How Should a Ministry Leader Dress?

If you have a commitment to developing leaders holistically, then eventually all kinds of questions come up. Recently a discussion arose around appearance, clothing, and dress, and how these things impact your leadership.


Some will immediately dismiss the question, saying, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Terrific verse. Helps us see that the priority is what God sees in the heart.

But the truth remains — man looks on the outward appearance. So a leader of people cannot ignore his or her outward appearance.

You could expand the discussion to include things like weight, facial hair, makeup, hairstyle, modesty, etc. But, for now, let’s think about dress. How should a pastor or ministry leader dress?

My answer is simple: A leader should dress in such a way that nobody notices how the leader is dressed.

This is why, in many Christian traditions, pastors have worn robes. It’s not mostly about authority or trying to be set apart. Rather, it’s about trying not to be noticeable with your fashion.

If people are noticing what you’re wearing, it’s a distraction.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re extremely fashionable or totally disconnected. If what you’re wearing is attention-grabbing, it’s distracting from your point.

Speaking to a group of teenagers? Might be good to wear a t-shirt.
Meeting with a business man for discipleship? Leave the t-shirt at home.

I recall seeing a worship leader at another church who looked like a rock-star — or a homeless person (I couldn’t quite decide). I suppose it made him “cool,” but he was the only guy in the room that looked like that and it was difficult not to think about his appearance. Much better to just blend in.

So, skip the tutorials from, quit insisting on “being yourself,” and make a conscious decision toward “fitting in” — in the most ordinary sense.

Published by Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since.

4 thoughts on “How Should a Ministry Leader Dress?

  1. If you would not have pointed out you were wearing a T-Shirt this weekend, I would’ve been none the wiser. I suppose that’s the GenerationX I.T. dressed-down geek in me. :).

    But I get what you are saying. If someone is wearing white sneakers with a tuxedo I would definitely take notice. More extreme example, same concept.

  2. I think ‘be yourself’ is really bad fashion advice for most guys – particularly a lot of pastors I’ve come across. Unfortunately, in their attempt to not pay too much attention to how they look they come off as ‘not caring’ about how they look – and not in a good way. In the way that suggests that they are careless.

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