GUIDELINES FOR CHURCH USHERS
A few years ago, Richard and Mary White, along with their son Tim, moved to a Southern city from a small town in the Midwest. In that Midwestern town they had occasionally attended church but were not members of any church and were not even Christians. They were good people but had never trusted Christ as their personal Savior. After being in the new city for about a week, one night they answered a knock
at the door and received a visitor from the Faith Baptist Church.
Upon entering and greeting the Whites and after proper introductions, the visitor proceeded to inquire as to their church affiliation and relationship. When he found they were not Christians, he witnessed to them and tried to win them to Christ. He was not successful in this but did receive from them a promise to attend church the following Sunday.
Making good their promise, the Whites showed up to the church on the following Sunday. As they appeared at the door, an alert usher named Jerry Jones immediately noticed that they were visitors. He
stepped very briskly to them and extended his hand to Mr. White. “Hello, my name is Jerry Jones. I am delighted to see you this morning. Is this your first time to visit the Faith Baptist Church?”
“Yes,” replied Mr. White.
“And, your name is. . .?”
“My name is Richard White and this is my wife Mary and our son Tim.
“The service is, just about to begin,” said Mr. Jones. “Let me show you to a seat.”
Mr. Jones ushered the Whites to a comfortable seat and introduced them to a young couple near them who were members of the church. Presently the choir marched in and began to sing in a very lively and hearty manner. The Whites were impressed from the very beginning, from the time they were first greeted by a friendly, warmhearted church usher. As the service continued they paid close attention to all that went on around them and to those things that were happening on the platform.
Presently, in the seat just in front of them, a baby began to cry out. Immediately an usher stepped to the end of the pew and said in a very courteous, quiet way, “May I show you to the nursery? We have a
beautiful nursery and trained workers to care for your baby.” The young mother, embarrassed because her baby had seemingly disturbed but relieved because someone was readily available to help, rose and
followed the usher. The Whites thought, “My, how attentive the ushers are to the people here, and how helpful that must be.”
When the offering was taken, Mr. White remembered he had inadvertently left his billfold at home and was not prepared to give. He knew that usually when you attend church you should give when the offering plate passes. He was prematurely embarrassed but found upon the passing of the plates that this embarrassment was unfounded. The ushers looked straight down the aisle and did not see who gave or who did not give. He vowed to himself that next time he would make sure he had his wallet with him.
After a stirring sermon by the pastor, the congregation stood and the choir began to sing the invitation. The Whites had been able to come into the service in a very welcome atmosphere. They had been impressed with the friendliness of the ushers and the happiness of the people and were therefore very attentive during the sermon. As the sermon progressed they had become more and more pricked in their hearts that they needed Christ as Savior.
So on the second verse of the invitation they stepped out and walked down the aisle. After being shown the plan of salvation by an alert personal worker at the front of the auditorium, they gave their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ and immediately followed Him in baptism.
The Whites were very delighted in their new-found faith and in their new church. Mr. White was overheard to say as he left, “I’m glad that I got saved this morning. But I would go back to that church even if I had not been saved because everyone-from the ushers, to the people, to the pastor-made me feel so welcome. I have never seen a church quite like that before.”
The above story is not the happenings of real people in a real circumstance, but it indeed could be. The story is given at the introduction of this ushers’ manual to show you the real need for confident, friendly, well-trained ushers
To be a church usher is a great honor. One of the most helpful positions in the church is that of an usher because it is so wide in its scope of usefulness.
The qualifications for this office are high. First of all, a man must be a Christian and a member of the church, and then he must have a deep sense of responsibility for the services of the church. The importance of his task in any one service cannot be measured. In fact, it would be absolutely impossible to have a service in a sane, civil manner without proper ushering.
Just imagine what a service would be like on any Sunday morning if there were not ushers in their places who were aware of their responsibilities.
WHAT IS AN USHER
A good usher will watch over the service like a mother hen over her chickens. He will anticipate problems as they come up, and he will watch for disturbances and quiet them in the quickest, most diplomatic
way possible. He will say to himself, “If this service is to be carried out in the right manner, it is up to me to see that the people are well cared for and that they may be able to hear without disturbance or distractions.” He will watch for the comfort of the people at all times.
An usher must be a dad to many boys and girls who come without moms and dads. He must watch over them as he would watch over his own children. He must see that they behave as he would see that his own
An usher must learn how to discipline children and teenagers in a firm yet kind, loving way. Children and young people respond to love. When they recognize that they are being disciplined in love, then there
will be no problems. All young people want to be made to do what they know they ought to do what they want at home or at school, but when they come to the church, they should be made to behave as they should. Many time it is very difficult to discipline a child, but the need of the service and the need of the child must be considered.
There are many ways an usher can serve the congregation. Many of these ways will be discussed as we continue this guide. An usher is chosen and is in his place for one reason, and that is to serve the people.
Just as a man tries to make a guest in his home feel welcome and comfortable, he also must see that the visitors in his church feel welcome and have as comfortable a place as is possible. He should make every visitor feel welcome as an honored guest.
When people walk into a church for the first time the usher that greets them is, to them, the church. The opinions they are forming are of the church. The visitor will be in a much better attitude and frame of mind to hear the sermon if he has been warmly greeted by an usher. He will have formed a good opinion of the church soon after his arrival because of the polite gentleman who helped him as he came in.
THE HEAD USHER
In order to have a successful group of ushers you must have a wisely chosen head usher. He must be a man of God dedicated to the church and to his service for Christ. He must be faithful to the pastor and to the entire program of the church. He must possess definite qualities of leadership that would allow him to meet problems which arise in the church services. He must also be able to deal with matters pertaining to the ushers. The head usher must be an enterprising gentleman who believes in detailed planning for and training of his staff.
Because the pastor works so closely with a person in this position, it is very imperative that he be given the leadership in selecting the head usher. A pastor will be more careful to select a man who is first of all spiritual and who has the services of the church at heart.
There are at least five areas in which a head usher has to work and over which he needs to have complete control. This makes his job a little more demanding; but he was chosen for this service, and he should understand when he assumes the job of head usher that he will have a great responsibility.
Helping to train his staff is one of the most important tasks of the head usher. Each new man who is enlisted should not be expected to have learned to do this job well observing from the pew while attending
the services. He should be given specific instructions. This not only helps him to do a better job but also helps him to see that it, is an important task and should be done well.
The head usher should supply each new usher with a written set of guidelines. These can be studied at home and later reviewed by the head usher and the new enlistee. The new man should have some practical
instruction in a private session with the head usher.
The head usher must be a morale builder. He should help to instill in his staff a deep sense of responsibility to the task for which God has chosen to use them. In occasional meetings with the ushers the head usher can give words of commendation, inspiration, and devotion that will help to knit his group together and cause them to do a better job.
All materials and equipment needed for the service should be checked prior to the services by the head usher. If there is usually a crowded condition, he should see that there are enough extra chairs for
late-comers or for the overflow crowd. The head usher is responsible for seeing that all is in readiness.
It would be a good idea for the head usher to check with the pastor before each service to see if there are any particular or unusual matters to be taken care of in the service. He should see that all church bulletins, visitors’ cards and other materials are in place and that there is a sufficient supply. The head usher should be in the auditorium early enough to see that the heat and ventilation are properly adjusted. A great deal of discomfort and many disturbances can be prevented with a simple check of the temperature of the room. He must make sure that all the reserved sections are properly roped off and that an usher is in charge of each section.
If the ushers wear any sign of identification, the head usher should see that they are in sufficient supply and that each usher is equipped with his particular identification badge. He must make sure that there are enough to care for the crowd.
Many times during special services such as revivals, Bible conferences, etc., it is evident that no one has thought about ushers for these special meetings. It is the job of the head usher to check with the pastor when he is aware of any special meeting to see that the ushering is properly cared for.
All messages to the platform after the service has begun should he carried by the head usher. All other ushers should he instructed to channel these messages through him. Many interruptions can be prevented
if the head usher has an opportunity to go through these announcements and screen them before carrying them to the platform.
A good idea for the head usher is to have a list of substitute ushers. Some men who are not able to serve in this capacity on a full-time basis could occasionally substitute if they are properly trained and notified ahead of time. They could slide into the place of an usher who finds it necessary to be away. All substitutes should be notified as far in advance as possible. All regular ushers can be given their assignments on a week-to-week basis.
THE USHERS STATION
An usher’s station is a place of service in the church “just as much as a Sunday school class, the choir, or any other place of responsibility. The Bible says that it is required in a steward that a man be found faithful. The usher who has a job to perform and performs it to the best of his ability, being faithful in his task, will receive the same degree of reward as a preacher or a pastor who has done his job faithfully. The Bible does not require that we have great talent but that the talent we have be submitted and yielded to Christ.
An usher should be in his station ahead of time. He should be in his place several minutes before the service starts so that he might greet as many people as possible as they come in and so that he might see that the seating is properly cared for. Many problems in the services could be avoided if each usher were in his place ahead of time so that problems could be cared for before the service actually begins.
An usher should be proud of his station. He should have a tremendous sense of satisfaction that his position is cared for in the best way possible. He should make sure nothing around him goes unnoticed and goes without being properly treated.
The head usher should not be held responsible for filling all stations when members of his staff find it necessary to be away. Each usher should be sure that one of the substitutes is in his place and that his job is cared for just as a Sunday school teacher would do. The head usher should be called and notified, however, when an usher has been unable to locate a substitute.
THE USHERS ATTIRE
In almost every case, and especially in the Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening services, the proper dress for an usher would be a tie and a suit coat or sport jacket. This is not to say that an usher is to be expensively dressed, but he is to be neat at all times with his hair combed and his shoes shined and with coat and tie. An usher is not only a representative of, Jesus Christ but also a representative of his church, and he should be prepared at all times to make a good impression.
Dressing properly could be quite difficult in some cases when ushers come directly from their jobs to weekday evening services. With proper provision and help from family members coming from home,
articles of clothing can be brought and changes can be made before the services begin. If on any occasion an usher finds it impossible to get into a tie and coat, then he should have someone who is properly
dressed substitute for him in that service.
Before the service begins, crowds of people come in at once and should be allowed to go immediately to their seats with a smile or a hello from the usher. But after the service starts people should be met at the door as individuals. The ushers should shake hands with the men but not with the ladies unless the ladies voluntarily extend their hands. If there is an article such as a bulletin or an announcement sheet to be given to the people as they come in, it should be offered with the left hand while shaking hands with the right.
An usher should always watch the entrance, especially, after the service begins, to meet late-comers. Many people will come to the door and stand just outside and look in. If they cannot see an empty seat immediately, they stand there embarrassed that they do not have a place. These people must be cared for in short order.
Each visitor should be met at the door and shown directly a seat. The usher should know the location of vacant seats at all times. On his return trip to the hack of the auditorium after showing one person to a
seat, he should notice the vacant spaces. This allows him to know exactly which place to show other visitors. On some occasions ushers have pointed out a seat from the rear of the building, and the visitors
have tried to negotiate space for themselves. This should never be.
An usher should always smile and look pleasant so that the people might know that this is a happy place and these are happy people. Remember, those first impressions are very, very important and often very lasting. A smile is very important because many times a cheery greeting and a warm smile may be the first such pleasantness that some people have experienced that morning.
An usher should also learn to call people by name. Ushers should train themselves to remember names and should be alert enough to call visitors by name at the close of the service. An usher should never be partial in his greeting of visitors or members. He should be careful to greet and welcome those who are total strangers as warmly as he does those who are old friends.
When an usher seats a visitor he should introduce that visitor to someone near so that he feels more at home. Of course this can only be done prior to the beginning of the service and should always be done in
a very diplomatic and reserved manner.
An usher should never get far ahead of those he is trying to seat. It is very embarrassing for an usher to find himself near the front of the church only to look around and see that the visitors have been seated at the rear of the church. If he watches to make sure that the visitors are close behind him, and if they hesitate or stop for any reason, then he may check with them before continuing. If they have chosen a seat in another section, he may quietly show them to this particular place; or he may indicate that he has already chosen some seats for them that are readily available.
The visitor should never be left to push his way past people to a seat on the interior of the pew. The usher should quietly ask those seated near the end to move toward the center to help the visitor to be seated quickly.
Courtesy is the watchword for an usher. Some people may attend a service and remember more than any other thing the courtesy of the usher who helped them find a seat.
No matter how late a visitor may come, an usher who is watching the door should immediately step to him, welcome him, and show him to a seat. This limits disturbance during the service.
During a special number, the Scripture reading, or a prayer, the late-comers should be asked to wait with the usher until this part of the service is finished; then they should be shown to a seat.
PASSING OUT VISITORS CARDS
The ushers should come immediately to the same positions from which they start taking the offering and face back toward the congregation. It is much easier to see hands raised when looking into people’s faces than when looking from the back. If there are several people on one pew, the usher should immediately estimate the number of cards, hand them to the person at the end of the row, and go quickly to the next visitor.
On some occasions visitors are asked to stand. If it takes a long time for an usher to get to them with the visitors’ cards, they have a tendency to sit down or become greatly embarrassed. The passing out of the visitors’ cards should be the most rapid thing that an usher does. There are two words that should describe the action of an usher when passing out these cards: MOVE QUICKLY.
It is very important that a church keep a record of all the visitors because this is the best list of prospects for soul winning that any church can have. This is why effectively getting cards to every visitor is imperative.
TAKING THE OFFERING
An usher should step very briskly to the position to which he is assigned when it is time to take the offering. The plate should be carried at his side in his right hand, cupped in the same way as if he were carrying a book.
When taking the offering, the usher should hand his plate to the person sitting next to the aisle and then step to the next seat. He should look directly to the back and watch out of the corner of his eye for the plate to come back to him. The whole body and the eyes should be pointed directly toward the back of the church.
The reason for this is to deep people from thinking that the ushers are watching to see how much each person gives.
Many people come to church with the feeling that the church is a place where people talk about money and “grab for as much as possible. Of course this is not true, but many of them are looking for any excuse or reason to stay home. Many of these have come out of respect for their family, because they were invited repeatedly, or because of some special day. When an usher stands and looks directly down the pew, then
they feel that the usher is watching to see how much they give. Therefore, it is imperative that the usher keep his eyes toward the back of the auditorium.
In order to maintain discipline an usher does not have to be always “calling someone down.” He can be helpful in many other ways. For instance, a mother with a crying baby may not know the direction to
the nursery or may not know if such a place exists; therefore, an usher should slip to the end of the pew and say as quietly and as politely as possible, “May I show you to the nursery?” or, “We have a very beautiful nursery, and the ladies would love to take care of the baby for you.” Just such a statement will in many cases cause a mother to move quickly to the nursery and the service will not be disturbed any more than necessary. This may be quite difficult the first time, but the more it is repeated the easier it, will become.
Any child leaving the service without an adult should be sent back to his seat. When one child sees that another gets out without being stopped, then he, too, will try it, and before long. . .chaos!
Several things can be done to prevent disturbances before the services begin. Mothers with small babies can be directed to the nursery as they enter the vestibule of the auditorium. Small children not accompanied by adults should be stopped at the rear of the auditorium. This prevents running down the aisles. Although many other things could be mentioned these are two notable examples.
Talking children should be called down and warned that they must not talk during the service. Many times this has to be repeated, and in some cases a child who is not accompanied by an adult needs to be taken
It is sad to say that on many occasions teenagers whisper, chew gum, write notes, and are generally inattentive. If this persists then they, too, should be reminded by an usher that they must be quiet.
Again, let it be repeated that an usher should be firm and yet kind. A real genuine love will show through the firmness.
An usher should always handle emergencies in a common-sense manner. Even in the face of embarrassing situations like the dropping of an offering plate, the vomiting of a child or the fainting of someone in the pew, an usher should maintain great composure and poise.
One “rule-of-thumb” that an usher should keep in mind when handling unusual situations is, “What would the preacher want done about this situation?”
An usher who is faithful to his task will be greatly rewarded in Heaven for the work that he does for the cause of Christ. He will also get a great deal of personal satisfaction from knowing that he has made
the services run more smoothly. It should be the goal of every usher to serve Christ in this manner and to be the best in America.
Never forget that the job of an usher is an honorable one and brings glory to the Saviour. This should be the only real motive of a good usher.