Summer heat challenges youth group dress codes

Summer dress codeIn an email to a couple youth pastors earlier this week, Matt Silver brought up a great question:

Do you guys do anything to address any kind of wardrobe limitations in your ministry? I mean I teach in a thong, but should students be restricted in their wardrobes? It was 80 degrees on Sunday and some of the students were trying to lose some tan lines.

The summer dress code issues have begun! Personally, I require that girls wear one-piece bathing suits or wear a non-white shirt on top of a two-piece suit. Other than that, it’s kinda like an ambiguous distraction policy. If it’s noticeably distracting to me or someone else and divers attention away from the point of the meeting (like, a Bible study or something), then it’s addressed. I’m not really a fan of legalistic “skirts no shorter than 6 inches above the knees” kinda rules.

However, unchurched students are a different story. I like Aaron Thomas‘s response to Matt’s email:

Well, it’s 85 in January out here and the West Coast is…let’s say, a little more liberal in their dress. ;) I have quite a diverse crowd at youth, about 40% churched students and 60% very unchurched (which is my target audience). If I see a churched girl dressed like a hooker, I’m going to tell her that. However, unchurched students should “come as they are” and once I feel there is a trust and connection there, I (with a female leader present) will address her clothing.

That’s a good principle to follow, depending on how far you allow the “come as they are” thing to go. There are some lines that just must be drawn even for unchurched kids. Like, is a bra-less girl wearing a see-through t-shirt acceptable? I think I’d address that one right away even if she’s straight off the street.

It’s not too much to expect students to follow certain rules. That’s just a part of life: school has rules, families have them, even driving on the roads have regulations to follow. I want to create an environment where students’ attention is drawn to the Lord, so if someone’s inappropriate dress is severely hindering that, I’m going to address it just like I would if someone’s inappropriate behavior was having the same affect.

There’s a difference between criticizing someone’s dress and criticizing them personally. I think most students can tell the difference.

And let’s remember that this issue doesn’t apply only to the girls — guys often dress inappropriately, too.

How do the rest of you decide what is appropriate and inappropriate for your summer dress code?

Posted on April 25, 2007

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