Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Should I Wear A Speedo? - Beach Camp Modesty

Recently there's been a lot of conversation around the web concerning swimwear, particularly girl's swimwear.

Here's what people are asking...

What is modesty?

Is a girl responsible for a guy lusting?
What about girls lusting?
Who gets to decide what is modest dress and what isn't?
Should I wear a speedo?

The purpose of this post isn't to argue the specifics of Biblical modesty or make a judgement about swimwear, it's simply to share where our student ministry team has landed on our bathing suit policy.

There's no doubt scripture teaches us we should present ourselves in a way that's modest.  We should praise those who want to be modest and encourage those who aren't but how does modesty relate to what we wear and who gets to decide?

For example, a couple weeks ago I was in Amish country in Pennsylvania.  Their view would be way different from Christians who grew up in south Florida.  How do we find a balance that honors God?

Youth groups all over the country head to the coast for summer camp and have to make decisions about their bathing suite rules. So as youthworkers how do we make decisions that are founded on grace and truth?  How we address the bathing suite issue is important because it teaches our guys and girls about Biblical modesty which goes much deeper than the question of a one piece or two piece at camp.

At my home church we're about to send out the packing list for our beach camp.  This is where we've landed for this year's camp and yes, it could change next year.

A word about your bathing suit…

Ok, it’s time to pack for camp!

As you’re thinking about your 2013 beach wear options I want to share some thoughts.

Modesty is a very subjective thing.  You could ask 10 different people if an outfit or bathing suite is modest and you may get 10 different responses.

We ask you to do your best choosing bathing suite options that are modest.  For example, girls, please no string bikinis and please make sure you have straps on top.  Guys, please make sure your trunks don’t sag and no Speedos.  :)

It may be a good idea to wear your swimsuits in front of your moms and dads for their opinion.

At the end of the day if our staff feels your swimsuit (guys or girls) is not appropriate for beach camp we’ll ask you to change or wear a shirt.

And remember; if you’re not laying out or swimming please wear a cover up.

This isn’t about a one piece or two piece (I’ve seen one pieces far more revealing than two pieces) but about a desire for each of you to present yourselves appropriate to one another.

Thank you so much for hearing our heart on this!  We’re looking forward to an incredible time.

Yes, it would probably be easier to say "no two pieces" or to simply stay away from swimwear all together (go to the mountains).  We decided to embrace the messiness and have conversations with kids if the need arises.  If someone wears a swimsuit (or anything else for that matter) that is inappropriate we want to talk to them about WHAT they're wearing but also WHY they're wearing it.  The WHY questions is what gets to the heart of Biblical modesty.

By the way, this isn't a condemnation on those who have stricter rules, we could be wrong about this.  In fact, I would love to hear push back and advice.  

What do you think about our swimwear "policy"?  How is yours different?

We're all ears.

Oh, and just to ease your mind, I'm leaving my speedo at home this summer.  Next year?  We'll see.

To learn more about what's being said about modesty check out these websites.

The Evolution of the Swimsuit

Modesty - It's Not What You Think

Is Itsy-Bitsy Wrong?


  1. I like that approach more than no holds bar. I used to be pretty middle of the road on it, seeing modesty as culturally subjective. Since I've been married, my thoughts have changed, though. Not that I'm ruling with an iron fist, but we still have the 2 piece rule, but not to protect the guys. To protect the girls.

    The amount of girls I've seen, not just in our community, but all over, who are going through eating disorders and identity crisis seasons is crazy. As my wife and I have talked with several, both our age and students, a lot of it stems from or is resurfaced when, "I was at the pool and saw how _________ so and so is." So we've landed on no 2 piece for the guys, sure, but also in an effort guard our girls as well.

    Like you said, may change next year, but that's where we're at. Bookmarking this post though, well said!

  2. I hear ya' loud and clear. It actually came up yesterday. The comparison game that's played and how it discourages girls is a huge issue. We've had girls say the same kinds of things.

    We have to keep that in mind.

  3. I know a youth pastor who has shirts that say "My youth pastor gave me this t-shirt because my swimming suit was immodest" ... nothing like shame to get them thinking :)

    I grew up in So Cal beach culture. There's just more skin in general out there and you become a little numb to it, unfortunately modesty for one body is different than it might be for anothers. I remember trying to find swimsuits for my wife when we went to camp and it was really challenging (Yes, I spent two days looking at them with her..much harder than I thought it would be). Most of the swimsuits she tried on would have been fine on someone elses body, but not hers. It's very subjective.

    I think another important aspect of the policy is how it is governed. Who get's to make the call? How that is handled may be even more important than the dress code itself.

  4. Thanks for chiming in Mark. There's a lot of grey here. I know I've had times I tried to make it a black or white issue. Didn't work out so well.

  5. I always find it interesting that Christians are always so concerned about modesty in swim wear for women. That this is why they imposed standards such as full body suits, hair cover in the form of swim caps, and even swimming shoes years ago going all the way back to the late Victorian era.

    Strangely enough during that same time frame boys who swam in the YMCA or in Christian schools were forced to swim naked. This because it was said to be much healthier, saved the schools money by not having to invest in swim wear for them, and it kept water drains from getting clogged by threads.

    To this day boys who swim in gym class, swim teams, or who do varsity or Olympic style diving wear the tiniest bikini bottom suits where the crotch is readily profiled.

    Ask yourself, how can "modest" suits for one be so good and near nakedness be good for another group?

    Sorry to say this but all too often Christian professing people sure have far too many double standards. What's right for one has to be the same for the other. If you wished to have any credibility you need to set aside your sexist double standards.