Country Club Restrictions

Today I went to a luncheon with some area leaders within the city as a part of a leadership training collaborative.  The luncheon took place at a local country club and to my chagrin I discovered there was a dress code of needing to wear a jacket.

I am fine playing “dress up” when needed, however, I prefer comfort over spruced attire.

Of coarse certain cultural settings call for distinct apparel. At a country club you would expect to wear a jacket.  At a funeral I would expect to conduct it within a dress suit.  While swimming you expect to wear a Speedo (okay, some things are just wrong and should never be expected).

However, I did wonder if what many church leaders wear during their corporate worship gatherings communicates more than just “formality” and “professionalism(which are just as concerning messages in my opinion).

I wonder if and when we have a consistent dress of a jacket and/or tie from those leading, it actually reinforces a “country club” mentality to those within and outside the community.

Sure, if you have a service directed toward your senior adult congregants, a jacket/tie may be appropriate.  But for the mainstream target audience that already views the church as plastic, corporate, and a country club, why not just wear what everyone else wears on the weekends (jeans and a T-shirt) instead of giving subliminal dress restrictions? (NOTE: What leaders do is more powerful than what they say.)

Many will state, “Why even discuss this issue, it’s just a jacket.  Shut up and wear it!” And I understand that…and reply with the same sentiment of, “It’s just an extra layer of clothing, so why wear it?”…and wonder if such formality creates a greater distance from the average person sitting in the pew.

Obviously this overcooked discussion has a lot of layers and has never deserved the time it has been given within church leadership discussions, but it is just something that is on my mind with a blue blazer resting comfortably across the room.

With the obvious claim that there are many factors to cultural connection, what is more likelyA person not feeling culturally connected to your church because your leaders are wearing jackets and/or ties, or a person not feeling culturally connected to your church because your leaders are wearing what they are wearing?

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~ by Dave Smith on July 28, 2009.

7 Responses to “Country Club Restrictions”

  1. I was just discussing this issue with my dad in the context of the new dress code for ushers (less formal, no suits). More than a couple of the “old guard” are uncomfortable with the change to a more casual style. At the Chapel I think we have moved well past any barriers for people feeling comfortable wearing jeans, etc. to church. On the other hand, we may be drifting to the point where those who feel more comfortable in dressier clothes feel out of place. Achieving a utopia where everyone feels comfortable to wear what they would like to wear (whether three-piece suit or shorts and a t-shirt) is a challenge.

  2. However, I did wonder if what many church leaders wear during their corporate worship gatherings communicates more than just “formality” and “professionalism” (which are just as concerning messages in my opinion).

    Even beyond the critiques you raised about formality and professionalism, what type of message is being sent to the poor and needy — those who simply cannot afford to “play dress up?”

    How would the homeless person in rags feel upon entering our places of worship? How would the working poor feel upon entering our places of worship?

    Questions worth asking.

  3. You will never solve the dress code issue. My personal opinion is that the obligation of those actively participating in the worship service is to make sure their self-expression doesn’t distract from the One we are there to worship. I wonder what the poor and needy who enter the building expect people to wear and how high on the list of obstacles dress actually is in their minds. Ultimately, I think our time is better spent instilling the gospel deep enough into the hearts of our people that we will genuinely welcome the poor and needy into our church no matter who is wearing what. (And please don’t ever make me wear a tie for more than 30 minutes…)

  4. I wonder what the poor and needy who enter the building expect people to wear and how high on the list of obstacles dress actually is in their minds

    I wonder how many poor and needy are actually entering our buildings in the first place — and what obstacles exist that are preventing them from doing so.

    Like it or not, dressing up does have a sociological power function. A man on an elevated podium with a microphone in his hand wearing a suit and tie simply screams power. It may not be intentional, but that doesn’t make it less of a reality.

    instilling the gospel deep enough into the hearts of our people that we will genuinely welcome the poor and needy into our church no matter who is wearing what

    +1

  5. This debate is a great one. The question that I think about is this. Should we dress up (give our best) for our Lord or should we dress down intentionally to plaease the poor, etc. that come to our church. Obviously, there is no good answer. I have a coworker that works from home, but has to be on many conf calls. He told me that he will sometimes put on dressy clothes when it is going to be an important conf call. So here is a guy that might wear a tie, all by himself, just to feel better and more professional on the phone. There is something to be said about getting up on Sunday morning, shaving and dressing our very best for the Lord. Obviously the Lord hears our prayers in cargo shorts too.

  6. Dave, I disagree with your premise. You said, “why not just wear what everyone else wears on the weekends (jeans and a T-shirt).”

    You’ve made an assumption that the preferred costume of North Americans is jeans and a t-shirt. But, what of those who prefer shorts? Or camo pants? Or suits?

    I have a neighbor who spends pretty much the whole weekend in a bikini.

    We should follow the same practice we’ve already established with music in church:

    We need five different weekend services, each with a different dress code. Those that want to wear suits & dresses can come to the “classic” service, those who want to wear jeans can come to the “current” service, and so on.

    You can’t assume that your “mainstream target audience that already views the church as plastic, corporate, and a country club” will be won over by ONE dress style. Jeans and a t-shirt don’t go far enough. Five, or six (more if you can pull off video venues) styles are required to be effective. After all, it’s the job of the church to please everyone.

  7. Yea, I was definitely being narrow in my clothing selection. I am all for bikinis!

    Your sarcasm runs thick here Mr. Barrett! :>)

    I did get an e-mail from a reader who had some thoughts they shared with me. Here were some of her words:

    “I have 2 thoughts on the “dress code” issue…specifically for the our church community.

    1. I think that suits definitely reflect an old-school, country club mentality…and definitely does not fit the “casual, comfortable, safe” environment we are trying to communicate – especially in Resonate. It looks crazy for us to be sitting in the “audience” in jeans/shorts/T-shirts and watching on the screen someone in a suit. Feels weird. But, I also think some churches go to the other extreme of trying to look “too” cool and you have a 35 or 40 year old man with his hair all emo and gelled, roughed up jeans and a T-shirt from PacSun and end up looking like a washed up country star 🙂

    2. I thought it was kind of funny in our casual service on Sunday because the homeless men actually stood out because THEY were wearing a collared shirt and tie and everyone else was in jeans. kind of ironic 🙂

    …I think people should just be who they are…If you are a casual person, dress casually. If you enjoy dressing up, dress up. I think authenticity communicates much more than wearing the “right” thing for the “right” environment. That’s my point.

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