The Art of Not Getting Embarrassed at a Baptist Church

brbchurch We attended Blackhorse Road Baptist Church on the weekend, not intending to join, but rather to touch base with the homies and check out life in a typical English Baptist Church. Its amazing how identical Baptist churches can be around the world. The order of service, the tone, the speed, the pastor running down the back at the end to shake hands, standing up for choruses . .  we know it all. We know it well enough to never get embarrassed during a Baptist service.
Unfortunately, our kids were not as astute as we were, and almost blew our cover by sitting up near the front. And then Hannah started dancing in the aisle during the singing, and i suddenly wished we were in a black Pentecostal church, and her dancing would go unnoticed.
Anyway, it was a good experience and the people are lovely, as always.

Hints for attending a Baptist Church without getting embarrassed:

– Go for the back seats.

-Never stage dive – there is no body sitting in the front 2 rows to catch you. (more following . . . )

– Don't raise your hands, or you might be volunteering for something

– Don't drink the coffee, it comes from a large steel device from the early 20th Century called an "Urn".  Go for the tea instead.

– Do accept the altar call – you will receive special attention, lots of prayer, maybe even a free Bible.

– Bring your Bible. Leave the prayer book at home.

– If there is a pot-luck or special dinner, be there – the food at Baptist events is generally very good.

– Children's programs are usually excellent. Your kids will want to return. This may or may not be good news for you.

– Be happy when you arrive and somber when you pray. (the opposite applies for emerging church/alt. worship). Not Anglican/Catholic hard-core somber. More like a semi-somber, a soft-somber, with no facial contortion, lest you look too spiritual.  So if they ask you to pray, dont go King James or Shakespeare on them (novice giveaway) but stay smart casual (like the clothing). And dont go too far on the other side either . .  dont start telling God your latest joke . .  and don't go asking Him for His.
Chances are, if you are a visitor they wont ask you to do anything, most don't ask you to stand up anymore. but they will mention you all the way through the first half of the service – so go ahead and enjoy all the attention!

– Don't yell out encouragements during the sermon, unless you hear others do it first.

– Don't freak out people with body movements or swaying during worship, unless others are also doing it. Again, sitting in the back will give you the big picture.

– If you dress badly or use Eastern fabrics, or wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, you will get special attention and extra cakes with your tea. If you dress up for the occasion, you will also get the same good treatment. But if you wear smart casual, like everyone else, they will assume you are a church goer and you will not get any special treatment. So put your piercings back in and dont be shy about your tats. BTW, my wife was the only women with dreadlocks on Sunday and we got lots of attention.

– Singing along with the songs is easy – the words are projected on the wall and the music sounds the same for every song – no one will notice that you are not familiar with the songs and mouthing the words in time is a cinch. You may have to stand up but, if you followed my instructions and are sitting towards the back, you will see people stand up right before you – just follow their lead.

– If someone sings a solo, don't be the first to clap and cheer and wolf-whistle – usually, there is no applause at the end, just a small appreciative smile or nod – again – watch other people and stay 2-3 seconds behind them . . .  and i guarantee . . . you will never embarrass yourself in a Baptist church.

That's about it. Not much else to worry about. The people are incredibly friendly. Nothing like what you hear about in the newpapers. So if you have never attended a Baptist Church, then I dare you to do it at least once in your life.

Let me know if you do.


Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)


  • Amazing! That fits my baptist home church in Crewe (south of Manchester) too. Its incredible how similar churches are around the world, the Anglicans do it very well, whether you are in a remote area of Uganda, Egypt or where-ever, you get the same sense of continuity and rythm.

  • …whew! Now that I’m back in my chair and catching my breath… yep, that fits the Baptist church I attend here in Indiana (USA)!

  • Well it fits soem parts of Baptist churches here and soem Methodist. The Baptist church I visit with Mom in SC always shouts amen, applauds, raises their hands, etc… LOL!

  • Haaah! This is great Andrew, I was actually at a Baptist church last week too! It was my first time in 15 years. It was a local Baptist church, near my hometown ( ). I went to hear Bill and Anabelle Gillham, teachers on grace, freedom, and God’s unconditional forgiveness in Christ ( ). It was readical enough that Anabelle was up there teaching with her husband, and their content was pretty revolutionary for a Baptist church. Nonetheless, the Gillhams, in their 60s, are classic Baptist. The corny jokes, the graphs and charts, (for instance) describe God’s ominiscience as “God’s in a helicopter”…terms like “free moral agent”…it was a trip down memory lane!
    I was actually really encouraged by my visit; it was cool that southern Baptists (I do not know if they’re Southern Baptist) could sit around and talk about their old paradigms being challenged, moving onward onto strange new territory. I don’t know that I could go back there on a regular basis (in fact, I’m pretty sure I can’t) but it was a hopeful visit.

  • Mike, its exactly this “trip down memory lane” that i like about attending these churches. They remind me of my good old Sunday School days, and youth group events, singing old classics like “Surely Good Mrs Murphy will follow me all the days of my life” (you had to be there). The nostalgic factor of these churches seems to trigger dormant memories inme and i come out of church in good shape. Obviously, people without this background will not benefit like i do, and it may even be a hindrance. But as for me, i really like it every now and again.
    I also like to hang out with the really old people – the godly ones who have followed God for 60 years or more. They are hard to find in emerging churches so sometimes you have to trip back to a traditional church to get a grandma figure to speak some sense back in your life . ..
    ALTHOUGH . . .
    2 weeks ago i went into a Methodist Thrift Store in London and met about 4 or 5 of these lovely old ladies- they poured me a cup of tea, we talked about missions and churches and the terrible state of the youth in England, and i felt like i had been to church again. i also bought a couple of cool things from the thrift store.
    SORRY . . how did we get here?

  • Just another Baptist here (Canada). Yep… all true! Also strongly identify with “Surely Good Mrs Murphy” except that I thought, in my very young days, that it was “Shirley, Goodness and Mercy”. It was great… just talked away to my three friends following behind me!
    Enjoy your posts. Thanks!

  • I grew up in a baptist church in south east London.
    Now, what was that song they sang back in the 70’s? “I don’t wanna go back to Egypt”.

  • Since we are sharing our trip though the hymnal of our youth how about:
    He “punched” me victory, beneath the cleansing flood!
    “We shall go see “Joycie”, bringing in the “sheep”.
    (Joycie was our pastors wife at the time…)

  • Well said about dancing in the pews. Others stuff is different out here in Lithuania. What I read from commets reflects more Anglo-Saxonian origin of early Baptists, however since mid 19th century Baptist spread into other parts of Europe as well….

  • Enjoyed the comments on “Baptist without being Embarassed”. My favorite hymn (that’s the songs in the red book on the back of the pew if front of you)is “My Hope is built on nothing less, than Schofield’s notes and Scripture Press.” — Born, raised, Born Again, and Ordained a Baptist.

  • Even in merry, olde England it seems the same. However, here in the US you can go to a Baptist church (says so outside) and once you’re inside not recognize it’s Baptist. I’ve always said I’ve chosen to be Southern Baptist, ’cause I can find ANY church tradition, from high liturgical to bapticostal, and practically anything in between. Cool posting, though.

  • I wish I had known this before I was actually at a Baptist church last two weeks too! It was my first time in life. It was a local Baptist church, near my hometown in Nigeria.I was actually really encouraged by my visit; it was cool that baptists church.thanks.

  • VERY funny! You hit it right on the spot. I have been there, AM there and still love it. It’s good to know that we can laugh at these things and not be offended. Thanks for the laugh.

  • my daughter “embarrasses” us every time we visit our old baptist church (where my mom still attends) by dancing in the aisle. gotta love it.

  • Just like a friend of mine used to say. “There are a bunch of baptist flavored churches out there.” And now a lot of them are changing their names, dropping the “Baptist” and picking something cool like “Church on the hill” or “New life fellowship.” So you never know – you might think you are walking into a brand new non denominational church and wa la.

  • I’ve been a member of an American Baptist church for just a year now. I knew I was in the right place when we were told that basic principles of the baptist vision are the freedom of individual conscience, soul competency and soul liberty. Our church “accepts no humanly devised confession or creed as binding.”
    I am so thankful to be part of a community that upbuilds its members in their faith: loving others in the church, praying for others, tending to the care of others in distress, studying and learning together.
    To me, the words of the hymn that we sing together after communion are especially meaningful:
    “Blest be the tie that binds
    our hearts in Christian love;
    the fellowship of kindred minds
    is like to that above.”
    I never believed that I could find a church that is truly a “fellowship of kindred minds”. And indeed, it may be that the tradition of freedom in American Baptist congregations is precisely what allows for my experience of such fellowship.

  • I found your list interesting. At times I thought it was funny others perhaps a bit convicting. The tone seems to come from someone who looks down on Baptist churches and says, “look at those little poor Baptist; they are so cute and they mean well.” I am the pastor of a Baptist church in Texas and find some of what you said to be humorously true, (like the front pew kind of stuff). Other stuff may be a little caricatured, at least for Baptist churches in Texas which vary so much from one to the other. However, I don’t think Baptist churches in Texas are a relich of the past soon to be museums of anther time. They are vibrant, growing and here to stay. Thanks though for the list. We may post it in our bulletin for our visitors: “The Art of Not Getting Embarrassed at a Baptist Church.”

  • TallSkinnyKiwi: The Art of Not Getting Embarrased at a Baptist Church

    TallSkinnyKiwi: The Art of Not Getting Embarrased at a Baptist Church: Hints for attending a Baptist Church without getting embarrassed:…

  • Why do we do that… running to the back when the service is over. This was one of the first TSK posts that appeared in my feed reader, and every Sunday as I close the service and dash for the back, I think about it.
    Why… is it because we want to meet everyone who was at the service, or is it because we want to talk about the weather and avoid meaningful deep conversations.
    I closed the service and sat at the front on Sunday, there I was immersed in deep conversations, about theology, personal problems and many other things. It was great! Over dinner the conversation went “Was so and so in church this morning”, I loved the conversation, but I missed checking if everyone was ok. Sigh… please could I have the best of both worlds.

  • Heyjo! Whazz up? I’m from Germany. I am in a Baptist Church as well, but our church is totally different!! You list was so unfamiliar to me…
    So, I guess we’re very untypical for Baptist Churches. Here I am to testify!

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