"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"


What should we wear when we speak to youth? Those of you who looked at the title and almost didn�t continue are probably the ones that need it most. You may not realize what your clothes say to your kids.

For me, the bottom line in dress is, "How can I dress so as to not distract from my message?" The answer to this question can only be found by knowing your target group (and perhaps asking a few reliable informants among the youth.) I take my cue from the Apostle Paul, who wrote, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." (I Cor. 9:22) Paul put his own desires secondary to the greater goal of reaching others for Christ. To the Jew he became as a Jew. To the Gentile he became as a Gentile. For Hudson Taylor, that meant dressing as a China man to reach China men. Does that mean that I must dress like youth in order to reach youth? Not necessarily.

If I, as a forty-year-old man, were to dress on the cutting edge of youth fashion, some youth might think I am cool (probably all the fourth-graders and below), but most youth would see me as trying desperately to be something I�m not. They would be embarrassed. They want me to be authentic, comfortable with who I am. But this, too, has its limits.

If "who I am" is an upper-middle class preppie, but God calls me to reach a group of lower class inner city kids, I may need to become something different in order to keep from offending them. If they see all fashionably dressed people as rich snobs, I put a stumbling block before them by dressing fashionably. Like a good missionary, I must know my target audience.

While teaching an inner city bible study, one of my kids told me he had invited an evangelist from his church. Sure enough, into this teen night club walked a stereotypical evangelist in a three piece suit. We allowed him to speak, but he missed the audience. To these kids, he looked and spoke like an alien.

Some leaders suggest dressing a notch above their youth. If students wear cut off blue jeans and t-shirts, the leaders wear nice shorts, or blue jeans and a golf shirt. They suggest that this gives the idea of a little more authority and age, while not appearing totally separate from youth.

Whatever the case, let�s put aside any ideas of wowing kids with our clothes or hair. And let�s put aside, if need be, our personal preference. Have you asked your youth what your style of dress says to them?