5 Simple Rules for What to Wear, What Not to Wear: UMC (Contemporary Pastor) Edition

The GBOD recently posted an article by my friend Taylor Burton-Edwards aimed at helping United Methodist clergy make educated choices with regard to the appropriate vestments to wear or not wear for worship.

While I appreciated this article, the reality is that I had to do a Google Image search in order to determine what many of the items were (i.e alb, cassock, chasuble etc.)

I feel somewhat ignorant for not knowing about these vestments, but on the other hand, I can never imagine why I would need to know about them.

You see, I am the “contemporary” guy. I am the United Methodist pastor who gets to preach at that “other” service; normally conveniently located in the fellowship hall or community life center.

We contemporary pastors are not expected to know whether or not we are allowed to wear a purple clergy shirt or whether or not the occasion is right to throw on the ole’ scapular. No, we are expected to dress in a manner that makes those who attend our services feel comfortable. We are expected to create a “casual” environment, conducive to making “seekers” feel welcome and comfortable.

“Come as you are” is our motto. And the only way we can ensure that people really believe us is to model it from the stage.

Therefore, we “contemporary” pastors live by a completely different fashion code than our “traditional” brothers and sisters.

With that in mind, I would like to offer:

5 Simple Rules on What to Wear, What Not to Wear: UMC (Contemporary Pastor) Edition.  

Note: these suggestions are primarily intended for male pastors as that is my area of expertise. With apologies to my sisters who also preach at contemporary worship services, I am not qualified to make fashion suggestions on your behalf.

Don’t Wear Skinny Jeans Unless You Know for Certain That You Don’t Look Ridiculous
As a rule I suggest that pastors refrain from wearing skinny jeans altogether. While jeans are the primary pant to be worn by the contemporary pastor (chinos or khakis can be substituted on occasion to mix things up), stick with loose fitting or straight leg and steer clear of the skinny aisle at JC Penney. Leave the skinny jeans to the worship leader who is much more likely to be able to get away with wearing them.

Dress Shirts are Appropriate but Keep Them Untucked
Contemporary pastors may wear dress shirts (preferably plaid) to preach in but they must make sure that they are untucked. A tucked dress shirt comes across as stuffy, even if they are tucked into jeans. An untucked dress shirt shouts “casual” and “comfortable” to all and sundry.

T-Shirts Are Always Appropriate, but be Careful with Size and Logo
As with #1 above, it is always better for the contemporary pastor to err on the side of wearing a t-shirt that is slightly too big, than one that is too small. Tight fitting t-shirts on chubby pastors are distracting and can prohibit attendees from fully receiving the message. Likewise, contemporary pastors must be cautious about the logos on their t-shirts. First time guests are scrutinizing you thoroughly, dear pastor and your t-shirt screams louder than you think.

Suit Jackets are Appropriate When Combined with Other Appropriate Clothing
A suit jacket is always a nice touch for the contemporary pastor but only when worn over either a t-shirt or untucked dress shirt and combined with jeans. Casual suit jackets made of materials other than polyester are highly recommended. Corduroy jackets are fashionable but steer clear of those with elbow patches as they appear old fashioned and could cause new guests to make unwarranted judgments about you on first glance.

Footwear is Important and should be Selected Carefully
We contemporary pastors do not have the luxury of a long alb covering our feet, therefore we must select footwear that is appropriate to the outfit we have chosen for the day. Flip flops are popular right now and can work effectively if the right pants are worn (never wear flips flops and skinny jeans. Just don’t do it) Loose fitting jeans, chinos or khakis are good pants to wear with flip flops. Also, only wear flip flops if you don’t mind attendees staring at your feet. Canvas sneakers like Converse are also appropriate and can endear you to the younger generations. Boots are to be avoided unless you are in the south.

Stick with these simple rules “contemporary” pastors and all shall be well; and all manner of things shall be well


  1. Great rules for male contemporary pastors, but how about some thoughts for your sisters in ministry?


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