Ministers in Jeans (while preaching)

I’ve been watching a lot of videos messages lately from large growing churches with younger pastors and thousands of members.

Look at the websites of these churches and every one has front and center GET INVOLVED and FIND A GROUP.

Watching their sermons online I’ve been impressed with how they use cultural references to grab attention, frame a message and then move to core teaching that is not bound by pop culture, but the depth of their teaching and ministry.  They use the culture to communicate that they get what is happening in our world, that their in touch, relevant…

Very recently the Rev. Dan Harper, a UU minister, said he wished there was a blog like Beauty Tips for Ministers for male ministers.  Since reading his post I’ve started noticing what that pastors are wearing in the videos I watch.

  • Nice button down shirt
  • Blue Jeans

My wife, the Rev. Amy Freedman, and I have discussed the appropriateness of wearing jeans to church at length.  She’s from the school of thought that we should dress for church.  Me?  I appreciate dressing up, dress up regularly, including when I’m preaching, but do think it worth asking what our clergy wearing robes and helps or hurt us.

Hey Rev!  Who are you dressing to minister to?  Baby boomers?

One of the ministers I learn most from is Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church.  He understands relevance, preaching and communication .  In fact, I highly recommend his book Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication.  I think North Point is worth studying.  You can watch their video messages on their main site. Here’s one example…

Dress wise you’ll find a range but overall it is more casual than what our ministers wear.  What do you think?  How does their dress make you feel.

Me?  I find it immediately disarming.  I feel like I’m engaging with a human being.  Though I will say that many of the messages I’ve watched, the ones I’ve watched all the way through, the speaker is communicating with us, not preaching at us.

What impact do you think clergy wardrobes — and plain ol’ robes — have on our ministry?  Anyone know of UU ministers preaching in blue jeans?

UPDATE: Thanks to all of you who have commented.  In response to a couple of emails I wanted to note that I am not advocating that you all toss your robes and bring out the Levi’s.  Just worth thinking about how the physical appearance of our congregations, staff and volunteers influence perceptions of our ministry.

10 thoughts on “Ministers in Jeans (while preaching)

  1. I have no problem with dress code in general. The clothes people wear is an expression of their own individuality, and I am fine with that. Still, maybe it is an age thing, but for a minister I think the dress code should be something that is symbolic of their position. It is not about jeans or not jeans, fancy or simple, it is about symbolism and ritual. Part of why we go to church/temple/synagogue/etc is for the ritual of it. Humans are ritualistic animals, symbolism is meaningful to us. So I do not care what the symbolic dress code of a minister is, so long as it is some sort of symbolic ritualistic outfit. The wearing of something symbolic speaks to humans in a way that is more basic, more fundamental then the words that are spoken.

    So I would be fine with a robe of denim with peace signs woven into the fabric, or a cape of silk with a chalice on it like the emblem of a superhero. What matters is that it be the same each week, that it symbolize and speak to the fundamental tenants of UU, and that it fit the congregation be it formal or informal.


  2. How do I feel about it? Hmmm. Sort of depends on the setting. If the backdrop is like a TV set or an auditorium rather, informality works far better than it would in a cathedral. In the informal setting of the new Christian ministries, jeans work great. But I don’t know that it makes sense to dress like a generation one is not part of in hopes of appealing. I hope that you are not saying that someone who is and looks like a boomer can’t connect with anyone but boomers. If so, the implication is that worship has to be age-segregated and each group served by one of its own for anybody to get anything out of it. God, I hope that’s not true!

  3. I preach in a modern/informal setting and wear a robe or business attire on Sunday. My generation of women ministers knows to our bones that you get no respect if you dress like a schoolgirl. And an evening of playing the new Cranium was a painful lesson in how much of the younger generations’ cultural icons I don’t know.

    In spite of all this. My church seems to be doing quite well, with an intergenerational and cross-cultural membership.

    It doesn’t matter what you wear. It doesn’t matter who you listen to. What matters is that the message has depth and relevance.

    I like that about Andy Stanley, too.

  4. What a gifted preacher! Thank you for sharing the video clip. I think that people now are more impacted by this style of preaching – not just the clothes but the whole style: headset mic, delivered directly without reading, moving around on the stage. I think these aspects have more to do with the effective delivery of the message than just the clothes. I’ve seen ministers who step down from the lectern and make this real soul-to-soul connection with their audience while still in robes. But personally, I like the jeans 😉

  5. Context is important, too:

    — Middle class and upper middle class educated white suburbanites seem more likely to like casual clothing in their ministers.
    — I don’t wear a robe when preaching, but when people ask me to do a wedding they usually want me in a robe. When I do memorial services and graveside services, few people want a robe, but they sure do want a charcoal gray suit and a sober tie.
    — There are regional and even local variations. Here in Silicon Valley, people tend to dress down at church. But in San Francisco, there are more people who dress up for church.
    — In one big mega-church in New England, the senior pastor used to say that he wore a suit and tie at the early morning service, a robe at the late morning service, and jeans at the Sunday evening service — and 11:00 Sunday morning does seem to be a more formal time.

    No firm answers.

  6. I wear a robe on Sunday mornings, which seems to be taken for granted in my new congregation but was a initially a sensation in my last congregation. And interestingly, I have the robe because my internship congregation expected that the interns would wear robes too, so bought it for me.

    As for jeans, I’ve experienced that people 50 and younger are OK with the minister in jeans. The younger, the more tolerant of more casual dress. There’s also a geographic aspect. The congregation that didn’t care if I wore a robe, also didn’t mind me wearing for office hours and meetings. My present congregation, i’m told, has had issues with casual dress by the minister.

  7. Just one question, please:
    How would these pastors/preachers/worship leaders dress if they have to meet the president of the country? (I’m not asking why, just how).

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