Dress etiquette for church


One of our youth worship pastors was an intern and part of the worship team at one of the largest and most influential churches in the United States. I will not name the church here, because I don’t have permission to post publicly, but, if I were to name the church or pastor, most Evangelical readers would easily recognize it.

Our worship pastor forwarded to us the dress etiquette for the choir and worship team of that church, if they were singing on the stage. This is what it reads:


Ladies and Gentlemen:
We know that we always want to look our best, but we must also maintain our integrity in our dress because of the position that we hold in this Ministry. So please ALWAYS adhere to the following rules when preparing your Sunday attire!


–       Sleeveless shirts

–       Cleavage showing

–       Tight pants or shirts

–       Bermuda shorts or Dressy shorts

–       Jeans or Denim/Jean jackets

–       Flip flops

–       Short shirts (do the “worship” test)

–       Ladies, if you wear a skirt or dress, it must be mid-calf or ankle length; NEVER above the knee.


Certainly, a non-believer will most likely laugh at this list, and some hip Christians will call it religious garbage. I find this to be very bold and beneficial.

Here are a couple of thoughts concerning dress etiquette:

1. While coming to worship the Lord, our dress style must not be distracting, revealing, which draws people’s attention away from Christ and the message to what we are wearing. That’s idolatry and a sin.

 Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 1 Timothy 2:9-10.

2. I find most people in an American church dress much more appropriate than a typical Slavic speaking congregation, though the theology, preaching and teaching is heavily focused in the Russian church on dress etiquette, and appropriateness; that’s a fact even if you go to some of the most traditional and conservative Slavic churches. Certainly, one can argue that the reason why women in American churches dress more appropriately is because everyone just wears pants, baggy clothes and tennis shoes, while most women in the Slavic churches wear skirts, dresses, and high heels. But even in the Slavic churches that have moved away from a dress or skirt requirement, many of the women then switch to wearing the most inappropriate pants.

3. There are some things in the Slavic community that I don’t look forward to loosing, when it comes to assimilation into the American culture. But, church attire is one thing Im looking forward to seeing a change in as we assimilate. I think the above list can be a start, especially for those on the stage speaking, singing, or being announced or presented (like during baptism or engagement).

4. Undoubtedly, the other extreme is to treat the church no different that a park, bar, gym, or a sleep-over. And some American and Slavic churches have taken the other extreme. I do believe how we come to church matters, especially if you are part of the team involved in serving and ministering to those who come!

5. For every culture, what is “appropriate” is different. For example, in some parts of the world, it is considered appropriate for the stomach to show, to breastfeed in public, as long as the legs don’t show (like in India). In the western world and the US, it is totally the opposite. When scripture teaches about “respectable apparel,” it is speaking of respectable to the culture that surrounds you. We must be wise and respectful when visiting other cultures & sub-cultures, and dress appropriately to that culture! In other words, reflect the style of the congregation.

6. To the girls and ladies that do dress inappropriately – if you are looking to attract the attention of a man to yourself, attract a man worth attracting. Your inappropriate dress style will only attract a man who has not made a covenant with his eyes, and is burning with lust. Your ultimate desire is for a man to love you for who you are – therefore, let a man fall in love with your heart and character, instead of only with the physical appearance; that’s temporary.

7. I guess I need to leave some advice for men, since most of the stuff above mostly applies only for women. Men, dont blame your sexual lust problem on the way women dress to church. Your covenant between God and your eyes needs to be so strong, that even if there are women around you dressed inappropriately,  you are unaffected.

8 thoughts on “Dress etiquette for church

  1. Russ, I have been really thinking over this topic lately. One question that has been on my mind is the same thing you address in point #2. How come our Slavic ladies, given the freedom, have taken their dress to the extremes. When I compare how our Slavic ladies dress to those in the American church, whether it be our Slavic traditional conservative church or one that has allowed the freedom to wear pants into the service, for whatever reason our women take it to the extreme and still adorn themselves sensually appealing to men, distracting from the face to the curves of the body, or just plain “loud” in fashion. Before, the church leaders were overly strict about the dress code in the church and that kept most people in tow, but once the discipline was loosened, the ladies took it to the extremes. Makes me realize that the Lord must have allowed the church leaders to be so overly strict, because of the weakness in our culture.

    Why haven’t the Americans gone wild with this freedom? Why, though the Americans wear pants to church, it is not so sexually appealing or distracting? What is so different? This is not only a condition of the heart and conscious intentions to attract men, I think it is a deeper issue. I have spoken to girls, some consciously wear “sexy” clothes and some are completely blind to it, but are drawn to buy “sexy” styles. Having conversation about this with young girls, they all point fingers at married women, some even in their 40s, who set a bad example, they ask “we know the youth does it to attract a guy, but why are the married ladies dressing in such a way?” and many of these women, even if they do not dress like that themselves because of their age and figure, they adorn their daughters this way. So, this leads me to believe that there is more than just intentions to be liked by guys, I think that this is a spiritual problem.

    The bible says that there are principalities over different countries and cultures. For instance, Russia has a principality of drunkenness over the whole country. So, because we see this trend to dress “sexy” in our whole culture in the streets of Russia and Ukraine, esp. in the summer time, among the non-believers, I am led to believe that this is a principality over the whole culture and also passed inherited through family lines. Our people have carried this “cultural trend” into their church even into America, even 30 years later, even their children who were born in the US, and it was let loose here with the weakening of church discipline in this area for fear of offending people. But, I don’t agree that the disciplinary measures taken back in the day helped much, because they were trying to make it look good on the outside when the problem lies on the inside.

    People need to realize that this is a spiritual battle over the principalities of our culture. That is why it is almost useless to just try to take care of this issue on the surface level. Yes, it is still important to teach the nuts and bolts of what is modest and what is not, because those few who have a desire to follow God in modesty will want to apply this to their wardrobe, but the rest of the ladies will need to realize that this is a spiritual battle in their souls.

    I would like their hearts to be turned to SEEK to be modest, and still look beautiful and lovely, instead of trying to walk the borderline of being as sexy as possible, or drawing attention, short of being kicked out of church. If we can turn their hearts to seek God’s will in modesty, then all these issues would be taken care of on their own, because they would always seek His will when they choose their dresses, skirts, shoes, pants and even bathing attire.

    Now the question stands: How do we turn their hearts?

  2. What is the point of this etiquette if it is not followed in your church? Even starting with your church volunteers/greeters, who wear skirts well above the knees. Some of the mission trip members that recently were prayed over before going to Mexico had some embarrassingly short dresses… And of course pictures posted to Facebook for all to see [and not judge!]

    I read many of your posts and I think you have the wisdom and I agree what you post on there. However it is not reflected in reality and in your church life, which is one of the factors that prevent our family and friends from visiting this church.

    1. Guest557,

      The really is, all kinds of people attend church. No church is able to GUARANTEE that everyone who comes in will be totally appropriate. And frankly, that is not the role of the church, to even try to guarantee that.

      No matter what church you attend, you will always find someone inappropriately dressed, someone who will offend another.

      1. I completely agree; that is why I did not mention anyone from regular church attendees.
        I only noted the church greeters/volunteers as well as mission group members, which are an example to others and should be a light, not a stumbling block (1 Cor 8:9)

        I promise I was not looking to find a weakness of the church purposefully, nor was the above comment meant to offend anyone; this was rather an observation from “the side”. 🙂

      2. You walk into any church – and you will find an usher/kids ministry volunteer/choir member who will be “offensive” to someone. Name me one church where that doesn’t happen?

        Yet, we continue to teach, pray, admonish and correct, and will continue doing so until Lord Jesus comes.

        As for mission trips, “Missions to Mexico” is a para-church ministry, with people from all churches participating. City On A Hill is just one of the churches involved.

  3. True, most slavic churches are that way. I do admire you guys for bringing up “touchy” subjects like these, because not many pastors would, in fear of losing church members and their families (and thus financial support)
    It takes a great deal of strength, humility and perseverance to lead large congregations while holding responsibility for every single “sheep” (aka member) before the Lord. May God bless you guys and continue speaking through you to our Slavic community!

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