The Importance of Ushers in the Church
Ushers are often underestimated, but they should never think their ministry is unimportant. Any act of service that directs people into fellowship with Jesus is a worthy ministry.
Ushers in the Old Testament
Ushers in the tabernacle and temple were called doorkeepers. The psalmist understood the importance of ushers when he said, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! Blessed are they that dwell in thy house. They will be still praising thee. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalms 84:1, Psalms 84:4, Psalms 84:10).
One of the purposes of doorkeepers was to receive collections from the people, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people” (2 Kings 22:4).
Jeremiah refers to one doorkeeper as a “man of God.” He said, “And I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, a man of God, the keeper of the door” (Jeremiah 35:4).
Ecclesiastes talks about the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble (Ecclesiastes 12:3). In Ezekiel’s version of the temple he saw space reserved for priests, musicians and ushers or the “charge of the house” and “charge of the altar” (Ezekiel 40:45-46).
Ushers in the New Testament
Temple ushers were given unusual authority as uniformed guards. In Acts the “captain of the temple” is referred to in connection with arrests and general handling of crowds (Acts 4:1, Acts 5:22, Acts 5:24, Acts 5:26). It was these ushers who carried out the orders of the high priests to persecute the apostles.
The disciples acted as ushers on many occasions. They directed people who came to hear Jesus speak or be touched by His healing hands. On one occasion Jesus gave a sharp warning to the disciples (acting as ushers) who tried to keep children away from Him (Luke 18:16, Matthew 19:13). On another occasion, Jesus told the disciples to organize a large group of over 5,000 (Luke 9:13-17). Jesus supplied the unending loaves and fishes, but the disciples served the hungry multitude.
The character of these first deacons was clearly spelled out. They were men of good or honest report, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, and full of faith. Stephen, the first Christian martyr on record, was both a deacon and an usher.
Preachers, teachers and musicians minister to people in groups while ushers minister to people as individuals. A word of encouragement or kindness may be the most significant ministry some people receive. Only a few people get to meet the pastor, ask questions, or talk with musicians, but everyone can have an encounter with a good usher.
Guidelines and Tips for Ushers
- Always display a warm, sincere smile.
- Don’t be a bone crusher. Use a firm, not crushing, hand shake.
- Don’t offend people with bad breath. Always have mints available and use them.
- Learn the names of the people you greet.
- Refrain from loud whispering. Don’t distract from the service.
- Always be on time, period.
- Listen to the person in charge of the service for cues.
- Seat people in the front of the sanctuary. Leave seats open in the rear for late comers.
- If children are disturbing the service, tell their parent there is a nursery that can provide help with the child.
- Remove a sick person as quickly and as quietly as possible. Find out what you can do to help.
- After serving communion, wait until after the the service to take communion trays out of the sanctuary.
- Ask visitors to fill out a visitor’s card.
- Always be well groomed.
- Set an example of decorum and dignity.
- Be prepared to act quickly and deal with difficult situations.
- Enter into a spirit of worship during the service, but remain attentive.
- Be willing to serve at special meetings. Make your ushering a ministry.
Preaching can at times be omitted, and classes can be dismissed, but there is no substitute for the ministry of an usher. Churches that negate the ministry of ushering miss out on a huge opportunity to reach people. Like John the Baptist, ushers are forerunners for all other ministries in the congregation. An usher can either enhance or distract from the church by the way he carries out his duties.