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.
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.