What Is Church Etiquette?

Teach small children to be silent and respectful during prayers.
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Fidgeting, casual conversation and immodesty have no place in church, where the faithful gather to show reverence for and commune with a divine entity. Your words and actions should reflect a desire to honor that entity and the church itself. Church etiquette dictates the correct way to behave while in a place of religious importance. While each church may differ with regard to correct behavior, showing respect for the church and other congregants is key to allowing yourself and others to focus on worship.

1 Respect for the Sanctuary

Furniture and all physical aspects of the church sanctuary should be handled carefully and respectfully. Children should learn at an early age that the pulpit is a sacred place and hymnals never are to be damaged. Keep seating and flooring clean and free of scuff marks, trash and stains. Do not touch or place personal items on the communion table. Ideally, no food or drink other than Communion bread and wine should be present in the sanctuary. If your children require snacks during church, take care to clean your area thoroughly before leaving.

2 Entering and Exiting

Your family should be seated and ready when services begin.
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Arrive on time for church services and enter the sanctuary before the service begins. If you have small children, leave enough time to arrange their things in the pew and to remind them to be quiet during the service. If you must leave during the service, wait until a more casual time -- during singing, for example. Try not to exit the sanctuary during prayers or the sermon unless you must do so in order to remove and quiet a crying child. Never allow doors to slam when entering or exiting.

3 Observing Rituals

Follow the service rituals at all times. Stand and sit when directed unless a physical challenge prevents it. Bow your head and close your eyes for prayer; looking around during prayers is considered very disrespectful. During Communion, take just one piece of bread and one portion of wine or juice. If you choose not to take Communion, simply pass the tray without comment to the next person. If you are attending a church with unfamiliar rituals, follow the lead of the people around you.

4 Personal Behavior

Wear clean, modest clothing to church and avoid excessive jewelry and makeup. Remain silent unless talking is encouraged; for example, during the brief meet-and-greet many churches have at the beginning of services. If you choose to consume candy or gum during church, unwrap it before services begin to eliminate noise. Never use your cell phone during church; sending text messages, making calls and playing games are disrespectful in the extreme.

Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.