When we give back to the Christian church with gifts of money or through our service, God's Word makes clear that what he desires most is a sincere and proper attitude:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 2:9
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3
The Most Important
The most important duty an usher performs is to provide the initial impression for new visitors to our congregation. Seek out unfamiliar faces. Greet them warmly. Ask them if they are familiar with our church and the Lutheran order of service. Offer them a service bulletin and help them find a seat if needed. Be a gracious host. Imitate Jesus. Continue this hospitality after the service. Make a point of speaking with visitors before they leave. Inquire about their connection to our church and introduce them to others. How first-time visitors are treated has tremendous impact. You could be playing a role in their salvation. Of course, one also should greet cordially those brothers and sisters in the faith whom you know.
Don't wear a dress. A shirt and tie are appropriate. A suit coat is recommended for ushering in the center aisle. T-shirts, jeans, shorts, and tennis shoes do not convey a proper attitude of respect.
We currently only schedule two main ushers for each service (the center aisle guys). These men are responsible for assigning two additional side-aisle ushers for the offering. During communion services, they also designate a gate-keeper
for communion ushering. Typically the designation of additional ushers takes place just prior to the service, but it can be done ahead of time, if the main ushers prefer to do so. If you are inclined to help, check in with the main usher prior to the service to see what help is needed. If you can't make a scheduled service, it is your responsibility to find a substitute and make your ushering partner aware of the arrangements. Check the usher schedule to make sure you do not forget when you are signed up to be an usher.
Try to arrive 20 minutes prior to the start of the service. Check that the correct hymn numbers and order of service are posted. (Numbers are in the cabinet in the sacristy
, the room to the right of the altar area.) Check that the appropriate lights are turned on. (Controls are next to the doors in the back of the sanctuary.) Make sure a new tape is inserted and ready for recording the sermon. (Tape machine in balcony). Typically, Pastor or other staff will take care of starting the air conditioning or heat prior to the start of service. (Controls in room to the left of the altar area.) Additional details on the items above are listed in the following paragraphs. Check with Pastor or staff to see if there are any special requirements for the service.
Typically, the altar candles are lit during the first hymn and extinguished during the last hymn. The candle-lighters are located in the sacristy
, the room to the right of the altar area. Extra wicks, matches, and a butane lighter are in one of the cabinet drawers. On the rare occasion that the choir sings the first hymn in front of church, it's usually a good idea to light the candles before the service starts or during the second hymn, rather than while the choir is singing. If you forget to light the candles, or if the circulating air blows them out, don't worry.
Taping the Sermon
The main ushers are responsible for starting the tape that records the sermon. Try to catch a verse or two of the hymn before the sermon. The recorder is located in the balcony as part of the sound-system stack. Normally, this involves inserting a blank tape in the recorder (blank tapes are kept in a nearby box), pressing the record
button first and the play
button second. There is usually no need to turn off the tape; just let it keep recording until the tape ends. Note: This responsibility may change with planned improvements in our tape ministry.
Collecting the Offering
Frequently, there will be several pews with just one or two individuals at the end. It is not necessary to have the plate passed the entire length of the pew. Try to do whatever is convenient and courteous for the congregation. Sometimes this will mean needing to handle both plates at once or walking the plate down a mostly empty row. Try to go with whatever decision the specific member makes in handling the offering plate. Let the pastor take one set of plates at a time. Don't rush the hand-off. Get close enough to the pastor so that he doesn't have to lean too far over the baptismal font.
The main ushers have responsibility for recording the total attendance and the number of members receiving communion (a gatekeeper
responsibility). For the offering, count everybody with a soul: pastors, babies, organists, choir members, and so on. The numbers should be recorded on a sheet kept inside the folder podium at the church entrance. Sometimes it is difficult to count while the offering is collected. One alternative is for one of the main ushers to count from the balcony, when the sermon tape is started.
Controlling Lighting and Temperature
Normally, the ushers do not need to take care of lighting (unless the main usher decides to dim the congregation lights during the sermon) nor adjust temperature. A demonstration is needed to explain the control of the lighting, air conditioning, and heating.
Pick up bulletins, papers, and any other items that are left behind after the service. Make sure hymnals and Bibles are placed neatly in the racks. Replace the ribbon page holders into the hymnals. Leave the place neat and orderly.
Walk to the front of the center-aisle during the song that follows the words of institution. Wait there until the pastor and assistant(s) (and possibly spouses) have received communion. After the pastor and his assistant(s) have received communion, usher the first table
to the right side, and then a second group to the left side. Keep alternating, allowing the next group of members up as the previous group is leaving. Usually, each side operates independently. On rare occasions, in a lop-sided situation, you may direct people to a table opposite from the side where they were sitting. Aim for ushering 8 to 9 people to one side at a time. (Ten on one side will be pretty cozy). The gate-keeper has the final responsibility to insure too many people do not go up at once. Don't break up families if they want to commune together. If in doubt, politely ask. Usher communicants to stand behind the gate-keeper earlier rather than later. It gives you more time to get the group in place. It gives the communicant time to think about the sacrament they are about to receive. And it is better to have people waiting behind the gate-keeper than to make them feel rushed in walking up to a waiting table. The gate-keeper should keep track of the number of communicants and should be ready to provide help to any communicant needing assistance. Ushers should be aware that musicians, mothers of young children, or others will need to join an early table. Be ready to accommodate these individuals. The number of communicants should be recorded on the sheet in the folder podium at the entrance to the sanctuary.