ChuckWarnock.com

Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

The question of beards and pastors


hatcherwilliamSince our church was founded in 1857, only 5 of the 18 pastors  of our church did not sport a beard.  Rev. Hardaway started the beardless trend in 1929 and he served until 1951.  After Hardaway, only one pastor in our history had a beard and he came along in the 1980s.  

The fellow pictured here was Dr. William E. Hatcher.  Hatcher actually preached at our church on a couple of occasions in the late 1800s.  As you can see, he sports a fine beard with mustache, but he was from Richmond, so that accounts for it, I suppose. 

Here’s my analysis of my bearded pastoral predecessors:

  • Most wore beards without mustaches.  
  • Most were really scary looking guys.
  • Most are now dead.  (Actually all of the bearded ones except the 1980s guy.)
  • Nobody had a goatee or soulpatch. 

Which brings me to my point — how many of you guys have facial hair? (I am purposely excluding the ladies here).  Beard, mustache, goatee, peachfuzz, and so on all qualify.  Did you grow your beard after you came to your church or did your arrive in full-bloom?  What did your congregation think?  Is there a difference in the reaction of older members verus younger members to your chin whiskers?  

Beards and hair also have Biblical roots — Samson comes to mind, of course, and the vow of the Nazirites.  Plucking out one’s own beard was a sign of lament and anguish (for real, I imagine), and having one’s beard plucked out was a sign of humiliation and disrespect.  Beards and their grooming also have religious implications.  Old German Baptist Brethren do not wear mustaches because that would be vain, but many grow chest-length beards.  In Iran and Iraq, beards are a sign of manhood, and our troops have grown beards to win the hearts-and-minds of the locals.  

Maybe beards will be the next big denominational crisis — beard-wearers against the clean-shavers — I can see it now.  

As you can tell, this is a very slow news day, and I got to thinking about pastors and beards driving back from making hospital visits this afternoon.  Maybe we’ll do tattoos next.  Just a thought…

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10 replies

  1. Hey, Chuck, nice diversion for the afternoon. Big Island Baptist has definitely been low on facial hair on the pastors over the last 50 years. I, however, do have a beard, and have had either a beard or goatee for at least the past 10+ years. In fact, one of the few times I shaved completely within about a week my wife looked at me and said, “That’s enough, don’t you think it’s time to grow your beard back?” Just keeping her happy!

    Blessings
    Bryon

  2. Chuck,

    I came to my church with the goatee. I started it in ’96. Solid black back in the day. Now, more white than anything! I don’t think any other pastors of this church have been bearded. Guess they decided to take the risk!

    (The tat is next. I need to catch up with wife who has three. Now _there’s_ a board meeting waiting to happen! Ha.)

  3. Bryon, I’m thinking Big Island is in Hawaii or some exotic location, and then I click and you’re in VA! Amazing. Yeah, I’d keep the beard, too!

    Lanny, I am not asking about your wife’s tattoos, and yes, I can see that on the agenda of the next meeting of the board!

  4. love the beard….
    grew it about two years ago…when for the first time in ministry I had two weeks off in a row.

    Did not shave for those two weeks, liked it…i stayed.
    It was a symbol for me that I had become comfortable with myself, and did not care what others thought! My wife likes it…thats all that really matters.

    As far as I can tell, I am the first minister in 60 years at our church with a beard. I am also the longest serving by far, formerly average was 1.5 years…I have been here 15.

  5. I have been in some sort of ministry for about 10 years. Part of that was as a church pastor. In the 10 years I have mainly had a goatee and at times had a full beard. Most people have seemed to be ok about that. I remember on one ocassion when I had a full beard and then went back to a goatee, some of the congregation was upset. I think it was because I also had long hair with a ponytail. With the beard and the ponytail I think they thought I looked like the classic image of Jesus! On thinking about it they did listen to my messages more intently too :-)

  6. Mark and Dave, thanks for your comments and stories about your beards. I’m thinking about the Brian McLaren look myself, except I don’t look anything like Brian McLaren. I’d just look like a street person with scraggly stubble. I’m glad it’s working for some of you, at least!

  7. Unrelated to facial hair, Chuck, I loved the 10 Stupid Mistakes Small Church Pastors Make.

    I have just started blogging and wonder if you’re happy with Word Press? Blogger intimidates me . .

  8. I have no facial hair. My church has no issue with it, but my wife does.

  9. Many years of beards in my church. Some pastors went without. I was hired with a goatee, and have had a goatee about 75% of the time since. From time to time I shave it all off, and once I grew a fuller beard.

  10. Facial hair, especially in the form of beards, has not been mainstream in America for a century at least. For example, the last U.S. President to have a beard was Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) and only two in the twentieth century had mustaches (Teddy Roosevelt and W.H. Taft), and even Taft, the more recent of the two, was elected over a hundred years ago. Most news anchors are clean shaven. More and more I see pastors sporting Van Dykes (a moustache plus goatee), such as Rick Warren, but it is still the exception rather than the norm. As for me, I am not allowed to wear a beard, since the Navy did away with them once-and-for-all in the 1980s (which was before my time). I had a beard briefly while I was in seminary many years ago, but I found it uncomfortable.

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