On Feb. 7, First Baptist Church Woodstock was one of 721 churches worldwide to host Night to Shine (NTS), a prom event created by the Tim Tebow Foundation to celebrate people with special needs. On that one night, 115,000 honored guests attended with the help of 215,000 volunteers. We asked First Baptist’s NTS volunteer coordinator, Belinda Jenkins, to write about the experience.
Night to Shine always starts with a stroll down the red carpet and it is always a BIG HIT! It is our honor to celebrate these special guests and their families as we cheer them on.
We open the night with a word of prayer to thank God for giving us this awesome opportunity to minister to so many in our community. Then we crank up the music and dance the night away! Special guests and their buddies are matched up and can enjoy a night of dinner and dancing. A team of current and former Cherokee County special education teachers helps us match each guest with the perfect buddy. We couldn’t do NTS without them!
We have lots of activities to offer the special guests besides dancing, including face painting, games, limo rides and, of course, karaoke. We hosted our first NTS at FBCW in 2016 and quickly learned that karaoke is very popular! So much so, that we had to open two karaoke rooms so that everyone can get a chance behind the mic. Everyone LOVES to sing!
While the guests are having a great time, we offer a caregiver respite dinner and dance for all parents/caregivers. The families are able to relax and enjoy their night, knowing that their child is being well cared for. At the end of the night, we have a crowning ceremony where each guest is crowned king or queen of the prom and we remind them that this is how God sees them every day.
Out of NTS, God birthed the Thrive ministry three years ago at FBCW. We now have a fully functioning special-needs ministry that meets weekly on Wednesday nights and Sundays. We minister to almost 60 families each week, and we are thrilled that God has allowed us to partner with so many families on an ongoing basis, not just once a year.
The movement of NTS is so much more than the prom that happens once a year. It is about people in communities around the globe beginning to have the conversation about how we can be more accepting and inclusive of those with special needs, and their families, and how to make our world more accessible for everybody. We can serve them, but we also can serve alongside them, and they can serve us. We all have value. We all can give and we all can receive!
– Belinda Jenkins, Night to Shine volunteer coordinator at First Baptist Church Woodstock