The Church Courtesy Challenge

The Church Courtesy Challenge

Last weekend it happened again. I was asked, “would you mind if my husband and sons sat here?” which indicated that I should change my seat. So I did. Big deal.

When the other family members showed up while I was listening to what was going on up front, I became aware that several people were standing in my peripheral vision. Realizing they were the husband and sons, I stood up and let them pass.Β When the dad sat down, he said thank you, which I appreciated. What I would have liked more is if the son would have said, “excuse me.”

Even though I really enjoyed the sermon and was tuned into that, I must admit that on the inside I had an irritable sideways glance going on as expressed earlier on this Post-It note (I’m a firm believer in Post-It note therapy):

The Church Courtesy Challenge 7-17-13

The lack of “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” seem to be just as prevalent in the church as anywhere else. People expect to be let into the row you’re sitting in without acknowledging your existence, push past you mid-sermon to get a coffee refill, and generally have their oblivious behavior accommodated. It’s no different than the people in the movie theater who sit in the middle of the row but get up several times to go get refreshments (and they rarely say “excuse me” either despite repeatedly jolting you from your 90 minute escape from reality).

Given the example Christ set for us, the church should be the MOST likely place that we experience empathy and courtesy. That’s not what I see a lot of the time and it’s behavior that’s passing down to the next generation.

I’ve seen people let their kids talk through the whole service. There are those who let their kids run around in the aisles or won’t remove them when they’re acting out. We hear how those children are “strong-willed,” as if that’s an excuse for them not to be taught to respect others. Somehow there’s always that person who seems to purposely take up two spaces in the parking lot as well.

When services let out, people stop to talk, blocking doorways and hallways without any awareness of who might be trying to move from one part of the building to the other. Could they just take a couple of steps to the side? I was also quite shocked one day when a now former pastor and I nearly collided coming around a corner, something for which I promptly apologized, and he stared at me without saying a word. Perhaps he was having a bad day.

Yes, we are all human and none of us are perfect. What concerns me is that this self-centered behavior and lack of awareness as to how our actions affect others is commonly accepted as the norm. This is already the problem with many Seattle-area drivers; there is no awareness as to who or what is around them.

They drive under the speed limit, they don’t use their turn signals, they don’t merge properly, they swerve in and out of lanes as if they’re the only car on the road. The “Coexist” bumper sticker on their Volvo seems ironic when they appear to be functioning in their own little isolated bubble. Now this same me first mentality–narcissism– has invaded the church and few seem to be blinking.

My challenge to churchgoing Christians everywhere is this: will you make an effort to say excuse me, please, and thank you and to be more aware of others? If we start doing this, and bring these very basic manners back to our corner of society, we could change our entire society. This change needs to start somewhere and the church is supposed to lead by example.

Every day there is enough cutting in line, reaching or barging in front of you at the grocery store, unregulated children running through the produce aisle, people who let their dogs relieve themselves in your yard, those people who go 45 to 55 in the passing lane and won’t move even if threatened with an aging Russian nuclear device, the 20-somethings whose every other word in public is ____ing as if it’s the only adjective they know– this list could occupy an entire bookshelf. It’s how the world works. We’ve gotten incredibly lazy about common courtesy and empathy, which is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

The church is supposed to be different from the world. So will you be different and join me in showing the world that, in this respect, we are? I’m going to fail sometimes too. I can already think of one related, glaring issue I need to work on in regard to church. But the more churchgoers I see forgoing manners, the more determined I become to be different. Sometimes in our quest for eternal life we disregard the basics and in doing so, we disregard the needs of our fellow human beings.

Excuse me– will you please join me in The Church Courtesy Challenge? Thank you, and please pass it on!


Β©2013 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

7 thoughts on “The Church Courtesy Challenge

    1. That was laugh out loud funny. I would love to visit Germany and see where my Germans came from.

      And I have something great to report. This morning a young woman needed to get past me to sit by her family and said excuse me and thank you. YES!!! πŸ™‚


    2. By the way, I’m wondering how it is that all of the Germans commenting here speak such great English. I know Google Translate can do wonders, but it is simply a second language for you? My own attempts at German are extremely limited, like when I tried to find the right phrase to use as the title for my post on feline theology: I’m still hoping I didn’t tell people, “go pick a pint of blueberries and then hide in the bushes and gnaw on your elbow…”


      1. Lol, no, you’re good πŸ™‚
        And yes, English, for us, is a second language. It’s not optional for us at school from the 5th grade on (meaning at about 10/11 years of age). Some are interested and get better at it and some don’t get past the mere “survival” level… πŸ™‚
        Either way, with English you get by in almost every country, while speaking German won’t get you too far. So there’s really no reason for you to feel bad ;))


      2. I had no idea. We are required to take two years of a language in high school (ages 14 to 18), but most of it doesn’t stick. Due to the high number of Spanish speakers who have moved to our country we almost need to learn Spanish, but frankly I’d rather have them assimilate and learn English.

        Kids generally take Spanish, French, or German, but reality is that a lot of Asians, Russians, and people who speak Arabic have moved here lately too. There also seems to be a growing number of East Indians, but many of them are highly educated and speak English already.


  1. I’m shocked to read that!
    I am German, but lived in the US for a year back in ’95/’96 and remember how amazed I was by people’s polite behavior! What has happened in the past decade(s)???
    But then again, this was New Jersey, maybe it’s a different world there…. πŸ˜‰
    Anyway, I do enjoy your blog – thank you and please continue sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚


    1. Well, it could be a matter of perspective. Interestingly, some of us out here in the Northwest are shocked by behaviors attributed to New Jersey. But it could be a small minority in New Jersey who have influenced that view.

      I’m not saying that my whole church is rude, but that we can all (me included) do a better job about being courteous. Maybe I’m more sensitive than some people but sometimes a simple “excuse me” goes a long way.

      All of you Germans leaving comments here is really making me want to visit your country. As an American I’m a lot of things but German is one of them, so that would be great fun.


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