Falling asleep in church

Yesterday I attended an Amish church service in a friend’s district.  I only really fell asleep one time, during the ten-minute kneeling prayer near the very end.

But I had at least roused myself by the time everyone stood up.  I clambered to my feet, but nearly keeled over sideways as I tried to shake the sleep out of my head.

I can only imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t–had the entire congregation risen while I remained faceplanted on my seat with tail in the air.  Would have never lived that one down.  I’ve no doubt I would have been ribbed out of the room during the typically jovial fellowship meal following.

So yes, I fell asleep in church, but hey, if that sounds bad, believe me, I’m not the only one that has to fight off nodding off during the 3-hour meeting.

I started to really struggle about 2 hours in.  You start doing a little dance where you move your legs and back about, and shift your weight from side to side on your seat.  When that stops working, you can lean forward to prop your face on your hands.  That position can be dangerous though.

Staying awake can be a challenge even when you understand the language being spoken.  Particularly if you’re on a 4 am farmer schedule.  Or just had a big breakfast.

More important, of course, was the message of the preaching which, as usual, I got caught up on afterwards.  One preacher also added an admonition directed to the boys in the room, on worldly dangers.

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    1. Sharon

      Falling asleep in church

      I can well imagine, the 3 hour services would make one “nod off”, if you’re not careful! I have a problem sitting still with a 1 hour service, and can’t imagine what I would do, in one that was any longer!

      What I wonder is how do they keep the “toddlers” quiet and still, through those many hours of service? Or do they have a nursery or separate room for babies or little ones?

      Keep up the good stories and photos! Enjoy them so much!

      1. Fussy Amish children in church

        Hi Sharon, just saw your question again, this is sort of touched on below, but there are little crackers and sometimes a small toy to keep the littlest ones occupied. They might also just lay down on Dat’s or Dawdi’s lap for a nap. The fussiest might get taken outside.

    2. Lee Ann

      Who hasn’t fallen asleep during church service. We are all so busy during the week and sitting there for so long, does make ones body relax and fall asleep. Sometimes the preaching is boring and makes us fall asleep.

      Don’t feel bad Erik! I can see the men teasing you a great deal if you had stayed on your knees! hahaha Three hours on backless benches is no fun. Makes your whole body ache.

      Glad my church has soft benches to sit on, but even there we tend to fall asleep at times.

    3. Asleep in Church

      When I was a pastor there was one older man who always fell asleep, every service. He would try to tuck himself behind a pillar but I could see him. His wife only elbowed him if he started to snore. One of my seminary professors grew up in a small Lutheran church in the Austrian mountains. His father was pastor. Their collection was taken with a bag on a long stick which was thrust into the pews for the parishioners donations. There was a bell on it so the usher could shake it under the noses of the sleeping farmers.

    4. Forest

      Ahem, yes…. I had to apologize to our Deacon, who preached yesterday, for nodding during the sermon. It was no reflection on the quality of the message, but it was a warm day and cloudy outside, and I had sat up reading later the night before than I should have. Worst thing was I was sitting directly in front of him…

      In our church (Conservative Mennonite)the toddlers/infants stay in with the rest of the congregation; if they get too fussy, their parent will take them out in the entranceway, or outside if the weather is good. It’s good to see the little ones there, even if they don’t get much out of it yet. Mine is 7, and just starting to pick up a few things. While we don’t have a choir, sometimes the little ones will go up front and sing a simple song or two that they learn in Sunday School.

      Having mine with me USUALLY helps keep me from nodding, but not always…..

    5. Annmarie

      It is funny you posted this today. Yesterday, my son dozed off in Mass. Usually I am strict and do not even let them lean on the pew when we are kneeling…but yesterday, all I saw was a tired little boy…and I let him snooze. It is in no way a reflection on the sermon…just about a boy who played his heart out in an afternoon ballgame. His body could not keep up with all the day had to hold. As far as the little ones not fussing..I think if you expose them to “church” from an early age it becomes part of them. I will leave you with a quote from my 3yr old daughter(youngest of five and very, very active) I said to her one weekday morning ” Are you going to behave today like a good little girl” She responds and I quote “Why are we going to church???”…see what I mean it is bred in them…she knows the exact behavior expected of her there. And on a pilgrimage I took them on a few weeks ago on a mountain in PA from a 11:30am to 7:30pm..she did just that BEHAVE..amazing but doable even for my wild girl.lol..

      1. Today I saw a Mom carrying her daughter, probably 6 years old, through (non-Amish) church. She looked a little on the big side, which makes me wonder at what age Amish put the brakes on their children sleeping in church (I’m guessing definitely by school age, probably by a few years old I’d think)

    6. Lois Morgan

      The Funny side of Church

      I am a pastor too, and some of the funniest things happened while people fell asleep in church and pretended they didn’t. I watched one man fight the snoozes one day, and finally he gave in. As he and his wife were coming through the line after the service, he took great pains to compliment me on the sermon. I smiled,and thanked him, but didn’t give him away, as his wife would have been VERY embarrassed.

    7. Asleep in the Pew

      This brings back a fond memory. When I was a child, my great uncle, who was 80-something, fell asleep a few minutes into the sermon every week in the little country church he helped to build. It was a source of gentle amusement to the everyone. We all struggled to stifle our giggles when he would start to snore. The pastor just smiled.

    8. kristin jager

      Falling A Sleep in Church

      TSK, TSK…shame on you…;-) It must have been so uncomfortable nodding off on those uncomfortable benches too!! Just the thought of sitting on a backless bench for 3 hours makes me cringe…And to think I have heard our parishoners complain about church pews…they have no idea…
      I hope you will be able to catch up on your sleep soon;-) Blessings, Kristin J.

    9. Rudy

      Sleeping in Church

      There was this fellow who fellow who fell asleep while they were kneeling, they stood up & sat down, he woke up and seen the pastor standing, He said whatever were votting on we most be the only two in agrement.

      1. Rudy that is hilarious. Reminded me a little of last weekend. Of course as an outside I wouldn’t have been around for any voting.

    10. Christina

      When the bishop in our diocese comes to visit, we try to do confirmations, baptisms, etc. When the out-going bishop (he retired) came a few years ago, I decided to finally be received into the Episcopal Church. That morning, I woke up with a nasty sinus infection and a slight fever. I went to church anyway because I didn’t know when the opportunity would come along again. I think the only part of the service that I remember is when we went up and the bishop laid hands on us. The rest of the time I spent trying to stay awake during his 45 minute sermon! I finally gave up, head found husband’s shoulder and I had to rest my eyes. I think that’s the only time I’ve fallen asleep in church on purpose.

    11. Mona G.

      Yep, it’s happened to me too….but only briefly…..my friend would elbow me and that sure helped….I just assumed his sermon got a little boring….but I’m sure it was just me…..I don’t see too many responses on this one…..I’m sure we’re not the only ones LOL…..maybe it’s just early in the day eh????
      I could not imagine sitting on a backless bench for 3 hrs…..our service was only about an hr…..

    12. Texting in church

      We’ve heard some stories of young people texting during church… maybe it helps some stay awake… maybe about what they were doing Saturday night.

    13. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Hi all, its funny to me that the blog is set to advertise to different geographical locales depending on where you are. Because I am in Canada there is a text only add that informs me about a sleep apnea tax credit apparently offered by the Canadian Federal Government, interesting part of the Harperite “Conservative” “Action Plan”…

    14. Rita

      My husband has the embarrassing habit of falling asleep while sitting in the choir loft which is elevated in the front of the church and in full view of the congregation. Luckily, he hasn’t snored up there, but we all see him and let him know about if later. On the Sundays when he is sitting out in the congregation with me, he gets a nudge when his mouth falls open – other than that, I usually let him “rest his eyes” for a little while.

    15. Candy and gum in Amish church

      Hello all, I am checking in quickly now that I have a brief window of regular internet on a regular computer. I have missed your comments.

      I was pleased to see that I am not the only one who has struggled with this in one form or another. If you’re going to write something about church, there are a lot of angles you can take. Including the physical side of actually staying alert.

      Some Amish try to not to eat a big breakfast, one family I go with avoids having much if anything to eat beforehand. My stomach would be growling pretty loud by noon though, so I usually have a little something. This time it was a bowl of cereal.

      For the first time, I actually sucked on mints periodically during this service which helped. I think I went through about 7 Altoids. This is something that Amish do. One fellow I know even chews on a little gum.

      Again, I don’t understand PA Dutch. So I am missing a lot–can catch a few words in English as well as place names here and there. But one full hour is a long time to preach and be interesting. Heck, even 20 minutes, the length of the shorter, first sermon, is long.

    16. Ann Whitaker

      I’m a pastor, and I’ve even fallen asleep in church! Sabbath rest is important–but snoring not allowed!:) Thanks for a nice post, Erik

      1. How do church leaders deal with sleeping?

        Ann I’d be curious to hear how you and other pastors deal with it, to the extent that you do. A loud throat-clearing? Or something more direct, ie an admonishment to the congregation to have a cup of coffee, smaller breakfast, or the like?

    17. Marlene Brubaker

      sleeping in church

      Amish are continuing a cultural tradition that used to be big in the US. Back in the ‘day’ and I mean the Days of Lincoln, people used to show up to listen to 5 hour speeches. This was entertainmnent! Our attention spans have decreased dearly.

    18. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Not really a church thing, on my part, but I remember when I was a teenager I was a Cadet member and attended three camps. We had a theory that if you drank or took in milk during the day your stomach would curdle from the marching and running we did all day. We drank orange juice or other juices, but avoided milk, even in cereal, some kids, I seem to recall ate their cereal replacing their milk with the orange drink, I never did that. For whatever reason, I remember eating a lot of bacon and egg (though I would have though that egg would have the same effect as milk, by that theory). Interesting though we loved to eat ice cream as part of dinner, milk theory be darned, I guess.

      Oh, on a side note, I noticed that the Canadian edition of National Geographic channel on TV had “Amish at the Alter” and “…Out of Order” on this afternoon, Tuesday, September 27, 2011. I didn’t get to watch it, but I aim to scan through so I can see it on TV sometime in the future, not at midnight however.

      1. Shom I tried the OJ in cereal once, as a child, as a desperate measure. No, corn flakes are meant for milk 🙂

        I understand there are some more Nat Geo Amish specials in the works.

        1. Lenny De Frank

          National Geographic

          I found the National Geographic program on the Amish on Youtube.
          You can bring up several documentary programs there.

    19. I am yet to have fallen asleep during sermon at church but I have been know to become ‘antsy’ from listening to too sermons…

      I have however fallen asleep in class at university. In my defence it was the last one of the term and we were studying hard in preparation for the test we were going to have at the beginning of January. Unfortunately the teacher noticed that I was nodding off as he ended the first part of the lesson by saying: ‘Let’s have a short break and get some coffee as some *looking directly at me* seem to have problems staying awake…

    20. Galen Grote

      My PA grandparents would always fall asleep in church. My grandfather would snore like the dickins, while grandma’s basket weave hair (which stood a foot or more above her head) was seen swaying in the breeze. They both managed to get it together at the closing of the service. Grandpa got his much needed sleep while grandma was a testimony that hairpins can endure her head bobbing.

      1. Galen, thanks for the hilarious mental image.

    21. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Amish Babies and Children

      How do Amish Churches deal with babies and small children who squawk in the middle of a service if they don’t necessarily do things like Sunday School?

      1. Marcus Yoder

        SHOM They pass around some Amish church cookies or cracker’s for the young babies and children.
        Marcus Yoder

        1. Marcus is right of course and they also may head for the door at some point if the child is particularly fussy to calm them down outside. I saw one father do this last weekend.

    22. Lindsay

      I suppose the good thing being Catholic is when we did go to church, there was plenty of stuff going on or windows/statues to look at to keep you awake….not to mention, kneeling, standing and sitting. But we went so rarely it was a novel experience, so I’m not sure if it would have been different if we had been more regular with our attendance.

      Some churches have nursery rooms. My church had one in the back with a window and speakers so moms feeding their babies could still listen in.

      My dad was always more than happy to take the younger sibs outside if they got fussy…methinks he wanted to get out just as much himself :-p

    23. Jessica

      I frequently visit an Old Order German Baptist Bretheren church, and service is 2 hours long. In a barn. I’m assuming it’s similar to Amish church services (but at least in English thankfully) I saw a boy – the minister’s son at that falling asleep against the wall, mouth hanging open catching flies. He must have been at least 10-11 years old. Children there all have little tablets of paper and pencils, chewing gum, and another mother once gave me a roll of smarties for my children. (who are used to going to Catholic Mass) She also had a teeny tiny plastic dump truck in her purse and drew a playmat type of map on her notebook for my son. A simple picture of a barn, house, and roads, and a couple of smarties to “dump” out of his truck, and my 4 year old was occupied for a good hour. I learn a lot from those moms!

    24. Tracy

      Along asleep in church

      I have done this in several churches,
      I call it a boring dead church or a boring dead
      service. I like the sermons that keep us active,
      that are interesting, and makes us feel alive!

    25. Iza

      falling asleep during the Amish church service

      tak, zdarzyło mi się raz, na mszy u Amiszów. Dlatego pisze po polsku bo nie chce żeby się dowiedzieli:)

      1. Lattice

        That’s funny. I was curious, so I used “Google Translate” to see what you wrote. I wonder if Erik understands it.

        1. Lattice I did…She’s not being as secret as she thought 🙂

    26. Theodora

      Asleep at the Helm

      My mother attends a traditional African-American church that runs three hours EVERY Sunday. I go to a different church than my mother because I don’t want to take the chance of falling asleep. Being African-American, there were many days when I was younger that I sat through a 3 hour service. As children, we were taught and expected to sit in our seats and behave for 3 hours. Nowadays it seems children are unable to sit for a 45 minute service.

      1. From what I noticed in my church this morning Theodora some of the children’s mute buttons weren’t working either 🙂

    27. Iza

      falling asleep during the Amish church service

      We cannot hide anything these days anymore 🙂
      Erik is pretty good in Polish 🙂

    28. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I don’t really have a problem staying awake and alert during the usual 3 hour service unless the minister preaching is hard to follow or understand. (I refuse to say “boring,” but some really are more interesting than others. :)) We rarely go to church and have no visiting ministers, so that helps keep things from seeming stale. Communion services run about 8 hours, though. That’s a little harder to stay alert for. In our community, unbaptized people (small children or youth) do not attend Communion, though in some groups they do.

      1. Outsiders at special church occasions

        Mark, have you ever had outsiders attend Communion or a Baptism, or ever heard of anyone doing so? Not that I’m looking to attend one, just curious. I thought I may have heard of it with a baptism, but not in the case of Communion.

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          I have never heard of outside visitors in a communion service and I don’t think that would be accepted, but I do know that there have been baptism services where non-Amish (usually Mennonite) friends, relatives, or coworkers have attended. Although I’ve not seen that in our own district, we did see it at a niece’s baptism recently. The non-Amish visitors came much later. Maybe like Kentucky Lady, they felt an hour was about their limit. 🙂

          1. Interesting, thanks Mark. I understand you have a meal break, but eight hours is a full day 🙂

            1. Mark - Holmes Co.

              Yes, it is, but somehow the day passes quickly, more so if you have an interesting collection of ministers. When I was younger, I’d watch the clock and think how much time was left, but as I get older I find I’m more focused on the message and less thinking of the time. It’s just a day, and it’s shorter than the work day and it’s not like I’m in a hurry to get anywhere, so I sit and listen, think, ponder over the meaning of the occasion and enjoy it. 🙂
              We don’t really break for a meal, but starting around 11:15, a dozen men & women at a time will go out to eat and the service continues while each group goes to eat. This means we always miss about 30 minutes of it. New Order churches are more apt to stop the service & everyone eats at once.
              It’s only twice a year, too. Are you thinking you’d like to go with us to spring communion? 🙂

              1. Staying focused in church

                I certainly wouldn’t refuse an invitation if I ever got one 🙂

                Remaining focused on the message in church is something I struggle with at times, I think it may be a symptom of the way life is nowadays, with a lot of separate tasks and stimuli happening at once thanks to the way people work, technology, etc. That’s not an excuse, just a possible cause.

    29. Kentucky Lady 717

      Don’t know how they do it….hard to sit still one hr. let alone 3……just sayin…….
      Our Church in Mich. always an hr. and there have been days that I would all but fall asleep….some sermons are more alert than others….some can be downright b-o-r-i-n-g….. sorry to say…..sometimes I wonder how the pastor stays awake 🙂

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Kentucky Lady, I got a chuckle out of your comment. 🙂 You are so right, some sermons do keep a person more alert. I guess the length of service is all what a person is used to.

    30. Don Curtis

      Falling asleep in church

      I asked my son, Mark, about this. I know that he has a sleeping disorder (severe sleep apnea) and uses a c-pap machine. He said that he sometimes struggles, especially if all the windows are closed wherever they are meeting and there’s no fresh air. That really gets to him, always has. He brings his own wake up pills with him…ATOMIC FIREBALLS. He brings a pocketful with him. He said he pops one in and he wakes up fast. Probably has steam coming out of his ears, too. I asked him about communion. He said that they stop for about an hour around noon and eat a packed lunch. The host family usually has a hot lunch prepared for visiting ministers and the five old widows and spinsters who attend from Plain City, Ohio. Mark said that they usually don’t have visitors for communion but it has happened. Mark was a visitor, one time, for communion Sunday before he joined the Amish. Also, there was a father and son who brought the Plain City, Ohio group up and asked if they could stay to experience Amish communion. Mark said that he makes sure he takes Aleve on communion Sunday so his back won’t hurt so badly sitting on a backless bench so long.

    31. Terry from Wisconsin


      I’ve had conversations with different Amish re: church. One man, who is no longer Amish, said when they had Communion they’d be late getting home for chores and milking their cows!

      Another gentlemen said that some preachers can give the message in 10 minutes and get the point across. Others it’s an hour and they still don’t get their point across! You don’t have to be an Amish preacher to have that happen! lol!

      I’ve asked how they hold up when so hot with so many hot bodies breathing off carbon dioxide. One answer I got was, At times it’s tough. Another one said, Look what Christ suffered for us sinners; I think we can make it through a church service without griping.

      Today people are less tolerant than years ago. In the olden days you just sucked it up because you lived just like the neighbors! So you all suffered. Now they whine! Sitting in an air conditioned church for an hour, and then complaining for some reason or another, just doesn’t cut it! When you look back on your life and all that Christ has provided, giving Him an hour of your time is a small price to pay, don’t you think?

      Holding to the faith,