Is This What They Call Southern Hospitality?

as i sat down to read  in the small commons area on campus last winter, i struggled to find a place to sit my coffee and newspaper on the table in front of me.

why? because the person across from me had his feet propped up on the table meant to be shared by the four chairs surrounding it.

another person joined the two of us with arms full of books, laptop, etc., and after several seconds of awkwardly waiting for the 1st person to move his feet, he sat down bewildered. he eventually left still looking bewildered..

unfortunately, this is not uncommon behavior at a school that “equips pastors” and other ministers. it shouldn’t be the case, but these are some of the more common breaches of etiquitte and manners that are breached , not just on campus (though some are applicable anywhere).

  • men, anytime you are going through a doorway, always look behind you to see if their is a lady or older person that you may hold the door for.
  • anyone, if someone holds the door for you, saying “thank you” is the appropriate response.
  • if you are strolling down the hallway or sidewalk with friends, it is impolite to not give way to someone walking the opposite direction and force them into the wall or mud because of your “offensive line” (see what i did there??)
  • in the hallways and at the top and bottom of stairwells, particularly between classes, recognize that with so many students and so little space, that you may need to move your conversation from standing in the middle of the hallway to against the wall or somewhere else out of the way of the hundreds of people trying to get around you.
  • in the classroom, once the professor steps up to the lectern, please stop talking.
  • during the lecture… stop talking at a normal volume to your neighbor when you agree/disagree/have another thought about the topic. students are paying a lot of money and spending a lot of time expecting to be able to hear a professor without being distracted or unable to hear the lecture.
  • before you ask a question in class, ask yourself “am i wanting to ask this question so everyone will see how much i know. or because i truly need clarification?”
  • along those same lines, if you do have a legitimate question, but it is beginning to take up a large amount of classroom time, be considerate of the professor who has a syllabus to get through and the students who are paying to learn the information prepared for them by the professor and ask if the conversation can be continued after class sometime.
    (obviously, class discussion is part of the learning experience and the professor can discern if it is beneficial to continue the discussion during class or not)
  • propping your feet up on the chair in front of you or on the partition is disrespectful to the professor/lecturer and to the custodial staff who has to clean up after you.
  • guys, it is in the campus handbook… no hats in the classroom. if you didn’t know that, now you do. if you did know that and you still do it, then you are not saying much for your integrity.
  • ladies – take a look at this link and give your wardrobe a run down. i have seen many ladies on campus whose dress is a model of dignity and class. but unfortunately i have seen many who, intentionally or not, seem oblivious to the fact that their low cut and/or tight fitting tops and their tight and/or low cut pants/skirts that show or outline their undergarments are at best distasteful and at worse a stumbling block.

i started seminary in january of 2004. i am a lot different now than i was when i got here.

needless to say, we all go through changes. we mature. time moves on and for the most part… so do we. one thing anyone learns from living in an environment that includes so many different people from so many different backgrounds and cultures is that people are different. and different is not always bad! people are raised with different values and norms. i am not saying that we lose our personality and give up our freedoms to a bunch of “rules” or even preferences.

but if we are in seminary to be trained as ministers and servants, we might as well practice some door holding and ettiquitte while we are here. who knows… we may just have to use some of that in ministry.

This is a rare blog re-run, it was originally posted by stephen lee cavness titled “open letter.”

About stephen lee cavness

pastor of antioch baptist church in bedford ky.
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11 Responses to Is This What They Call Southern Hospitality?

  1. Brother Hank says:


    You makes some good points, and thoughtful reminders. I know that as an employee of the Seminary I get a first hand experience of interacting with these future (or present) ministers on a regular basis (try getting between a hungry Baptist and a buffet).


    I think it quite a stretch to imply that our Seminary is known for bad manners. Excellent faculty and meticulous lawn care, perhaps; but not bad manners. People are people, even those of us training to be ministers of the Gospel. We are sometimes absent minded as we walk down the wrong side of the hall, we sometimes forget to take off our hats in class, and every now and then we forget to check behind us as we walk through a door. This doesn’t show that we’re careless or lack integrity — it just shows we really do believe in total depravity…and redeeming grace. I’ve talked to many visitors that come through my department, and I’ve never heard anything but positives about the nature of our student body. It’s easy to cherry-pick faults in every person, and for that matter, every large group of persons; but heart of the issue remains the same — many of us are trying.

    All that being said, here’s to letting grace walk down both sides of the hall!


    p.s. – To each his own on capitalization, but your lack of it did give your post an emo poetry feel (which I use myself sometimes)… I’m just saying… 😀

  2. Bradley says:

    I coined a term for an introduction to a sermon once on one of these topics.

    SIDEWALK MONOPOLY: When two or more people walk down the sidewalk without regard to anyone else in such a way that anyone passing them is forced to walk around them in the grass.

  3. bro. hank,

    1) i did not title the post…

    2) my blog’s name is “the lowercase”

    thanks for your service at sbts,

  4. Tony Kummer says:

    @stephen lee cavness: I’m updating the post headline, sorry people took it the wrong way.

  5. Jeremy Thornburg says:

    I do miss southern hospitality myself being up here in the north! 😀 My effort to try to make the campus more friendly is saying hi to nearly everyone I pass by. It is amazing the amount of people who keep their head down and won’t even look at you as you pass by. I went to Texas to visit a friend who attends Southwestern and people there wouldn’t stop saying hi to me or looking me in the eye as they walked by. So some of it is culture but some of it is just common courtesy.


  6. As someone who has been here since 1999, Stephen is absolutely correct. The only thing “Southern” about the “hospitality” here is the fact that the school’s name is “Southern.” I did many of the things Stephen suggests simply out of habit during my time here (I was raised to be a real Southern gentleman), and more often than not I got odd looks or awkward comments, not all of them a “thank you.”

    Jeremy is correct, the bulk of this kind of behavior is cultural. I’ve found Louisville does not have the kind of culture where gentlemanly behavior is expected of men. It seems like once you get north of Bowling Green, Kentucky turns into either a Midwestern or Northern state. And it also seems like no matter where you’re from, unless you’ve been raised to be mannerly, manners go out the door when you get to Louisville. Especially on the roads. I never thought I would see it, but drivers in the ‘Ville are worse than the legendary highway horrors from Georgia! And not a few of those have “Southern Seminary” stickers in their back windows.

    So my challenge to the Seminary community would be to man up and show common courtesy. The guy trying to find a seat because you’ve got your feet propped up today might be interviewing you for a staff position tomorrow. The woman you neglect to hold a door for today might be someone your church applies for WMU money from tomorrow. She might even be your future wife.

    Whatever happened to letting our only offense be the Gospel?

  7. Brother Hank says:

    @ “the lowercase” –


    lol. that’ll teach me to visit other people’s blogs…

  8. Does anyone think it is as funny as I do that Stephen’s name is in all capital letters under the title of this post?

    Seriously though, good work Stephen.

  9. Steve says:

    Hey, now! Some of us northerners are etiquette-conscious, too! It is not just a North-South thing, but a family and upbringing thing. And sometimes people just slip up. I have noticed, though, that some people just don’t notice others as much as I think they should. They just aren’t wired that way. They have something to do and somewhere to be and others’ feelings just aren’t in the mix. We can appreciate these people, too, if for other reasons. I agree with Brother Hank about grace, but am also glad that someone (besides me) brought up the etiquette issue. We should strive to take care of each other here, but when we mess up, there’s grace. Thanks guys. Now put down the shotgun, tie up the hounds, and let that poor northerner off the hook ;).

  10. Americans aren’t much etiquette-minded anymore. When I attended Columbia Bible College, we were taught etiquette and cultural sensitivity. This is reasonable since many of us were aimed at the mission field. Given that we have a “mission field” here at home, it is reasonable to expect seminary students to understand not merely particular rules of etiquette, but the principles of public conduct and gracious interpersonal consideration such as to intimate holiness as desirable.

  11. I have one more to add to your list, Stephen. I have been sitting in various places the last week and a half in chapel (I wasn’t able to do so before because I was chapel blogging, but now that I have stepped back from that for the rest of the semester, I have been sitting all over the place). The other day, I sat in a side seat up in the front row of the balcony. One of the guys sitting in my pew decided to get himself comfortable and lean over the railing with his hands clasped together. Unfortunately, that affected at least three other people trying to pay attention during the message. We all had to lean over or back in order to even see the speaker.

    If you are sitting in a crowd of people, make sure you are aware how the way you are sitting will impact those around you.

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