Proper Decorum & Etiquette During a Service at a Methodist Church

Respecting those around you is basic etiquette in a Methodist church service.
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If you are planning to attend a service at a Methodist church for the first time, you may have some questions about how to participate properly and respectfully. The Methodist Church is similar in its worship style and structure to most other mainline Protestant denominations. While individual congregations vary in some ways, you can feel comfortable and confident attending any with a few general guidelines in mind.

1 Attire

As a denomination, the Methodist Church has no dress code. Women may wear skirts or pants, and no head covering is required. Some Methodist congregations have an informal atmosphere with members wearing jeans. Others worship in “high church” style, and dressier clothing is the norm. Some churches have both contemporary and traditional services with different levels of formality. While no one will turn you away from worship for overdressing or underdressing, you can make yourself feel more comfortable by calling the church office and asking what is typical attire for that congregation.

2 What to Expect

As you arrive, designated greeters and/or ushers will welcome you and usually give you a printed order of worship. This helps members and visitors follow the service and may also include words or hymnal page numbers for prayers, responses and creeds that are familiar to regular attendees but perhaps unknown to visitors. Though the order may vary, typical components of worship include announcements, greeting, hymns and other special music, silent and congregational prayer, Scripture readings, a sermon and an offering.

3 During the Service

Points of etiquette to remember during the church service mostly relate to minimizing disturbance to others. Be sure to turn off or silence your cell phone upon entering the church. If you arrive after the service has begun, let an usher indicate when you may enter the sanctuary and, if needed, show you to an available seat. If you must leave or re-enter during the service, make every effort to do so unobtrusively, not during a prayer or Scripture reading and using a back door if possible.

4 Communion

Methodist congregations celebrate communion -- also called Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper -- weekly, monthly or quarterly. Unlike some traditions, the Methodist Church practices an open communion table, meaning that anyone who believes in Christ and follows or wishes to follow Him is welcome to take communion. You do not need to be a member of the local congregation of the United Methodist Church or of a church at all. Children are also welcome to receive communion. However, if you do not wish to take communion, you may remain quietly in your seat during the sacrament.

Kelly Tracy is a copywriter and educator based in Savannah, Ga. She holds an M.A. in applied linguistics and a B.A. in mass communication. Tracy has been writing professionally since 1998 and teaching English to international students since 2002.