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Alabama Baptist churches reach families through prom dress ministriescomment (0)

February 6, 2014

By Anna Keller

Alabama Baptist churches reach families through prom dress ministries

Prom season is an exciting one for many high school girls, but it can be a stressful time for families when money is tight. Between buying a dress, paying for a boutonnière and purchasing tickets for the event, prom gets pricey quickly.

That’s why in recent years several Alabama churches have started prom dress ministry programs, which provide an opportunity to help girls go to prom who might not otherwise have been able to. It’s also a way for the churches to witness to girls and their mothers, both through the gift of generosity as well as hosting devotionals during the donation process.

“Before they go into the dressing room to try on dresses, we talk with the girls about inner beauty and the Lord and share the gospel with them,” said Paige Cooper, who works with the prom dress ministry at Northport Baptist Church. 

Girls are referred to the Northport ministry via school counselors and teachers who help the church identify girls who are truly in need. The church — who has been running the ministry since 2008 — hosts days for girls to come try on dresses and select one to keep. In addition to helping with prom, Northport Baptist also gives girls dresses to wear to homecoming, beauty pageants and other events.

“It’s become a ministry people are now familiar with,” Cooper said. “It’s evolving and growing every year, and we’re just excited to see where the Lord takes it.”

A similar program at Good Hope Baptist Church, Eclectic, called GLAM Project (standing for “God’s Love Amazes Me”) kicked off in 2013. 

Kelli McGhee and her husband — members of Good Hope Baptist — were looking for a new way to minister in their church and community.

“We started praying about how we could serve and I Googled ways to serve in the church and discovered a prom dress ministry in Kentucky,” McGhee said. “I pitched the idea to the women’s ministry committee and they loved it, so we started GLAM Project.” 

The 2013 outreach was a huge success, and Good Hope has even higher hopes for this year’s ministry. They have about 200 dresses in stock right now and will invite girls in need to come choose a dress.

“We pray with the girls and we show God’s love,” McGhee said. “We love on them and tell them they’re beautiful. It’s the most amazing thing to do for people in need.”

In addition to a dress, each girl leaves with a goodie bag that is full of treats. They are invited to return on the day of prom to get their hair, makeup and nails done. 

The girls are also offered corsages and boutonnières. A local dentist office gives gift certificates for a free teeth cleaning. A Bible and devotional book are included in each bag as well.  

“We got letters from lots of the girls and their parents, and several girls who were juniors last year are now coming back for their senior prom,” McGhee said. “We had several of the families come visit our church afterward too.”

Northbrook Baptist Church, Cullman, had a similar ministry called Prom Dress Giveaway, which ran from 2002 through 2011. They eventually shut down the program because they weren’t able to keep a sufficient inventory of plus size dresses on hand and did not want to have to turn anyone away.

“Ending the program broke our hearts but we knew we couldn’t single these girls out and tell them we could not help them because of their size,” said Frances Monk, a member of Northbrook Baptist. “We hope this will change soon and we can start this ministry again. But if not we will still try and tell girls God’s plan for their lives and their marriages.”

Northbrook’s program used the occasion of dress donation to share a purity message with local girls. 

“Finding out that many girls lose their purity on prom night gave us an opportunity to share God’s plan for them,” Monk said. “Many girls and their parents thank us for sharing God’s Word with them and giving them the courage to say ‘no.’” 

The girls received a dress and met with a hairdresser, makeup designer and personal consultant, all of whom helped the girls choose a hairstyle and makeup, along with a dress consultation. Sometimes there were new shoes and jewelry for the girls to choose. 

“This was a blessing, and many girls would not have had an opportunity to go to the prom otherwise,” Monk said. “To see their faces change once they found that perfect dress and had their hair and nails done was amazing. Many smiled for the first time that day because they felt beautiful and loved. All that volunteered to help went away blessed.”

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