There is an amazing phenomenon sweeping across the nation right now. The special needs community is being celebrated in a wonderful way through proms thrown by local churches for individuals affected by disability.
The tuxes and dresses are chosen, hair is perfectly done, dates are lined up… the limos pull up to cheering crowds and individuals affected by disability walk or wheel down the red carpet to enjoy one of the best nights of their lives. Rascal Flatts has even written a song honoring these magical events!
Young people dance and laugh and smile… labels like “typical” and “special needs” are virtually nonexistent in this electric atmosphere. Every individual in the room—special guests, chaperones, and volunteers—is filled to the brim with deep joy when they fall into bed well past midnight.
But in the morning, the sparkles left on the floor of the church are only a dim reflection of the sparkle that was in the eye of every young adult with special needs dancing at prom the night before.
Many of the volunteers and families affected by disability begin to wonder, Was it just one night? What comes next?
The desire to fully belong is deeply rooted in the heart of every human being. We want to be loved, valued, celebrated, included.
But the truth is, one night of belonging is not enough.
After the fanfare of prom fades and the flowers begin to wilt, where do these amazing, uniquely gifted individuals belong?
I think we all agree that the Church should be a place of belonging—for everyone. But, is it?
While it is an incredible gift for a church to open their doors and celebrate the disability community through a once-in-a-lifetime prom, it would be an even greater gift for churches to open their doors week after week, year after year.
Providing ongoing, day-to-day support to families affected by disability is not as glamorous, but at the end of the day, this is what special needs families truly need.
A prom, open to the community, might draw individuals into the church who otherwise never would have come. So how can we, as the body of Christ, turn this open door into an invitation to do life together? An Evening to Treasure in Central California, organized by Tiana Freeland, did just this with a long-term strategy for family and church engagement following the event.
We invite you and your church to create a place of belonging for families and individuals affected by disability—a place where they are loved and valued for more than one night—a place where they can consistently grow in their love for Christ and their fellowship with the body.
We invite you to become an irresistible church.
Ali Howard is a Baylor University graduate who has engaged in full-time, nonprofit work since 2011. She joined the Joni and Friends team in January 2015, and serves as the Senior Coordinator of Volunteer Services. She also acts as the content editor for the Irresistible Church blog and books.
For more information on becoming an irresistible church check out the Irresistible Church Series, written to introduce your church to special needs ministry.