What Not to Wear

I have to get this out of my head before my brain explodes.  Does it really matter what you wear to church?

Is it a lack of respect to wear jeans?  Is a suit and tie the appropriate attire?  Should you wear the best that you have?  Is it something that should even take up 5 minutes of your time deciding?  Are you dressing for God or for people?  Do you dress indigenously – dress like the culture in which your church resides?  Or is it a personal choice between you and God?

I’m having a struggle with this.  I never really gave much thought about how I dress for church.  I came from a very relaxed church that welcomes people for who they are – not what they wear.  I am now attending – and work for – a conservative southern baptist church.  I have stepped up my wardrobe a bit to put on khakis or capris.  I’ve even been known to don the occassional dress or skirt.  (I know all you Phoenix people are laughing at the thought of me in a dress.  shush.) 

This evening I attended a vision and strategy meeting where the topic of dress code was brought up.  For reasons of privacy I’m not going to get into exactly what was said but suffice it to say that I left the meeting feeling very judged because of what I choose to wear (or not wear).

Which brings me back to my original questions.  I’m not looking for answers as to what I should do… only I can figure that out.  But I would like to hear your own personal thoughts and choices on what you wear (or will not wear) to church and why.  Do you judge people, staff or pastors based on their Sunday morning wardrobe?


11 responses to “What Not to Wear

  • Dan

    So … yeah. I’d have a couple of questions:

    If a bum were to show up (or better yet: a whole crowd of em) would they get turned away because they didn’t dress right? Or would they just never be allowed to ‘lead’ the church because they weren’t dressed right?

    Did Jesus where a suit and tie?

    What does the Holy Spirit wear?

    Has your church leadership even read Matthew 21? Or do they just choose to ignore that chapter (where Jesus is speaking directly to this issue, btw)?

  • Dan

    Sorry … I was so irritated, I quoted the wrong scripture. It’s actually Matthew 23.

  • Rachel

    Hi, I looked up Matthew 23 http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Mat/Mat023.html
    It looked like there should be something about clothes there, but I didn’t see it. What verse was it?

    I grew up in a very strict church. We couldn’t wear jewelry and we had to dress up for service. The problem I saw was even though we couldn’t wear jewelry, people wore very expensive watches and flashy hair pieces. I have seen the teenagers turn away from the church I grew up in (present company included).

    Now I go to church in a gym. I love watching the teenagers show up in ripped jeans and band shirts, because they are there.

    Have you seen the Simpsons episode when they get home from church? The first thing they do is throw off their clothes at the doorway and celebrate because they have a week until they have to go back.
    What if the dress code was one less obstacle.

    I’m not saying I go in ripped jeans and band shirts, but church is about healing and that has nothing to do w/ what we wear.

  • Rachel

    I say you wear your khackies and capris as a statement now.
    It’s on like donkey kong..

  • kungfuchicken

    Let me add this… my hubby is now an usher and still wears his usually Sunday duds – jeans and a polo. He’s raised a few eyebrows. But we’ve also noticed a few more men wearing jeans now too. Could it be that people don’t like to have the boat rocked??

  • zanne

    recently this came up in my life as the rock star and i prepared to go to our ministerial credentialing interviews. part of the information was that we should come ‘dressed appropriately’. which phrase immediately, of course, caused us to wonder–what’s appropriate? appropriate according to whose standards? the church we’re in now is even more laid-back about dress code, especially for people ‘up front’ than the one we (and you!) came from, so the idea of being judged on what we might wear was rather startling.

    as we processed, i came to realize that i think it’s important to recognize that there are two conflicting Christian cultural value systems at work. one (the one most of us are outside of) holds that giving God our best includes our best appearance–that out of respect for the high importance of the God we worship and the work we do for His Kingdom, we dress in our best, or at least a step or two up from our ‘everyday’ clothes, whatever those may be. then there’s the viewpoint that most of us hold–i want to be valued for who i am inside, not what i wear; that what i wear is somewhat superficial and unimportant. but how do we make it all work in a place of mixed church cultures? how do we hear each other and respect each other’s values without compromising our own? for instance, when the rock star leads music worship in our more traditional gathering, he wears a collared shirt, and makes sure his jeans have no holes in them (which certainly isn’t always the case when he leads the band in our contemporary ones!). and when i asked him about that, he said that he doesn’t want his clothes to be a distraction or a barrier between him and the congregation–he loves that part of the church, and wants to honor and respect them, and he knows that if he dressed less carefully he might put them off. so while he still hasn’t gone to khakis, he’s moving toward that part of the congregation while still being himself.

    and i think, for me, that’s a helpful way to look at it. if we talk with each other about the different motivations behind the values we hold, it’s easier for us to understand one other, while also helping to move people toward a more, dare i say it… relevant perspective. after all–it’s ultimately about helping people to encounter Jesus. i don’t want to get in the way of that, but i need to find a way to be real and authentic as well. and if wearing clothes that aren’t me isn’t authentic–i won’t be as effective in ministry as i could be. but if i’m so far from other people that they can’t receive what i have to offer, no matter how authentically ‘me’ i’m being, then once again i’m not contributing all i can.

    never easy, is it? then again… i haven’t found ministry to be at all easy. frustrating, rewarding, challenging–oh yes. easy? oh, no! 🙂

  • Matthew

    So much of this has to do with style and the culture where you live.

    When I was growing up in Indiana, slacks, ties, sport coats were the norm, even as a little kid i wore dress pants and dress shirts and “brown shoes” to church.

    When we moved to phoenix (*stifles laugh at thought of Andi in a dress*), shorts and t-shirts were welcomed in the 120 degree heat.

    Here in northern California, my dress changes with the weather and with which church i’m going to. When I go to the post-modern, hip, young church I wear cutoff’s and flip-flops. But when I go to the beautiful, old Episcopal church, you bet I’m there in khaki’s and leather shoes with socks!

    God doesn’t care… true. But don’t be a stumbling block to others! My two copper coins…


  • littletiger

    Hey Andi – I understand the issue – I agree with Zanne in that you don’t want what you wear to be a hindrance to others being able to worship – yet at the same time you want to be authentically yourself. You might want to bring the topic up once again and ask them how they would welcome someone coming in who wasn’t dressed the way they are? Would they make the person feel unwelcome because they dressed differently?

    At my previous church we were pretty laid back – but i remember when a bunch of bikers from CMA came to church – they felt a bit more comfortable because there were so many people in jeans and t-shirts. Some of them ended up coming for quite a long time.

    I guess the real question for me would be – Is what you are wearing interferring with your ability to do your job there as the children’s ministry leader? If not – I’d tell the rest of the crew that they need to examine why they feel led to dress up and possibly alienate newcomers to the church.

    My two cents for what it’s worth.

  • Alyssa

    I just read this in my One Year Bible reading and I thought it might be of help. It’s from Romans 14

    “1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.”

  • Rachel

    I have often asked God why he asks of me what he doesn’t ask from others or why he asks more from others in different catagories than he does of me, and the answer always comes back that God has a different relationship with each of us.

    I guess the issue I have is with the “dress code”, the fact that they are deciding how other members of the church should come before the Lord.

    That, I believe, is not something one member of the church is able to decide for another.

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