Modesty In The Church: Are Our Teens In Trouble?

Several days ago Dr. Mohler had a podcast that discussed Modesty at Christian Weddings. This has actually been an on going discussion on several different blogs including: Joshua Harris, Trying to be Mary in a Martha World, A Puritan’s Hope, and GirlTalk.

On the Molher program a lady called in and made the comment that she didn’t think a man should tell a woman how to dress and while I think men are not the ones to go to for fashion advice, I thought Dr. Mohler made a good point. It is the man who will likely sin because of the way a woman dresses and therefore the man should have some input. Fathers should give advice to their daughters about their wedding dresses because fathers know how men think and react to the clothing women wear.

Guys are visually stimulated and that is something that I believe most girls fail to understand or consider when buying clothes. This is a natural response that is built within men and it is not something that can just be turned off at the flip of a switch. Even a happily married man who has eyes for no one else but his wife can be stimulated by another woman who dresses in a skimpy outfit, because that is the way guys are made. Even if he didn’t want to experience this, just a few seconds of someone walking by who is dressed immodestly can cause impure thoughts or feelings in a guy. It’s that easy.

I am certain that most girls who dress this way don’t think to themselves, “I’m gonna make a bunch of men sin in their minds today”. They just want to wear something that they think is stylish, attractive, and draws attention, but what women often fail to understand is that they are drawing the wrong type of attention. Do women really want a guy to like them only because they are attractive and have nice features? No. That is a shallow, meaningless relationship and yet they choose to dress in such a way that suggests otherwise.

This whole discussion brought up the issue of Christian weddings and the question: should churches set a dress code or policy for weddings to regulate what women wear in church ceremonies? While I think this is a good topic to discuss, I want to open it up to a little broader perspective.

As a youth pastor, my wife and I are facing this issue with our teenage girls in the youth group. I am shocked and appalled at what parents allow their teens to wear. Just the other day a teen was wearing a top that clearly showed her cleavage and when she sat down you could see her whole bra and other bodily parts. I noticed when I was passing out material to the youth in Sunday School and I am certain that all the guys that walked by noticed her too. A few days later I saw her again in public with the same shirt on while she was with her parents. After further prodding we find out that her mother bought her the outfit and approves of it. Now at this point you must tread carefully. Do you (A.) – Tell her the shirt is inappropriate at the risk of offending and embarrassing her and making her mother angry? (This method has been tried before in our group. It made people embarrassed and angry and never come back to church. It didn’t stop them from wearing those type of clothes.) Do you (B.) just ignore it and not say anything since the parents are obviously aware of the clothing and approve of it? Do you (C.) deal with the issue on a broader scale by teaching modesty to the girls in your youth group and hope that they make the right choices and change the way they dress?

I truly believe that the way kids and teens dress is a matter of parental responsibility and it is just another area in life where parents are dropping the ball. Our pastor preached on this the other day and I think it is so very true, parents today are more concerned with making their children Pretty, Powerful, and Popular rather than Pious. With that type of thinking, dressing popular is more important than dressing modestly and being involved in school activities, sports and social functions is more important than going to church and learning about modesty and Godliness. This is why the most popular church kids who have grown up in our church and should be the strongest spiritual leaders in our youth group are actually the least active teens. We have teens that have missed upwards of 15 to 16 weeks in a row of youth on Wednesday nights and then parents wonder why their teen isn’t growing spiritually and why they don’t know all the events that are going on. While I don’t understand this mindset, I know it exists because I see it working every week.

Proverbs 16:16 says “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” Our parents of today and the teenagers that are currently in our churches seem to be so busy that they cannot find time for church. Teens are involved in so many different things that they cannot pull a hour or two out of the week to make it to church at all and so I wonder; where is their wisdom and understanding coming from? If they don’t come to church, who is teaching them? Where are they learning about modesty? Who is teaching them morality and righteousness? I think the answer to those questions is obvious. We are raising up a generation of shallow, baby Christians with no ability to discern between right and wrong and with no understanding of the deep truths of God’s word (Hebrews 5) and the most troubling part of it all is that the parents are not only allowing it, they are fueling it.

What are we to do when parents are the ones allowing their teens to dress and act in these manners? How do we teach modesty to a group of kids who are popular leaders with tremendous potential and yet they never come to church, never get involved, and are too busy to learn anything about righteousness or modesty? How do we reach a group of kids who know nothing else but what their parents teach them about being pretty, popular, and powerful? This is the challenge our youth ministry is facing today.

7 thoughts on “Modesty In The Church: Are Our Teens In Trouble?

  1. As a middle school teacher and summer camp program director, I deal with this situation all the time. Well, at least I used to, until I learned three practical ways to deal with it.

    First, we can set some boundaries in the arenas that we control. If low-cut blouses are not acceptable, make a rule about wearing them during youth group functions. Don’t make a big deal about introducing the new rule … just simply publish it and start enforcing it lovingly. I, for instance, have a rule that young ladies may not wear two piece swimsuits at my events. It’s always published in the communication about the event, and any girl that shows up without a one-piece must simply swim with a dark tshirt over it (or decide not to swim). “No big deal, let’s go have some fun …”

    Second, and more importantly, we are in a unique position to help these young ladies understand modesty … but it has to come from a position of love. If a girl doesn’t first understand that you truly care about her, she’s going to take your feedback as criticism. Once you’ve established some trust, however, she’s much more likely to understand what you mean and take ownership of her decisions. I know how tough it is to establish this groundwork (especially for a single guy like me), but if you’re honest and consistent and take time to listen, it will happen. Forget the parents … if she decides that she doesn’t want to wear revealing clothes then her parents will surely follow suit.

    Finally, if this is a big issue in your particular group, perhaps separating the boys and girls and having heart-to-heart talks about modesty and respect would be very effective … or perhaps it’s just a matter of bringing in some women of integrity to build some Proverbs 21 into those girls! Just some suggestions …

  2. Hi! As a woman married to a man who was addicted to porn for several years thanks to his being introduced to it by a cousin at 11.

    I see the struggle he faces when a woman dresses provocatively it greives me.

    I often find myself wanting to go up to that woman or teen and through a coat or a blanket around him.

    No my husband is not a pervert ! as some may think…Porn addiction can happen to woman too.

    I know a few who have been addicted and one whom I beleive still is that are Christians….unfortunately one of them is a relative of mine who has since been involved in numours affairs and lets her 3 teenage daughters dress provactivley and even let them start dateing when they were 12….which grieves me .

    Unfortunatley one of her teenage daughters is an unwed mother of a beautiful 7 month old baby boy and though she and her sisters are also born again Christians they lead a rather wild life.

    I am often looked at as the old fashion fuddy duddy aunt because I choose to dress modestly no revealing or tight clothes dress that come past the knee or too my ankles ect …

    I was nick named Holly Hoby in highschool because I wore dresses alot and refused to wear anything that enhanced my shape or showed my “stuff” . too much.

    I happen to love the nick names “Holly Hobbie (Hoby) and Laura Ingles now. !!

    To me it means modesty….and beauty. I can remember a few times where I was made to wear dress that were a little 2 low in the back as a teen and one time where I wore one in front of my husband when we were dateing…little did I realize that when I sat down one of the dresses I wore around him would sag in the front and when I bent over well……until my husband finally got up the nerve to tell me that unfortunatly after we got married.

    I wish he would have told me that back then , I am now extreemly careful what I wear in public.

    My wedding dress was very modest ,,,it was victorian style with a collar hugging my neck and long sleeved…..even though it was 88 degree weather with an out door wedding reception and a muggy poorly air conditioned church I wore it proudly.

    I would have loved to have worn short sleeves but the ones I kept finding showed more in the front than should have.

    I say all this to make a point that if you a woman dresses and lets her daughters dress provacitively they will one day regret it.

    What is wrong with honoring God by dressing for him and not for others to notice you? for all the wrong reasons.

    So what if your labeled and or made fun of . I would rather be labeled and be pure its a whole lot safer that way.

  3. I think this is a slippery slope, to say the least, because I believe that women are not responsible for the pure or impure thoughts of men.

    That’s right. It’s up to the men to control themselves. Women are not there to serve as some sort of guardians of purity. If men have problems when they look at women, they should be the ones turning away and trying to get their thoughts back on the right track.

    As Paul said, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) That means I am only responsible for myself. I am not responsible for any man’s salvation or lack thereof. Period.

  4. Where in the bible does it say that it is okay for a woman to dress provocatively ?

    I have seen woman look at guys who are wearing tight pants such as those biker shorts and comment on the guys backside does it mean that the woman is a pervert ?

    So its not okay for a guy to comment or to get uncomfortable when they see a girl with things hanging out that shouldn’t be hanging out…what has happened to Christians today expecially us women…..are we who have asked Christ in our hearts forgeting that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit ? Shouldn’t we treat it with respect and the dignity it deserves ? by not only taking care of it with good nutrition and exercise ect…but shouldn’t we wear clothes that aren’t revealing in any way shape or form .

    I am not talking 1800’s Holly Hobbie or Laura Ingles Wilder dresses…..though many of those are beautiful…..I have seen woman look just as modest in a nice pair of paints and a polo type shirt…. What is happening us Christians today.

    Men what is the sense in wearing Pants so low that you show off your boxers….Whats so cool about that look …..it feeds woman the wrong ideas just as much as woman dressing provocatively feeds men the wrong ideas…..If you don’t believe me then try dressing “old fashioned way” for a week or 2 …..Yea you may get made fun of as I have but in the long run you will find that people in general respect you for it….though they may not show it because of peer pressure right away.

    Believe me I tried an experiment like that in highschool so I know.

    It breaks my heart when people who call themwelves Christians care more about how they think others should think they look then God !

  5. We must remember that when we dress “fashionable”, meaning the newest marketed craze, we are dressing to the rebellious worlds standards. To say that all dress attire for young people ONLY consists of backward caps, shirts that show the midriff and cleavage, pants down to the knees, boxers exposed {or panties}, piercings and tatoos and on and on, is false. It may be PREFERRED by the youth in their rebellious state, but that isn’t the only thing offered.{If it is,[and its not}, then we need to demand alternatives. It is natural for youth to rebel. We as adults and matured youth need to direct that rebellion positively , or quench any sign of evil or of evil inclinations or suggestions that this rebellion may advance. Youth are not supposed to run the show.
    This is were America went wrong in the 60’s and we are reaping the seeds sown then. It will only get worse. Christian parents; Do not think because your kids do not get into trouble, that this {marketed youth culture} has no affect on their thought patterns. You must take control of them . early on, and not relent until they leave home. Of course,let them make decisions in their teens , but only decisions that match up to the holiness of God, no matter how much they scream in defiance. What we ignor and what we applaud , we approve in the eyes of others.
    The way we dress expresses a lot. It expresses our hearts, our minds, and that expression influences others. Ideas have consequences, both personal and on a larger scale. This goes with music , language and other avenues of cultural expression.

  6. Our girls are growing up waaaaaaaaaaaay to quickly. They are bombarded by images on TV and magazines of how they are “supposed” to look. No, our girls are not solely responsible for what guys think, but it is crazy to think that any teenage boy with hormones (duh..all of them) will not be affected by a girl wearing next to nothing at the pool or a skimpy shirt at youth group. Knowing this, it is our responsibility to help our girls make the right decisions when picking out clothes. There was recently a fashion show at Steinmart put on by a Christian designer who makes clothes teenagers like to wear. For example, instead of the t-shirts that show belly-buttons and the shorts that show everything, they just add some length to them. Girls can buy some t-shirts in the boys department that are not cut so low. Our kids desperately need our help and love. Mom of teen in Louisiana.

  7. I wish I had found this earlier. Bonnie, you are incorrect. Yes, a man is responsible for his own thoughts, but if you knowingly cause him to struggle you are not acting in love. I believe the Bible says it would be better to have a stone tied around your neck and drowned than to knowingly cause one of God’s children to sin.

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