The Hats That Broke the Church

June 30, 2005 by

There’s an interesting article over at Christianity Today about a Montana church nearly torn apart by hats. It started when a couple high school students wore ball caps to the Sunday morning service because they got home late from a school sports game and didn’t have time to shower. Their hair was messy.

Nothing happened right away, but grumbling started across the congregation. Someone confronted the boys, the pastor confronted the confronter, letters were sent, people seethed, the pastor asked the boys to stop wearing hats, and a family eventually left the church.

Over hats? Hats!

Now if you actually read the article there’s a deep cultural reason why everyone was so up in arms about hats. And to some extent it makes sense, but it just illustrates the difficulty of being the church. Sometimes something as simple as a hat isn’t so simple.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

25 Responses to “The Hats That Broke the Church”

  • Steve Barkley
    June 30, 2005

    As long as the boys remembered their ties, the hats should have been no big problem. (smirk)

     | Permalink
  • John Carney
    June 30, 2005

    Some years back, in the county adjoining mine, there was a flame war of sorts in the letters to the editor column. There had been an uncommonly deep snow for Middle Tennessee, and an elderly woman decided to attend the church nearest her home rather than driving all the way to her normal church. She was, if I recall correctly, of such an age that no one would have blamed her for staying in during the snowstorm, but to her credit she just didn’t feel right not going to church.
    However, the Pentecostal church where she ended up was offended by the fact that she had dared to enter the sanctuary wearing (insert ominous music sting here) pants. During a snowstorm. The pastor informed her that should she ever return, she would need to wear a dress.
    Her daughter, upon learning of this exchange, dashed off a heated (but pretty much justified) letter to that county’s newspaper, and there was some back and forth over it. I wish I still had the clippings.

     | Permalink
  • eddie
    June 30, 2005

    and why would this surprising? i have personally seen churches be torn apart over less like whether we should have pews or pewchairs or changing the name of a church from “first christian church of the city” to “the city first christian church”. forget “deep cultural differences”, i’d have to wonder what gospel this David Hansen guy was preaching in all the years preceeding the blowup. i’ll tell you one thing, i sure as heck didn’t see gospel changed hearts and/or a whole lot of God in this church from anyone including mr. hansen. in the end, what he now has is a glorified members only social club that he loves instead of body of believers who are supposed to go out and share the good news.

    but hey, what do i know…

     | Permalink
  • Michael
    June 30, 2005

    I’m not sure we’re being fair…at least as far as the hats go. Blown out of porportion, maybe. But not so long ago I remember having to take off my hat to get into the bar. Like the original post said it was cultural in reasoning…gang related to be exact.
    We don’t have to walk on glass, but we should think about how we are saying what we are saying.
    Personally, gang colors, skull tatoos, beer t-shirts…I wish we saw more of them in the church. They need the truth as much as I do with my church clothes on.

     | Permalink
  • Karen of Scottsdale
    June 30, 2005

    At my father’s church in San Diego a man wearing women’s clothes started attending the church. He was welcomed in spite of his strange appearance. The trouble started when he wanted to use the women’s restroom. Everyone knew he was a man and he even admitted so himself. He was politely asked by my father to use the men’s room because he was a man and it would be inappropriate for him to be in the women’s room. He complied for a while. Unfortunately he chose to ignore the requests and became belligerent about his rights to use the women’s room. My father and others in the congregation showed him nothing but love. He left of his own choosing.

     | Permalink
  • Don
    July 2, 2005

    What got me the most was the Pastor’s lack of ability to stand up. Finally he bypassed the parents and went to boys directly. I would be hopping mad. It was probably that more than anything. I see it as a lack of maturity on the part of older members not allowing for such liberty.
    It seems the Gospel has been forgotten. The pastor only mentions growth. Is it true growth?

     | Permalink
  • Thanks for posting this article Kevin. I think it’s a healthy discussion topic for Christians everywhere – no matter what brand. I, myself, helped lead worship this morning in sandals, shorts and a polo shirt. Upon seeing my outfit, the worship minister sincerely remarked, “I wish I had worn shorts today.”

     | Permalink
  • Tony
    July 5, 2005

    Don’t we have bigger fish to fry that this? It’s amazing to me what the modern church chooses to focus on…and ignore.

     | Permalink
  • A Youth Pastor
    July 7, 2005

    Congragation 1….Hats 0

    here is an interesting post (with source link) about a church congregation and some ball caps some buys were wearing. Until next time……

     | Permalink
  • Susan
    July 8, 2005

    Here are the issues currently tearing my church apart, among other things:
    -the presence of music stands of stage
    -having pews or chairs in the choir loft
    And people have left the church over differences on the design of the new pulpit.
    My fellow Christians are really disappointing me right now.

     | Permalink
  • Rhinoguy
    July 8, 2005

    The other Sunday our middle school pastor was in the prepping stages for leading worship in the morning service. He was wearing flip-flops.

    I asked him, “What’s with the footwear, buddy? Would Jesus wear flip-flops?”

    We both agreed that, yeah, Jesus probably would have worn something like flip-flops.


     | Permalink
  • Alex
    August 2, 2005

    It is sad when the we have slid so far into the trivial and inane, that petty issues would turn so negatively pivotal in the life of our congregations. Cultural reasons do not justify reactions to things that challenge the culture of a congregation. The fact is that hats, pew types, paint colors and other such flotsam and jetsam don’t matter. What does matter is if we as the church are being graceful and inclusive, all the while calling people to more holy living. Are we letting people be, so they can belong then believe and then become better followers of Jesus? If not, then we have failed and we will continue to relegate ourselves to further irrelevance.

     | Permalink
  • Scott
    August 8, 2005

    WOW gee i wonder why people aren’t flooding to our doors anymore? (DOUBLE SMIRK)

     | Permalink
  • jack
    August 9, 2005

    When I was a new Christian in the early ’70s, my hair reached the back of the pew. I heard some sermons about how Christians should dress and look. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in that church very long. I’m thankful for churches, like the one I’ve been a member of for over 25 years, that focus on what’s really important…your personal relationship with God through His son, Jesus! We are culturally diverse with a number of African believers who wear their colorful clothes and headwear and add much to our worship.

     | Permalink
  • Nancy S
    February 7, 2006

    What about some good old fashion respect…in school the boys need to take off hats in the should be likewise at church. A young lad should hold the door open if he sees an elderly couple approaching, they should be taught and held accountable to basic manners – you wonder why our children in our society have sunk so far and civil behavior needs to be taught in schools because they aren’t learning at home and the church has gotten way too tolerant in the being politically correct. NO RESPECT ANYWHERE FOR ANYTHING!

     | Permalink
  • Clyde Hayes
    February 20, 2006

    I need more informaton on men wearing of head gear in church. Is there anything within the holy Bible?
    Camden, SC

     | Permalink
  • Kevin
    June 6, 2006

    I’ve been reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church, and I love what he says about attire at church:

    “What people wear to church is a cultural issue, not a theological one, so we don’t make a big deal about it. One thing we know for sure: Jesus never wore a suit and tie, so it isn’t required to be Christ-like.” (273)

     | Permalink
  • Irene
    May 21, 2007

    A few weeks ago, one of the students in my religious ed program was wearing a hat in church. I knew the older members would have a fit if he wore it during Mass, so I sidled over to him and whispered ” Gentlemen don’t wear hats in church.” He removed the ski cap to reveal his new, bright green mohawk.
    I said, “Stephen, put the hat back on and if anyone ays anything to you- tell them to talk to ME!”

     | Permalink
  • Brian
    January 26, 2008

    Christian member of a Southern Baptist Church here. And I wear a hat to church. I will wear it through Sunday School and then I take it off for the service. I haven’t recieved any “real” complaints about it besides from my grandfather who is a deacon. But I do get this a lot. “You know you’re wearing a hat in church, right?” I reply with a smile, “I sure do!” and give them a thumbs up. Because I believe I can wear whatever I want in a church. I wear band t-shirts and I have pierced ears.. I’m just another example of kids like the ones in this story. And you know what, if more people dressed how they want then those kids would’ve had someone to relate to and maybe they would have stayed in the church.

     | Permalink
  • Freemason
    April 6, 2008

    Sikhs must wear their turbans all the time, and Jews require all men to wear yarmulkes in the synagogue, so are those silly rules, or traditions to be respected? But if Churches have rules about not wearing hats in church, its just narrow mindedness.
    The Church is for Believers,not to water standards down just to fill pews. It should not accomadate disrespectful behavior just to attract new members. We can’t read peoples’ heart about why they wear hats in church, but if nobody wears them to begin with, then it won’t matter.

     | Permalink
  • Liutgard
    October 7, 2010

    This is a very interesting conversation! I came across this link while googling ‘church hats’. I wear hats to church and I was looking for winter hats that aren’t ski caps.

    I approve of letting people come as they are, but I also think that they need to learn to dress respectfully. Basic manners as regards to clothing seem to have gone by the wayside. I was at a funeral recently, and saw a young man about 18 or 20 years old, and he was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt. To me that shows a lack of respect for the deceased and his family.

    A little basic respect goes a long way.

     | Permalink
  • Naomi
    January 16, 2011

    It doesnt matter what my opinion is. And It doesnt what anybody else’s opinion is. The only opinion that matters is G-d’s opinion and this is what HE says:-

    “…Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you…”

    “Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonoureth his head”

    “”For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of G0d”

    1 Corinthians 11 2,4,7.

    If you are a man and you cover your head whilst you are praying or speaking G-d’s word, then you are not obeying his ordinances.

     | Permalink
  • Digby Fletcher
    May 15, 2011

    Interesting blog. I grew up in a very conformist atmosphere in South Africa,. I attended church a lot, as it was compulsory.
    Recently I inadvertently wore a hat in church and my cousin’s husband was rude about it. When the service was over I put it on again. He knocked it off my head seven times as I was walking out, and only desisted when I made in clear in I would not tolerate this any further.
    I notice bishops wear headgear. Any biblical injunction applies to them too.
    The other place where people get worked up about clothing is golf clubs. They will evict you if you do not conform. The army I imagine is similar, and the courts to some extent.
    Hats in church have nothing to do with religion or respect-they are just a sign of the herd instinct. I’m afraid church going can be the same thing, although I do respect genuine believers.

     | Permalink
  • Jack
    April 9, 2012

    If people had some respect (period!), these kind of things wouldn’t happen. The more I see people who insist that they should be able to dress and do anything they want without answering to anyone, anywhere, the more I see selfish, me-centered people who can’t possibly absorb any external comments in a positive manner. An odd contrast between those who believe they are the final authority on everything and those who can take constructive advice.

     | Permalink
  • Trisha
    April 9, 2012

    Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…
    Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease,
    I shall possess within the veil,
    A life of joy and peace.

    How I long for His amazing grace to be reflected in those who claim to be His followers.

     | Permalink