Sometimes it’s fairly interesting to discuss a topic that is benign enough that nobody is going to hell on the basis of choosing either of the sides of the debate. I’m quite sure that no one is going to be standing in front of heaven’s gates and asking the question, “Did you, or did you not wear a hat in church?”
It’s simply interesting to me that, earlier in my life you would have never seen a man wear a hat in church. Today I attend a church where I see it quite a bit.
First of all, I knew this could come across as being more of my opinion than the hard-cold facts. That’s because we don’t really have the hard cold facts. Some might think they do, but not me.
In the past few years, quite a few of the modern, contemporary church leaders allow their worship team members (speaking mostly about the men) to wear hats onstage.
Those rascally music guys… always troublemakers, huh?
Okay, I was a church musician for a lot of years and we earned a bit of that reputation in the early days of contemporary worship, especially in the very traditional churches.
So, I just want to tell you that I’m not going to lose sleep because some guys in the more contemporary churches may come into the building wearing hats.
We need to recognize that it is infinitely more important that we reach out to people and get them in church than what to wear to church. We should major on the majors.
However, before we talk about wearing a hat in church. First off, we need to talk about the general topic of wearing hats indoors. In Western culture, it was once generally frowned upon for a man to keep his hat on indoors. Quite frequently I will put on a ball cap around my house (indoor and out) and wear it for hours without thinking about it. However, my dad does.
Until this very day, when I Facetime with my 86-year-old dad, and he sees that I have a hat on in my own house, he will say, “Is it raining in your house? Why do you have your hat on?”
When we had friends come over to my house when I was a child under my dad’s roof, he didn’t like it if another kid came into our house and kept his hat on. He normally wouldn’t say anything to the guests but I found out later that he really didn’t like that. Not that he was some kind of hat ogre, it’s just that when he was raised a whole lot of people believed it to be bad manners for a man to wear his hat indoors.
For his generation, and for my grandmother and grandfather, it just wasn’t an acceptable practice for men. My grandmother would have asked my dad to remove his hat if he had chosen to wear it inside. And you can be that he complied with the request!
On the other hand, it was quite acceptable and fashionable for a lady to wear a nice hat indoors with her outfit. In fact, wearing a hat was a sign of sophistication and femininity. It has been accepted for a woman to wear a hat indoors, although not practiced the way it was decades ago. So, what about in church?
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am a big fan of Christian hats and caps that display something about our faith. I wear them a lot. There are some great ones here. That is a different question than whether or not it’s appropriate or inappropriate for a guy to wear a hat in church.
What About Wearing a Hat In Church?
For a large number of traditional churches, it’s still seen as unacceptable for a man to wear a hat in church. However, in some of the very modern and contemporary churches, it is acceptable to wear ball caps, sock caps (beanies), even for those leading music on stage.
Although you will see guys in contemporary churches wear hats, the vast majority of men still do not wear hats in church.
I can remember a time, not too many years ago when it was considered disrespectful and in very poor taste for a man to be wearing a hat in church. Coming up as a child many, many years after that, it wouldn’t even be considered in the churches in which I attended.
However, again it was very acceptable for a lady to be wearing a hat in church, and many times the ladies’ hats would be a focal point of a Sunday outfit. However, for today’s contemporary churches you may very well see men wearing hats – especially baseball-type hats and sock caps (beanies).
Well, Aren’t Those Guys On The Stage Wearing Hats In Church?
Today, you may very well see a worship leader and/or their musicians wearing a hat onstage. That practice began to gain momentum in churches in the last decade or so for the modern, contemporary church. However, not in your more traditional church settings.
Personally, I was a part of music leadership in various ways for churches for several decades and I wouldn’t allow my worship singers to wear hats on stage. Although I was very contemporary in the style of music I was leading, I was still traditional and a bit old-school in terms of worship leaders/singers would wear.
Christian Hat In Worship Illustration
Here’s a quick illustration of how this can play out. This was over a decade ago, but we were already live-streaming our Sunday worship services. On one particular Sunday, I noticed that one of the male singers had on a very fashionable cap. It was actually much nicer than a standard baseball cap.
I didn’t say anything about it at the time since this was a great guy, a talented musician, and a person of great character who would never want to offend anyone. The cap was nice, and I certainly didn’t want to embarrass him by asking him to take it off. So, I didn’t say anything and he wore it through two or three services that Sunday.
However, that week I got a call from someone in another state who had watched the Livestream for that Sunday. They gently complained to me that our singers shouldn’t have hats on in the church. So, after thinking about it, and talking to the Senior Pastor, we decided to err on the side of caution.
I asked that particular singer, for whom I had great respect, not to wear it anymore just for the sake of those who it might offend.
Do I think he was being sinful by doing it? No. However, if I found out it was offensive to people and still chose to let the guys wear the hats, then maybe we would need to have a different conversation. At that point, it goes into an area in which I would just rather be on the safe side.
Certainly, we can’t live by making our decisions about life according to who is going to be offended. However, with an issue that is so easily solved by not wearing the hat, I believe that I made the correct decision at the time.
What does the Bible Say About Wearing Hats In Church?
Well specifically in I Corinthians chapter 11, you will find much discussion and debate on the issue of head coverings. There are so many aspects to this passage. It’s not the same as asking about wearing hats in today’s worship Sunday or Wednesday church gatherings.
“Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.”1 Corinthians 11:4-5
There are many different interpretations of this passage. Suffice it to say that there were great cultural differences when Paul wrote that letter to the Corinthians.
The purpose of LivingPraying.com is to encourage you in your daily walk, in prayer, and on other topics. Although I’ve spent many years as a full-time minister, this is not a website where we’re going to systematically dissect all of the theological debates. If they are scriptural absolutes having to do with our relationship with Jesus, then we would be more apt to write more in-depth and take a hard stance on those topics. In the case of this topic, we will rely more on a opinion than a clear-cut mandate from scripture.
Paul identifies an activity carried out by men: praying and prophesying. Paul is referring to preaching God’s word when he says that the man who prays and preaches in public with his head covered disgraces his head. At that time a hood-like covering was draped over the back of the head, not the face, with a piece of gown extending over the head.
Plus, the cultural issues in the church Paul was specifically addressing are very deep. Many pastors and theologians do not interpret this passage to be about modern-day Christians, today’s hats, or long hair, which for various reasons were also addressed in this chapter of Corinthians.
I respect those who might believe that it is inappropriate for a man to wear a hat in church. I just want to point out that Paul wasn’t talking about wearing a hat with your Sunday suit when you came to church.
He was speaking about wearing a hat as an item of clothing identified as something worn by religious leaders – such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Jewish teachers of the law.
So, although, personally, I’m not comfortable with men wearing hats in church, I can’t outright say that this passage is to be interpreted for today’s church and today’s hats.
And…if we’re not going to go into a big theological debate here concerning the passage above, then what’s the answer to the question? Personally, I think it is a bit of a cultural issue. So, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Let’s ask ourselves some questions about the topic.
Hats In Church: Is it rude or inappropriate?
Certainly, there are still large numbers of Christians who, at least, are uncomfortable with men wearing hats in church. Even if they don’t quite understand, or ever have debated the scripture passage above, many still find it offensive.
I have seen several young men wear hats on the stage of the church where I attend. Do I necessarily like it? I will just say it’s not my preference. However, can I call them sinful for doing so? No. I know that my opinion is shaped by the culture in which I was raised. I came up where that would have the height of rudeness and careless thinking. However, those who are younger haven’t experienced the same type of prohibitions about hats in church.
The guys that you see on stage in a contemporary church with hats on usually didn’t grow up in the type of culture as people who are over 40 did. I would ask these questions about wearing a hat in the church where you are attending:
Hats in Church: Are People Offended?
I know I’m getting to a sticky point having to do with Christian liberty. However, if a man found that the answer to the above question contained quite a few “yes” answers, then I just wouldn’t do it. Why would you? If you can keep someone from being distracted or offended by simply not wearing a hat then why would you wear one?
I do understand that in many of the larger contemporary churches including the one I attend, this is not even an issue and probably never will be. But, for more traditional churches, what if it is an issue?
I would ask some questions at that point. Will more people be encouraged in their faith by you wearing a hat? Probably not. Will it make a huge impact in your church if a man wears a hat? Probably not. So, if there are a substantial number of people in your church who would feel more comfortable if you didn’t wear a hat, why not just leave it off?
From the time I was young in the ministry, I was taught to “pick my battles.” When you take hardline stances on issues, make sure those are the issues on which you definitely need to stand. If you were in a church where people were offended by the hats, why wear them? With an issue that is as inconsequential as hats vs. no hats, I wouldn’t think that the positives of wearing a hat in church outweigh the negatives. Maybe there is something I’m not seeing here?
Hats In Church… Simply Disrespectful?
Once again, it depends on your church’s situation. Talk with most of the Baby Busters and Boomers, really most churchgoers over 40. Even if they don’t think it’s sinful, many of them at least think it’s a bit disrespectful according to the culture in which they came up.
But, hey, I thought we were loving and serving a God of grace?
Yes, we are! However, many of us will note the passage in 1st Corinthians chapter 8 concerning the meat of the idols. Meats were being sold after being used as a part of rituals to false gods. There were people, apparently, a substantial number, who were offended if people bought those meats.
The apostle, Paul, basically explains that although meat is just meat, why eat the meat of the idols if it was going to offend or “be a stumbling block” to other Christians?
That would kind of sum up where I’m coming from in this post. So, if I go to church next Sunday there will probably be one or more guys on the music team who will be playing or singing with a hat on. Am I going to be upset or offended because of that? No.
Doe my cultural proclivities occasionally jump in and make me more comfortable if the guys didn’t wear hats on stage? Yes. That’s the tradition with which I grew up, and it still affects my thoughts on this. I admit it.
Am I going to let it affect my worship or be frustrated with guys in my church for doing it? No. If I thought there were hundreds of people in the church service that had the more traditional view about hats in the church, I might comment to one of the pastors. But, I don’t think that is the case.
Summing it Up
What my generation was taught as being very disrespectful has not been passed down to a large number of modern churches. The bottom line, for me personally, is if I were to wear a hat in church, inside a church building, my programmed emotions say that I would consider it disrespectful to God and His church, even if it is actually just tradition.
On the other hand, our pastor is as Biblically centered as anyone I’ve ever met. It’s a church with a majority of people who are much younger than I am. So, I will refer to my pastor’s judgment on this and worship the Lord even if there are hats all around!
Or, on with the debate! Just do it in love and kindness.
If you are just beginning as a Bible reader, take a look here.
Brian is a Christian Blogger and website developer and has served over 35 years as a Pastor of Worship and various Associate Pastor roles in several churches in the state of Georgia. He earned his Education degree from North Georgia State University and attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife live in southern Hall County, GA.