I thought that I was following what the Bible says but all the complaints I got from parents was unbelievable.
I am having youth sign a “Covenant” form before our new school year starts. The “Covenant” was not a problem, it has been done it the past. It goes over rules and information about our meetings. Different this year was the dress code for Girls. We (meaning, myself, associate pastor, church council) put in that the girls needed to wear a one piece bathing suit to all church water activities. Mothers were calling and emailing, upset that we were making this rule. They told me that they were not going to make their girls follow it. Furthermore, they said that their girls and friends just would not come.
I tried to explain to some on the mothers why we were doing this. I spoke about the verse in Luke 17-1-2 (do not make your brother stumble).
The pastors both discussed this and we have now changed it to read “swimwear at church-sponsored water events should be appropriate for a Christian community. Specific guidance should be left to the discretion of parents…”
I did not feel that it was too much to ask. Although, I do not want to leave any youth out. I want everyone to feel comfortable to come to our group.
What's the balance?
Cool- now you can wear that new bikini you bought!
Seriously, this is a tough issue that many people will disagree on. Regardless what policy you lay out there, some people aren't going to be happy. It's a hard balance to find.
But, I think the new wording that your pastors came up with is good. I've seen one pieces that are worse than two pieces. Your new definition is actually a little more specific and will help with all questionable bathing suits.
I also think you can handle a lot of this one-on-one. If you see someone wearing something risqu, you can have a female staff talk with her. I would use discretion and be sensitive to “unchurched girls.” You don't want to scare a kid away from the church over a bathing suit. And let me assure you- the world has no problem with small swim suits.
I spoke for a church last year at a one week waterski camp and they had a similar rule about bathing suits. Sure enough, a few girls wore risqu suits. I saw two female staff approach girls about this. It was interesting to see the difference in the two approaches. When someone first voiced the concern, the two staff girls spoke up. The first announced, “I have no problem telling her to change. Where is she? Watch this!” I think this staff girl was a little more excited about the chance to enforce her power than she was caring about the individual. The girl's reaction was not good. Not surprising.
However, the second staff lady handled her situation quite well. She was one of the mothers on the trip and when the situation arose, she simply said, “I'll talk with her.” You should have seen her gentle approach. She just walked up to her, put her arm around her and said something to her about “a pretty girl like you doesn't need any more help getting guys to look at you.” Then she joked with her. “Why don't you wear this t-shirt this week over that suit and have mercy on some of our guys.”
That's not an easy situation. And it was amazing watching two polar opposite ways of handling it. I'll let you decide which you think is better.
Hope that helps.
The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.