How To Attend Christian Services

A co-worker's Greek Orthodox wedding, your elderly neighbor's Presbyterian funeral and then there's that second cousin's Baptist baptism. Here's how to handle a variety of services in different denominations.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Have some cash on hand if you wish to donate to any collection the church may take up during the service.
  • TIP: If you feel uncomfortable kneeling because it implies belief, you may instead sit quietly.
  • Step 2: Be prepared to sit, stand, and possibly kneel.
  • TIP: It is your choice whether or not to contribute a few dollars. Just don't try to make change from the plate.
  • Step 3: Listen for specific announcements, particularly regarding Communion—also called the Eucharist or Lord's Supper—which is the sharing of special bread and wine. Some churches invite everyone to communion; some, only baptized Christians; and others, only their members. If you are invited to partake, the choice is yours.
  • FACT: Jesus himself never called his followers "Christians"—the word was coined in Antioch, Syria, over four decades after he died.
  • Step 4: Pay attention. The service will likely consist of prayers, scripture readings, a sermon, music, and ritual action, such as burning incense or pouring water on an infant's head.
  • TIP: If it's not clear whether you're permitted to receive Communion and you'd like to, ask someone near you or look in the program.
  • Step 5: Many churches ask visitors to introduce themselves. Keep it to your first name and a handshake.
  • Step 6: Look at the altar area toward the front of the church. This is where the focus will be.
  • TIP: Don't assume the church has central heat and air conditioning just because their pastor's gone wireless.
  • Step 7: Ascertain the dress code. Some churches hold to traditional "Sunday best," while others may allow jeans and t-shirts. Remember to be event-appropriate as well, and bear in mind Christian services range from incense and organ music to guitar playing and grape juice.
  • TIP: Search the Internet to see if the church has a website with a "frequently asked questions" section for visitors. You'll at least find a phone number to call if you have questions.
  • Step 8: Find out the length of the service. It could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
  • Step 9: When you arrive, the church may have ushers. Tell them if you'd feel more comfortable farther back and close to the aisle.
  • Step 10: Scan the immediate area. There may be a book or a program available to guide you through the service.
  • Step 11: On the other hand, don't get too self-conscious. All the regulars are not staring at you and murmuring to each other. But you can watch them for visual cues on what to do.
  • Step 12: Gum chewing, snacking, a ringing cell phone, and audible chatter will likely earn you unholy glares. Be respectful.
  • Step 13: Double-check the time of the service and the location of the church on the invitation or with someone directly involved with the event.

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