A long time ago, on a stage far away, I had a young team member show up on a Sunday morning in a skirt that was, um…well, yeah. And with the height of our platform, it was about to be a PG-13 service.
Another time, I had a male team member arrive in a deep-V T-shirt. Emphasis on deep.
We dealt with both issues appropriately, and things were great with the team members. But with each dress code infraction (and all others since), I’m forced to go back to our guideline document and determine if that was part of the problem.
Over the years, I’ve discovered an array of issues with my dress code policy. You might have a few of these problems with yours, too. Here are 10 big ones:
1. You don’t have one.
That’s mistake #1. Everyone has different standards of “appropriate”—whether it’s regarding modesty, fit, style, color, or neatness. Don’t trust common sense. Spell it out.
2. It’s not comprehensive enough.
I used to have a pithy guideline that I thought would work: dress appropriately and modestly. Wrong. Again, different people have different notions of appropriate and modest.
3. It’s TOO detailed.
There gets to be a point where the dress code can become too Pharisaical. Dress codes get too complex when leaders create a new policy for every isolated incident. It’s just wimping out. Man- or woman-up and have a tough conversation with that person rather than making a new rule.
4. You don’t have a plan to encourage and enforce it.
I found I needed a system to make sure 1) new team members understood it, 2) current team members get reminded of it, and 3) I have a plan to address issues as they arise.
5. It doesn’t remind people that worship is active.
Nothing invites the congregation to worship like a bare belly button, right? Raising hands and jumping around can cause wardrobe malfunctions. Remind your team to wear clothes that can allow them to express their worship physically without an embarrassing or distracting incident occurring.
6. It doesn’t address any camera or lighting issues.
I once learned (a tad too late) that one of my team member’s very modest and appropriate skirt turned risqué when backlit.
Not only can the lights affect our clothing, but certain colors and patterns can seem OK in-person but get wonky on-camera. If lights and video cameras are a part of your service, take that into account in your dress code policy.
When in doubt, encourage subdued colors and patterns. Not only will this help with lighting/cameras, but it lowers potential distraction.
7. It doesn’t address modesty issues specifically enough.
This one really falls under #2, but it’s important enough for its own point. Some of the current “appropriate” styles in our workplaces, schools, and social settings are NOT appropriate for worship leading—both for men and women.
Tight pants and shirts, uncovered leggings, short skirts, low-cut tops, etc. will distract from worship. So be specific with your team. Again, not everyone has the same notion of “appropriate.”
8. It puts all the focus on women’s clothing.
As followers of Christ, we should take seriously the principles found in Romans 14:13-23 about not causing a brother to stumble. But I’m afraid in some circles, we’ve put all the onus on women to keep men from lusting. A woman could wear a neck-to-ankle gunny sack and still have some men thinking inappropriate thoughts.
So, let’s be ardent about the modesty but NOT blame women for a guy’s problem with lust.
9. It doesn’t take into account your culture.
Is your church formal? Informal? Would your church struggle with tatted or overly-pierced musicians on the platform? Would a Fender t-shirt, ball cap, and ripped jeans be appropriate? Or is a tie required? No judgment here for any of that. Just be sure that your policy considers YOUR culture, your standards, and who you’re trying to reach.
10. It doesn’t remind people of WHY.
If you get nothing else from this article, get this. Too many times we inflict rules and policies on our team members without giving them the vision of why.
We have a priestly and dual role as lead worshipers. First, we worship God. Second, we are helping others worship God. So, we are called to engage and encourage the congregation to enter into worship. We can’t (and shouldn’t) be invisible, but we can (and should) do everything in our power to move the attention off ourselves and onto Jesus.
Our attire is part of the visual engagement of leading people towards worship. What we wear should be intentionally chosen to bring glory to God, not attention to us.