, courtroom etiquette, restaurant etiquette or church etiquette. This article is limited to just church etiquette.

Be on Time

Being on time for anything is good stewardship. People should be on time for doctors' appointments, parties, movies, and especially for the church.

If you want all you can get from a church service, then be on time. Be in your seat praying as you wait for the service to start. When I was doing an internship at a local church, I asked the pastor what time the church services started. He told me, "When most of the people get here." Every church should have a set time, and parishioners should abide by that time.

It is especially important to be on time or arrive at the church early if you are assigned to certain duties. Some churches allow choir members to walk up to where the choir is singing and take their places even when they are late. Sometimes they take their place during the rendition of a song. That is tactic, rude, and disrespectful.


Wear Appropriate Apparel

People who were poor and grew up in the South still believe in wearing work clothes during the week and wearing their Sunday best to church. It was their delight to be able to put aside school and work clothes and put on something that was bought especially to wear to church. Those days are long gone.

Today, you can't tell whether someone is going to the ballpark, to the beach or to church. Almost everyone believes "Come as you are" means rolling out of bed and grabbing anything to wear to church.

Dressing appropriately doesn't mean you should dress like you are going to a dinner party or a formal ball. Neither does it mean it is appropriate to wear short shorts and flip flops. Dressing like that should be reserved for the beach and picnics.

It is very inappropriate for women to preach, sing, in the choir or fulfill their assignments in the pulpit with their bare arms and chest showing. Can you imagine the sight that would be displayed if they raised her arms while preaching, singing or directing a choir? Women should wear something with sleeves. Congregants shouldn't have to be subjected to someone's armpits during a worship service.

No Special Seat

Some people don't feel like they have been to church unless they are sitting in a special seat. They get angry with visitors and other churchgoers if they sit in a seat they claimed years ago.


Using Cell Phones in Church

It is disrespectful and distracting for any speaker to hear a cell phone ring while he is speaking whether it is in church or in some other place. Therefore cell phones should be turned off in church during a sacred church service.

These days, cell phones are used in the church because people use Bible apps instead of taking a real Bible. Some people also take notes on their Bible apps. Sometimes the preacher tells the congregation to call someone at home to listen to his sermon. Those cases are acceptable, but not texting, talking, and playing games.

Don't Talk During the Sermon

Please wait until after the service is over before having long conversations with your pew neighbors. There is nothing important that can't wait until after the service is over. If you must share something with the person sitting next to you, write a brief note.

Talking in the church is rude even if it is done in a whisper. It could be a distraction to the preacher and those sitting around you.

Greet Visitors

Make a special effort to greet visitors. Refrain from using the entire greeting period talking to people you already know and those you see on a regular basis. Greet visitors and make them feel at home. That might provoke them to return again and again. They might become members of the church based on the way they were treated when they visited.

Feel Free to Use the Nursery for Your Baby

Most modern churches have nurseries and childcare for babies and young children. Feel free to use the nursery when a baby begins to cry. Be respectful so others won’t miss the message because of the distraction.

Stay for the Benediction

Unless it is an emergency, people should not leave the church until the service ends. They should wait until the benediction is rendered. The benediction seals the word that has been preached. Additionally, it is the final blessing of the service that all parishioners should be patient enough to receive.

Don't Monopolize the Pastor Before or After the Service

It is very inconsiderate of people to interrupt the pastor before he preachers. They have a lot on their minds and should not have to add your problem to the list. It is best to make an appointment to see the pastor at an appropriate time when he will be able to give you his full attention.

The same consideration exists at the end of the service when others stand in line to shake the preacher's hand. That is not the time to discuss a personal problem, complain about something that's going on in the church, or to tell him how you would have preached the sermon differently. Those things can be addressed at another time. Don't hold a conversation at all.

Let your greeting be brief. Simply greet the pastor, shake his hand and move on so the next person can do the same.

Basic Rules of Church Etiquette

The above are just some of the basic rules of church etiquette. Of course, there are others that are not addressed in this article. Feel free to list anything in the comments section below that you want to add.


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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      5 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Tim, for reading and sharing your thoughts on this subject. Several other people on HubPages have also written about this popular topic.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      5 months ago from U.S.A.

      Interesting article, Margaret. I agree with almost everything you wrote. One thing that's important is that some people may have only a few certain clothing; they may not be able to appropriately dress for church. This is where the pastoral team must be willing to assist with "kindness." I also want to point out as Christians we should not turn "ettiquete" into code for "ritual." Many churches do this and loose people who could benefit from attending Also, this aspect of church life drives individuals away from services. The leadership team must be aware the needs of the congregation may alter over time and be willing to adjust to what is perceived as appropriate. After all, Jesus Christ did not have the same situation every time He taught. Flexibility is as crucial as having acceptable norms.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      5 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Jason, several people have addressed this topic on HubPages. Go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and share additional thoughts in an article of your own. I look forward to reading it!

    • Jason Capp profile image

      Jason Reid Capp 

      5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Another great article, Margaret, but honestly, I am more interested in why these customs are considered to be etiquette in the church. Frankly, none of these applied for hundreds and hundreds of years before Christianity started moving gradually to the west. Once western culture started to settle, Christianity became a fairly differently religion in many ways, and the church of today is wildly different than the one we read about in the New Testament.

      For me, the one that always made me scratch my head is "Wear Appropriate Apparel". In the modern sense, this usually means dressing up (suits, Sunday clothes, dresses, fancy hats, matching bags, etc), but in Jesus' day, most people wore everyday clothes, which were casual clothes worn in all situations. Commoners throughout church history would basically wear similar clothes, but some time around the era of King James (1600AD) clothes and accessories started to become more of a higher standard and an eventual expectation in the church.

      Now that I am writing this, I might just write a Hub on it. haha. Thank you again, Margaret!

    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      5 months ago from Roanoke

      Everything you mentioned is proper etiquette but sadly many don’t care anymore.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      5 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Lori, I saw your article, and we covered some of the same issues in different ways. Several other people on HubPages have also addressed the subject. As you said, people need to know about proper church etiquette. There are people like us who can spread the message. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      5 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      Interesting. I wrote an article by the same name several months ago. We covered the same topics. It appears people need to hear this message more than once. If only people would heed these decent behaviors.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      5 months ago from Richmond, VA

      MsDora, you and I are on the same page when it comes to reasonable expectations concerning church etiquette. Many other articles have been written about this topic. Hopefully, we will eventually see some changes.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 months ago from The Caribbean

      Rev, these are all reasonable expectations. I strongly detest speaking during the sermon and monopolizing the pastor. Wish we could all abide by these rules of church etiquette. Thanks for highlighting them.


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