I addressed this subject several years ago on my former blog (Chocolate, No Nuts), but it’s been on my mind again recently and I think it’s worth a revisit. (I just spent an hour searching both blogs for that post so I could link back to it, but I can’t find it. If anyone knows where I can find it, please let me know.)
I’ll summarize what I remember posting and expand on it a bit.
There’s been a growing trend in contemporary churches toward casual dress. Now I’ll all for being comfortable. As I get older, my heels get lower and my waistbands looser. Stud Muffin has a question he likes to ask his friends who wear shorts and flip-flops to church: “Are you going to church or summer camp?” They both laugh as they head into the worship service.
I’m not saying we need to go back to the days of suits for men and women, hats, and clutch purses.
I am saying that perhaps the pendulum could swing a teeny tiny bit more toward caring what we wear to church.
We visit churches when we’re out of town. I freely admit, our home church is the most formal in both dress and worship style. We don’t think our church is “right” and the others are “wrong.”
When I see people on the platform (worship team, pastors, staff) in faded jeans, flip-flops, untucked shirts, and slogan T-shirts, it gives an impression of sloppiness. And if they’re sloppy in how they present themselves to visitors, I have to ask myself, what else are they sloppy about? Theology? Welcoming guests? Small group gatherings?
I know the rationale for casual dress is so visitors don’t feel out of place if they’re dressed casually. I just happen to think it’s actually causing the reverse.
I took a week-long class several years ago on speaking and writing as a ministry. We were told that the rule of thumb is that people on the platform should dress one notch above the audience. For instance, if you’re speaking at a weekend retreat in the mountains and the attendees will be wearing jeans and Ts, it’s appropriate for the speaker to wear casual pants and a nice top/shirt. If the audience is in business casual, the speaker should be in a suit or a nice dress. The speaker dressing up a little conveys to the audience that they’re respected and worth making an effort for.
When I see a worship team on the platform in faded jeans and flip-flops, it feels like they just rolled out of bed, pulled on whatever was closest to the bed and then hurried to church. That does not make me feel respected or welcomed.
When we (and yes, I mean you and me) attend weddings and funerals, we dress up. (Unless the wedding is in a meadow.) We put on nice clothes as a display of the honor and respect we hold for the bride and groom or the deceased.
I believe it’s time to show respect for God and each other by leaving the flip-flops home on Sundays. What do you think? Have I missed the point of casual dress?