Do's and Don'ts on Ushering

PASTOR: Do's and Don'ts on Ushering

[This is a condensation of the original article which appeared in the April, 1946, issue of the American Lutheran. Used by permission of the publishers. EDITORS.]

Purpose of the Service

The purpose of ushering in church is not merely to serve people, as in a theater or restaurant. Its purpose is to serve God. When the ushers see to it that an atmosphere of reverence and order is maintained before, during, and after the service, they do it for God. When they usher the worshippers to their seats, they do it for God. When they gather the offerings, they serve God. What they do, they do not "as unto men, but unto God." They are a part of the total congregation which presents itself before God to worship Him.

Some Do's and Don'ts

DON'T Regard ushering in church as a mere mechanical necessity to direct people to their pews, or a social function which church custom considers desirable. The whole congregation, and particularly the ushers, must have the right mental attitude for the work of ushering. Otherwise it loses its sacred character and will not accomplish its real purpose. No one should be allowed to usher who is proud, overly self-conscious, desirous of making himself known and prominent, wants to show authority, thinks he is doing others a favor, or has the idea that it is a job someone has to do, and since no one else is willing to do it, it's up to him to carry it out. All ushers must have the right mental attitude. Their motto must be, "We serve the Lord Christ."

DO Recognize the importance of church ushering. Next to the minister, the organist, and choir,-the ushers have the most important task to perform in the worship service. It is up to the ushers to keep order, to help create a spirit of worship, reverence, and friendliness in and about the church. These things are absolutely necessary. Without them the church service cannot be held. Furthermore, ushering is an important factor in the church's public relations. The ushers are the representatives of the church to the people who come to worship there. Visitors receive their first impression of the church from the ushers. And that impression may be the deciding factor in making a visitor a regular worshipper, or of causing him to go elsewhere of winning or losing a soul to Christ and the church.

When the importance of ushering is realized, it will also help solve the problem of getting people to do the work of ushering. People like to do things that are important. That is a challenge. It will not be difficult to find and train a group of men for this work, if they are convinced that they are performing a valuable and important service. Therefore, emphasize the fact that ushering is a great privilege and a sacred duty; emphasize the importance of ushering.

Note! While ushering is important, and its importance must be emphasized, the ushers themselves must not have or convey a feeling of personal importance and pride. Let him memorize and apply the Third Beatitude, "Blessed are the meek." Let him learn of our Lord to be "meek and lowly in heart." He is a servant of God. His work is important is its relationship to God and the worship of God, but personally he must not feel proud and important.

D) Have regular meetings of the ushers for the purpose of instruction, interchange of ideas, suggestions, and discussion of experiences and problems. In some churches the ushers meet for fifteen minutes before every worship service. For example, if the service begins at 11 a.m., the ushers' meeting is from 10:30 to 10:45 a.m. This meeting is opened with prayer, after which some phase of ushering is discussed, and a final check-up is made for the ushering in the coming service. The advantage of this type of meeting is that it helps get the ushers to church on time and prepares them properly for their work. The disadvantage is that the time is too short to conduct a course on ushering. But whatever the arrangement, some provision ought to be made for the training of the ushers. They must know what to do, how to do it, and when to do their work.

DON'T Let anyone usher who does not attend the training meetings, at least no one who has not been instructed. Ushers should understand that they cannot do their important work properly without attending the ushers' meetings, any more than the members of the choir and of the Sunday school staff can do their work without attending choir rehearsals and Sunday school teachers' training courses. Furthermore, do not fail to impress upon the ushers again and again that they must be at their posts at least fifteen minutes before the time of service. They are acting as hosts for God. When the people come (and we want them to come early rather than late), the ushers must be there as good hosts, to greet them and take care of their needs.

DO Seat the worshippers as much as possible where they want to sit. Ushers should study the congregation, learn the favorite places of the members, especially those that are hard of hearing, the near-sighted, the mothers with babies, and those who are ill. Visitors and people who come early are entitled to the best seats, if they want them. But no one ought to insist on his rights contrary to the law of Chris tian charity. Parents with small children should be seated in the rear, so that they will not disturb the whole congregation if they have to leave, and will feel they can go out without difficulty in case of necessity. For this reason it is well to rope off the rear pews for them. In churches which are ordinarily only half filled it is wise to distribute the people in various parts of the nave. This will give the appearance of a well-filled church, even if it is only half full. Besides, the empty seats can always be filled later, if happily more come than were expected. It is also important to get the front pews filled as early as possible. That is the secret of getting the people to the front. If you allow the rear and center of the nave to be filled first, it will be very difficult to persuade anyone to sit in the front. The reason for this is psycho logical. It creates the impression that the front pews are undesirable, since others have avoided them. It also makes some people self-conscious. Their timid natures rebel against the idea of going down the aisle past a lot of other people. It fills them with fear.

In large churches it might be well to have ushers stationed at various sections of pews, and to direct the people from one usher to another. That will do away with a lot of parading around by the ushers. The less of that you have, the better. And during the service these ushers sit in their sections, where they will become a part of the worshipping congregation, and will be able to serve the needs of the people assigned to them.

DON'T Place children together in one pew, unless they are accompanied by their parents, or are with other older people. Don't try to force anyone to sit where he does not want to sit. Ushers must not express surprise or resentment if anyone does not follow to the place where they want to seat him. They must try to act as though nothing unusual had happened, return to such a person, and kindly give him a bulletin. No matter how provoking a situation may be, the ushers should always graciously give in to the wishes of the worshippers. If a reserved section is involved, simply state that it is reserved, and suggest another place. Don't argue. Don't let anyone know that he is in the wrong. Ushers should always know where the empty places are, and never hunt for seats. They should never run after anyone down the aisle.

DO Give everyone a church bulletin with the directions for the service of the day. It is better to give such materials to the people in seating them, than it is to distribute them at the door. If the usher holds them in his hand until he has led the worshipper to his seat, and then gives him the bulletin, it will help solve the problem of getting the worshipper to follow him. The same thing is true of hymnals, if they are distributed by the ushers. Some find it more convenient to have hymnals in pew-racks on the back of all pews. The number of hymnals must be sufficient, of course, for all worshippers. It may be desirable" to give out the hymnals to latecomers. This will make it possible for the ushers to point out to them the particular place in the service that has been reached.

DON'T be indifferent to the needs of the worshippers. They should not be unconcerned when they see that someone does not have a hymnal, or a stranger does not know where to find the order of service. They should not fail to give those a bulletin who came in and seated themselves without the assistance of an usher.

DO Be tactful with latecomers who want to be seated at once, even though the service is at a point in which no one should be ushered into church. A little study on the temperament of such people will enable the ushers to deal with them without causing resentment. They may hand them an open hymnal, showing them the place in the service which is in progress, and pointing out to them the next part of the service during which they can enter. If possible, temporary seats should be provided in the narthex for those who must be detained during the non-entrance periods.

DON'T Welcome people when they come to church with any backslapping expressions, or any advances beyond a quiet "Good morning" (evening), or "Good morning, Mr. Jones." ...

DO Conduct your work in a dignified and reverent manner. Ushers should be dressed neatly and appropriately for the worship of God. They should be courteous, pleasant, and kind. They should always "be on the job. When their duties require them to be on their feet, they should be erect and tending to business. When they do not have to be up, they should be seated so as to be absorbed in the congregation and actively engaged in worship.

DON'T There is no excuse for ushers dressed in a light golf suit, white shoes, and a loud necktie. They should not appear at a morning service wearing a wing collar and bow tie, which belong to evening dress. They should never enter into lengthy conversations among themselves or with other people. They should not speak in a loud voice. They should not lean against pews or the walls of the church. They should not walk around during the service, or leave the church, unless it is absolutely necessary in the performance of duty. And the time to adjust the heating system, to regulate the ventilation, to open and close windows is fifteen minutes, at least, before the time of service; not during worship, except in an emergency.

DO In taking the offerings, the ushers should know and keep their place. They should remember that this is a part of the worship service. They should have an arrangement with the organist, so that he can bring the music to a proper conclusion as soon as the gathering of the offerings is finished.

DON'T If the ushers go to the chancel before the gathering of the gifts and again when the offerings are brought to the altar, they should not goose-step and march in military precision. This is no parade. Nothing beyond good order is required. No tramping of feet, no snappy timing, or precise turning add to the spirit of worship and reverence.

Ushers' Motto

"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." Col. 3: 23, 24.


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November 1951

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