Christian churches play a big role in American society. People join together in churches to worship God, educate children about the Bible, and help the needy and poor in their communities. Visiting a church can be a helpful experience to understand American culture and history. Here is what to expect when you visit a worship service. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be a Christian to visit a church. In fact, churches welcome guests.
There are five activities you will experience in a church. Some churches emphasize one of the activities more than another, but if you look, all five are usually present. When you enter the building, you will notice the chairs or benches gathered near a stage where the activity is directed.
Music is an important part of the worship service. Some churches play contemporary music using guitars and drums. Some churches have more traditional music and use a piano or organ. There will be preaching. Preaching is when a man or woman explains something from the Bible and gives people ideas of how the teaching can help them in their lives. Usually this is done by a pastor or priest, one who is overall responsible for the church. They will speak from 20-40 minutes, depending on the church.
Reading the Bible and prayer will be part of the service. Some churches emphasize these activities more than others. So, in some churches there will be a lot of Bible reading and prayer and in others, not so much. Most churches take a collection or offering. They will pass plates or bags down the rows of people to collect money. The money pays for the expenses of the church. Members and those who attend regularly are expected to give. Visitors and guests are not expected to give.
Finally, there may be an activity called communion, the Lord’s table, or the Eucharist, depending on the church you visit. This is when the church passes out little crackers and small cups of wine or grape juice. The food is symbolic to help Christians remember that Jesus gave his body, represented by the cracker, by dying for us. The wine helps Christians remember that when Jesus died, he bled. For a Christian, the death of Jesus Christ means that he died because people have sinned; they have ignored God and treated others badly. The death of Jesus Christ is important for Christians because they believe it is the way people can be forgiven and accepted by God. Only Christians are permitted to eat the cracker and wine. If you are not a Christian, simply pass the plates of crackers or cups of wine to the next person or remain in your seat while others walk to the front to take communion.
A final suggestion is to relax and enjoy the experience. Most people find the worship service peaceful and encouraging. Also, people in churches are friendly. Visiting a church is an experience you want to have while in the United States. It will broaden your understanding of America and Americans.