Re-thinking the way we dress for church

Have you ever thought about how you dress for church? Is dressing up reverent and dressing casually irreverent? Is your choice of dress a deliberate decision or are you just following a tradition, expectation, or mandate even?

I remember as a young minister being admonished and later rebuked for not dressing like a minister. I always wore slacks and a dress shirt but, once a minister, I was expected to add a tie and a sports jacket. Even better, a suit would be nice, and an expensive one would be best.

Some say it’s a part of worship. Some say we should honor God with our best presentation or appearance. They argue that we should look different than the world. Some go as far as to put restrictions on what is and is not acceptable. The church of my childhood forbade men to have long hair and required women to keep long hair or keep their hair covered. They still do. Some restrict jewelry and make-up. Is there really a biblical basis for such a mandate?

On the other side, pastors preaching in jeans and polo shirts seem to be on the rise. I recently went to a conference and some of the presenters even had flip-flops on. They argue that being you is important. Further, they say that a person’s dress has very little, if anything at all, to do with their reverence and worship of God. Arguments here and here seem to run even deeper, claiming negative socio-economical implications and irrelevance to the culture are just some of the results of the “Sunday best” mentality.

Is “Sunday best” dressing out of place for church today? How are the poor or less fashionable to feel about all of this? What about the leaders of your church? Do you expect them to “dress the part?” Are we dressing to impress others, God, or ourselves? Think about it and let’s talk. Responses here please.

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27 thoughts on “Re-thinking the way we dress for church

  1. Definitely feel that wearing whatever makes you feel comfortable allows your spirit more free. Being restricted or forced to doing something that isn’t you is basically the opposite what God tells us to do; come as you are. But if you feel more comfortable in a sports jacket and a tie than you do in flip flops and jeans, go for it. Just make sure that whatever you have on doesn’t interfere with your worship. God could care less [just an assumption] of what brand of clothes you have on, or if you have on jewelry or not. God made you to serve him, not some standardized dress code that someone randomly made up… lol

  2. I’m feeling that. The Bible says, man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart. What I wear does not dictate how I worship. Just because someone comes into church doesn’t put them at a higher level than anyone, and it doesn’t mean that they have everything together. I dont expect my leaders to come into church dressing the part, I expect them to act the part and live the part of what they preach…

  3. Kwesi thank you for remembering Al and I. I’m so happy you and your family are starting a new mission in TX. You are right about, we must be honest with ourselves, always put God first in everything you do, including your family. About the ways Church people dress, first of all most people expect the minister to be dressed better than others, they look up to you as the leader. Presenting the word of God. Casual clothes anytime other than Sunday or a business meeting.

    Your members come to church as they normally go other places, there is those in this world that really do not have a lot of money to spend on cloths. Young people love to wear their jeans, most older folks like me love to wear their Sunday best. As long as its clean and neat, it’s their choice. It’s souls you are winning for God. Praise his name.

    Visit people in their homes, let them know you are there for them.. Allow them to feel free to talk with you in confidence. I don’t know what kind of church you have but I do know I have been a Christian since I was very young, I was raised on a farm, my parents raised 9 children. My father was a Lay Minister, he ran a lot of revivals, and some churches wanted him to be their minister.

    Paw always told them he had a farm to take care of, and he had to provide for his family. He was happy to be able to do both. We shared our food with the needs of our neighbors, took it to their homes, if the lady got sick, my mother would cook food and 1 of my brothers and 1 sister would deliver the food. I received so many blessing when it was my time to see them receive it. My mother designed our clothes, she sewed for all 6 of us girls, we had
    lots of pretty clothes as back then material was not so expensive.

    All my family lived to be old, my father passed at 88, mother at 92, my last brother this June would have been 88, he passed in Jan 08. Maybe by writing all this you will understand me better. My mother and father were very wise, they never bought anything on credit, never owed anyone anything. Their children never had a broke bone or stayed in the hospital, while growing up. While living at home, we were one big family, singing, playing guitars, blowing harmonicas, my mother played the piano and taught the other girls that wanted to learn by notes, me I played by ear. You have my prayers and my familys.

    Kwesi I’m thankful you wrote “Scream” ,
    if you have any free ones you want me to give away, I will pay the shipping, just let me know.

    As far as you, I feel that was the most profited thing you could have ever done. It’s off your mind and soul, God forgave you, for all the things you have ever done. Its like places you in Texas is a new start. Preach loud and strong to the young and old the saving grace, Jesus died that we could be saved, by the stripes he bore, that, we would be healed. Stir up your congregation with action of your faith and the Holy Spirit guiding you. I’m so happy for you. If you need anything I’ve said its all true, use what you want and shred the rest. This world is not going to last much longer, too much anger, robbin, killing and molesting children. Preach the word as long as you live.
    Love and prayers to you and yours family, Ella and Al

  4. @ Lauren, it’s great to hear from you. Maybe it’s just me but having been in church all my life, I definitely feel like some rules are pulled out of…. the air, yeah, that’s better, the air.

    @ Phil, Yessiree you said a mouthful and then some. Definitely more dressing than action and that ain’t no good. But come on don’t you want to be impressed by the way your leaders look just a little?

    @ Ella, WOW! That’s the wisdom of experience right there. So much of what you said I have taken to heart as I head into the pastorate. I grew up with those types of Pastors and when I didn’t have it I missed it. It’s that type of relational, community pastor that I seek to be. Thank you so much.

    I’ll be sure to send you the pdf version of the book.

  5. Hi Kwesi – Congratulations on your move and your preaching. You are truly an inspiration from God.

    I understand what everyone else is saying and I agree for the most part, but I come from the thinking that we are to give God our best in every aspect of our life, including how we come to worship Him. So if you have a suit, a dress or a nice outfit, you should be wearing that to church. If your best is jeans and a t-shirt, then that is your attire for the service. This isn’t about what you can afford to me. I see people, even leaders in my church who have nicer clothing, wearing jeans to Sunday service just because our church is accepting of everyone (which IS what God wants.) To be a leader, you need to set and example, no? I am rambling, but my point is give God your best and He will bless you for it. Amen?

    Hugs to Katrice as well.

  6. i have to agree, i think people get so rapped up in church that they begin to loose their self in the process. God says that he takes us as we our, and is happy with us if were dressed well or not. but i also think that its more of people wanting to be acepted by the church, which leads them into think that they must dress and act a certain way. but then who are you really pleaseing God, or the people of the church? its all a bunch of foolishness if you ask me!

  7. I believe that one should dress in what ever way is most comfortable for them, freedom of choice is important, God gave us a choice, so we should do the same, let people choose.
    However no loose leaves, they may drop off, exposing to much! so please cover up the voluptuous parts.

  8. @ Christina, that sounds good, but what then about the person who’s best is the jean and tee and they really desire a suit? I went to a school that required uniforms and if I recall correctly, the rationale behind the choice was to even the socio-economic appearance. By no means am I suggesting uniforms in church. I do feel like some churches have a uniform however. I remember sitting in the waiting area of a restaurant and a group walked in, they screamed religious by their attire. Does the Sunday Best system cause us develop a look the part mentality? Help me out here. How much effort do we need to put into looking like Christians?

    @ Joshua, why you have to go all deep on me?(lol) How much of the way we dress is for the acceptance of the church? How much of it becomes pretense? You know, I won’t be outdone by so-n-so or I don’t want them thinking that I’m broke. Interesting…

    @ Anna, LOL, the voluptuous parts! Yes indeed, I’ve seen both men and women dressed very nicely in church and sometime you wonder if the intent wasn’t exactly to display the, as you say, voluptuous parts. HA HA

  9. Now Kwesi, I said giving God our best, not looking a part for people or representing yourself as a Christian. I agree with my Pastor when he says you shouldn’t have to tell people you’re a Christian; they should know by your actions and your words. Uniforms are silly to me by the way. But I do think as a leader you need to set higher standards for yourself. It goes along with the position in God’s kingdom.

    This is just MY opinion only. I realize no one will probably agree with me and that’s ok. 🙂

  10. Christina, I respect that and value all opinions greatly.

    I agree leaders are called to lead in every area. I guess I’m just trying to reconcile this in my mind. I whole heartedly agree that leaders should be discrete in their attire. Not too flashy, not too revealing, (I’ve seen too many tight leather pants and muscle shirts in the pulpit for my taste) on the side of men. And for the ladies I’ve seen too much of just about everything. Maybe it comes down to decency for me. I don’t disagree with giving your best to God. I rater agree that we should, yet something about dressing up for worship makes me cringe. I think this is from a past of being required to dress up on the outside, while knowing I was filthy on the inside. You know i think for me I only start having a problem when it’s required by writ or by implication or by social manipulation.

    Hugs back from katrice

  11. Very interesting discussion! I am of the school of thought that “free indeed” extends to areas such as this. I think people feel more comfortable with people they can relate to, so some will be able to reach the young person in jeans and a jersey while others will be able to reach the man in the Armani suit, and still someone else will be able to reach the manicured country club wife. Yes, we should always strive to look our best because we are King’s kids, but my best may be a totally different flavor from your best. And when we all come to worship, who cares? Let the suits and the sweats bow before Him side by side!

    As for leaders, I think that the standard for leaders should be that they are flexible. Able to relate to the people in their care, examples of God’s love and grace inside and out. He shouldn’t be raggedy or too extravagant in my opinion. Leaders are people too.

    In summary, everyone should be less judgmental. But that would make it pretty darn close to perfect.

    Hey Christina! Much love to ya!

    And Mrs. Ella rocks! I take all that she had to say to heart!

  12. Man most people dont even like to dress up for work let alone church. I clearly remember reading the verse in the Bible where Jesus teaches us to not be concerned with those type things. Here is all I need to know. Jesus never mentions trying to find his best pair of sandals, newest robe or even arriving on the new young, athletic and best looking camel. So no, dressing up is clearly tradition. If you wanna do it, fine. if you don’t, fine. Just go with a heart to worship.

  13. Hi Kwesi,
    I am sorry to say that I was one of those people who felt that I had to dress up for church, I guess I was fooled by those who said that we should always dress as though we are going to meet the King. Fortunately for me, I came to my senses, I believe that we should be modestly dressed, and be comfortable, and that’s all, If one feels comfortable in some jeans and a t-shirt, and someone else feels comfortable in a ball gown, then so be it……What I’m really trying to say here is every man to his own order…
    Jacquelyn Sturge

  14. @ Katrice, leaders are people too, I agree. I think that leaders have a hard enough time trying to live the part. Trying to have leaders hair, and a leaders car and a leaders house and ah please, such foolishness! Yes you must be thinking of heaven.

    @ Rob, a heart of worship? Guess you can’t find that in the closet on Sunday morning can you?

    @ Jacquelyn,

    I’m so sorry that you and I waisted time being uncomfortable. I’m so delighted that we’ve learned better.

  15. The dress nice arguement to “give God your best” really bugs me. If God left the Temple way back in Ezekiel’s days, and today the Christian is His Temple, then there isn’t anything special about a church building. Acts 7:48, ‘The Most High does not live in houses made by men.’

    Sunday mornings are to do corporately what you should already be doing with your lifestyle 24/7, worshipping. So if you wear a suit and tie on Sundays, shouldn’t you sleep in it? bathe in it? do your jogging, grocery shopping, dog walking, etc. in it?

    Does the very same God who dwells in you constantly only deserve about an hour of your best clothes on Sunday mornings?

    Besides that, the fact that God doesn’t call for ‘proper’ Christian attire (aside from modesty-different issue) is good enough for me. Who am I to add to His Word when I think He should have clarified a little more?

    Rock on Kwesi!

  16. Phil,

    Thanks for stopping by. These days, I’m doing church online which makes my Sunday best, a t-shirt and shorts and that’s on a good day! LOL

    I figure, like you, God knows the best and the worst of me, no need to play dress up for Him!

  17. I just stumbled onto your blog via a google search on getting dressed up for church. Very interesting comments to this debate between ‘Sunday best’ and ‘casual approach’.

    Seems as if we have some pretty passionate folk within the Church speaking up on this ‘sensitive’ subject. I’ve thrown my $.02 into the pot @:

    http://kowalkerjourney.com/2008/11/10/do-you-dress-up-for-church/

    I’m really digging your site. Keep up the insightful posts!

  18. Pingback: A years worth of conversation « SCREAM

  19. I went to a ordination service this morning and my heart was very heavy. The canidates were dressed as if they were going to go to a casual dinner. I felt as if this was the most important day of their lives and the love and respect they felt for the Savior should have been reflected. On their wedding day I am sure …they did not casually dress. This day was more important by far in that it told the world the the Creator of the Universe had called them out to walk beside him and be an example. To be a leader of the Bride of Christ.

  20. To me, I dress for church, at least when I am about to attend traditional morning Mass. Even at a Mass when I expect to sing a traditional hymn (Think “We Gather Together” and all the traditional stuff!) I see a lot of jeans, shirts, and even Bermuda shorts. Well, for the latter, at least they are modest!

    If I were to go to a Tridentine Mass (an almost all-Latin Mass), I would expect to wear the so-called Sunday best because most parishes that offer it are likely to post and reinforce it. Plus, I have to make my own mantilla, which is a veil used for the purpose.

    http://hubpages.com/hub/churchclothing

  21. Ok. This is what I’m seeing that like common in the church today and God is calling me to address it because there is no one saying anything at all. Women are suppose to be modest, Right? women coming to church with low-cut blouses ain’t modest. Showing the crack of a women’s breast or clevage is not moderate and that’s one of the spirits in the body of christ now. women leading praise and worship with their cleavage showing? baby please, that aint Godly. I was told im nice looking, nice shape and by my husband even b4 I got married. I love my funky jeans, love unique clothing and have my own style, but when i come into the house of God i want to also give Him my best in praise, worhip, heart, and in my attire.

  22. Hello would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m
    planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

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