To robe or not to robe…that is the question.

Think choir robes are a thing of the past or only found in very traditional churches? Think again. I realize my data of very narrow sliver of the church choir pie is all that is represented here, but I wonder if the data is similar in other types of church choirs?

In my study on intergenerational choirs in GA Southern Baptist Churches, I found that there were a variety of types of choir attire in our churches. There isn’t anything about these churches being intergenerational that causes them to decide what to wear. What I DID find out was interesting. AND because my study was descriptive only, there really isn’t anything to explain why these churches choose to wear, or not wear, robes.

  1. Almost 60 percent of the leaders reported their choir members wear Sunday attire every Sunday.
  2. Not even 25 percent of the leaders reported their choir members wear robes every weekend.
  3. Not quite 20 percent use a combination of both.
  4. Almost 75 percent of the leaders whose choirs do wear robes every weekend are Boomer leaders. Perhaps this might suggest older leaders lean more towards their use?
  5. Of the choirs that wear robes every weekend, 64 percent of those choirs have average choir attendance between 26-50 persons.
  6. The largest and smallest choirs (by average worship attendance) are more likely to wear Sunday attire only. Anyone shocked that some of the the largest churches still wear robes? Large churches (which for some unfounded reason) are assumed to be “growing” and therefore should look contemporary i.e. NOT wearing robes.  Obviously those who think that should re-think their assumptions!

I realize this is quite a bit of information. What do we do with it? Does any of it surprise you? Does any of it scream, “I knew it, burn the robes…”  Here’s what I think…You must know the culture of your church and community. In some communities, robes seem too formal or stuffy—we want to mirror what our people look like. In other places, robes indicate a uniform look where Sunday attire might be seen as a distraction.

Personally, having served churches with and without robes, there are advantages to both, which I’m sure we could enumerate long lists of. What my research suggests is there is validity and examples of how any combination of attire on Sundays is found throughout our state. Go with the culture of your church, your community, and your personal preferences on what helps limit distractions (stumbling blocks) in worship leadership.

I’d love to hear from some of you regarding your thoughts on robes vs. Sunday attire or combination. What do you think and why?

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