In the church I grew up in, there were instructions in the bulletin about making noise in the sanctuary. It was expected that people would come to worship in silence, to prepare themselves and not disturb others. If you wanted to talk in the minutes leading up to the service, you were to go to the fellowship hall or outside. I assumed that was the only proper way to prepare for worship.
But my views have changed over time. As a pastor, I must confess that I enjoy watching people visit before the service. People walk over to others to find out how they are doing. When I hear the buzz before the service as people greet one another, it gets me excited.
Doesn’t talking before the service distract from worshiping God? The more I have studied worship in the Bible, the more convinced I am that we can’t divorce our relationship with God from our relationship with people. This is true in both Old and New Testaments. Developing real community with brothers and sisters in Christ is not a distraction from true worship, it is a part of worship, it is something pleasing to God.
Yes, I can see how some loud sounds before a service could be a distraction. Watching YouTube videos or talking to people on your phone is not the best. But demonstrating care and love through healthy conversations is how I like to see a worship service begin.
A little addendum to this post. As you may know, welcoming and including people with disabilities is very important to me. Demanding complete silence before a worship service may not be reasonable for some people with disabilities.