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Appropriate Dress for Women in the Pulpit

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Fashion is always changing, but dressing for particular situations remains the same. For instance, we have learned to dress appropriately while going to an interview, when taking the stand in court, and especially while participating in a worship service in a church.

How a person dresses in the above situations applies to both men and women. However, this article focuses on what is appropriate for women ministers and other females who stand before a congregation to lead people in worship, preach or teach God's word.

Some people often use the expression, "Come as you are" to justify how a person can dress for church. While that is certainly true for lay people, more consideration should be given to people who dress inappropriately while standing behind the pulpit.

To Bear Arms

The Second Amendment of the Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms. However, that does not apply to what is appropriate for women in the pulpit. It is indeed inappropriate for women to bear the full length of their arms up to their armpits in the pulpit even if they have arms like those of former First Lady Michelle Obama.


This is not to shame anyone, blame anyone, or judge anyone. My genuine intent is to do what I have been doing for over 60 years. That is mainly to teach and to share what God gives me clearance to share.

Recently, I saw what I wish I could unsee. While attempting to watch a worship service on Facebook, I saw a female minister dressed inappropriately. She stood behind the sacred desk bearing her arms in a blouse that caused both of her black bra straps to be seen on the world wide web during her entire message.


Later on the same Sunday, I saw another female minister who was covered a little more. She wasn't dressed in a sleeveless top like the first mentioned minister, but her top had short sleeves, and most of her bare arms could be seen. After seeing two female ministers on the same Sunday dressed inappropriately, it is encumbered upon me to address it.

Apparently, leaders, friends, relatives, or someone else in those two churches did not find the need to address it. They saw how the preachers were dressed long before they began to speak. Surely, it was time enough for someone to provide a shawl or jacket to cover the preachers' bare skin. In the first case, the black bra straps that were clearly seen by a worldwide audience will be seen as long as the video is online.

Which two female preachers are not dressed appropriately in the pulpit?

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Importance of Dressing Appropriately

It is extremely important for ministers to dress appropriately for several reasons.

These days, worship services are seen around the world via Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom. The church is represented by its professionalism or lack of it. Therefore, someone in the church, especially leaders, should make sure the people who represent the church are presentable.

Listeners are distracted by what they see. The focus should be on hearing the word of God instead of being focused on someone's bare arms. After the service, instead of people discussing the sermon, they probably spend more time discussing what they saw inside of what they heard.

Baring skin in the pulpit is not classy, and it’s also not respectful to the sanctity of the pulpit. Everything should be done decently and in order and to the glory of God, including how to dress while preaching.

Some people find seeing bare arms and cleavages in the pulpit offensive and unprofessional. Therefore, first-time visitors might never tune in again.

Female ministers might get away with dressing inappropriately at their own churches, but they might never get invited to preach in other churches.


To Female Preachers

After you have taken the time to prepare a message to preach, don't let your clothing distract from that message. It is hard for some people to hear a message because of visual distractions. Don't allow your fashion choices keep someone from hearing the message. If you must wear sleeveless or short sleeve tops in the pulpit, cover your arms with a shawl or lightweight sweater or jacket.

  • Don't let your attire abort your anointing in the pulpit.
  • Don't allow a fashion choice to take away from the authority that a preacher should have while sharing the word of God.
  • Also, don't give people a reason to discuss your attire more than they discuss the sermon you preached.

To Church Leaders

As leaders, you are responsible for how your church is represented to the worldwide world. Let the characterization be the best that it can be.

If you find this a touchy subject to address with your female preachers, please feel free to forward this article to them. Keep in mind that God holds you responsible for everything that goes on in your church.

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