Etiquette for a House of Worship

House of Worship

Observing appropriate etiquette for a house of worship – church, cathedral, mosque, temple, etc. – requires knowledge of the religion and culture it represents as others who consider the occasion important, are gathering there as well.

Know What to Expect

Going to a religious place of worship is a public as well as private event.  Acquainting yourself with rules and guidelines will help ensure that you are acting accordingly, regardless of the regularity of your presence.  Showing respect for other congregants is central in allowing yourself and others to focus on mindful presence and worship.

If planning to visit someplace new, always check the organizational website to find posted behavioral guidelines.

Behavioral “Do’s”:

  • Wear appropriate clothing.  Feeling welcome is what church attendees would want for others and clothing barriers should not stop a person attending a service.  A key question when you are dressing: Is this respectful?
  • Be on time!  If for some reason, you are late, be observant as to what is going on, and slip into a back pew.
  • Cell phone off!  (Or turn the sound to the lowest setting when you mute it.)
  • Greet strangers with a handshake before and after the service.
  • Observe the rituals.  If you are attending a service with unfamiliar rituals, follow the lead of the persons near you.  If a communion tray is passed down your aisle and you don’t choose to participate, simply pass the tray to the next person.
  • If you need to exit the sanctuary during the service, do so during non-critical times.
  • When a child is noisy, excuse yourself right away and avoid fidgeting with your decision.
  • After the service, clear your area.  Replace hymnals.  Dispose of unwanted programs outside of the sanctuary.

Behavioral “Don’ts”:

  • Avoid wearing perfume and colognes.
  • Eat or chew gum.
  • Be a pew “hog,” by not scooting in and over when someone enters your row.  (If you think you must sit next to the aisle, stand up and exit the row when others enter.)
  • Never worry if you aren’t a believer or feel pressured to perform.  But do bow your head when others do.
  • Try not to exit the sanctuary except during non-critical times such as during a song and be careful that doors don’t slam.
  • Don’t let your children run or play in the house of worship.
  • Leaving the service early is rude.

Respecting the Etiquette for a House of Worship

There are variations in methods and beliefs throughout all religions, but they all exist to bring people together to acknowledge a higher power.  When attending the service of a religion that is not your own, remembering this will help you maintain respect for the occasion.

Observing appropriate etiquette for a house of worship we do not regularly attend becomes easier when we ask, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?”  In other words, “How can I show others who attend regularly and love this place that I respect it, too?”

It is not just about respecting the etiquette for a house of worship, it is about respecting the people who built it, love it, and consider it a place of reverence.  

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