A Night to Honor and Celebrate God’s Beloved Children

April 15 3 Minute Read????

A Night to Honor and Celebrate God’s Beloved Children

Hello April 15th, 2024

Share This Story


This was the 10th year that Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Hixson, Tennessee hosted Night to Shine. Stuart Heights is one of several churches that have hosted Night to Shine every year since its inception. 

Pastor Gary Jared remembers the excitement and anxious anticipation surrounding their first Night to Shine in 2015. 

"We wanted to make sure they had all the volunteers there and everything was in place. We really didn't know what to expect. And it was just absolutely amazing from day one on,” Pastor Gary said. And they’ve never looked back. 

Since 2015, Stuart Heights has hosted Night to Shine every year with the support of their church community. Volunteers help with planning, decorating, and logistics all year so that honored guests and their families can simply show up and enjoy an unforgettable night of celebration.

C Group 2.jpgIt’s a night for these families and honored guests to be poured into and served. For the McDonald family, Night to Shine is a particularly special evening. Lori and Greg McDonald have three sons, the oldest of whom, Ian, is nonverbal and lives with Down syndrome and autism.  

Lori and Greg are active in ministry at Stuart Heights, but for them, Night to Shine is a time when their family gets to sit back and receive instead of serving. “To be the recipient of a ministry is kind of a different place for us in our church... It’s a walk-in faith to receive the love of God because it is easier to give than to receive sometimes,” Lori said. 

It means so much to see her church community come together to serve people like her son and families like hers. 

“You see the amount of people who have poured into this night, like so many people,” Lori said with profound gratitude. Night to Shine has had a huge impact on their family and the wider community. “Night to Shine has brought worth and value to the honored guests as well as the volunteers and families of people with special needs. It gives us a night to recognize how important every person that God created is, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. It's a night to just recognize that God has done some really wonderful things with the people on this Earth,” Lori said.D Photo.jpgFor honored guest Anna Shipley, Night to Shine at Stuart Heights is a time when she feels special, gets to be with her friends, and make new ones. “I like Night to Shine with all the people. [We] get to go and have fun and eat together. Other times, we get to play or just roam around the room. We get to know everybody,” Anna said. 

Anna has kept all her tiaras from the past years of Night to Shine. They serve as a reminder of her value and worth as a beloved child of God. At Night to Shine, Anna feels “special, loved, and confident.” Pastor Gary Jared says Night to Shine puts a lot of things into perspective and makes you realize how much this evening means to honored guests and their families. People drive from hours away just to be part of the annual event. He recalls one year, a man shared how determined he was that his sister would get to experience it. 

“I'll never forget, I was sitting at a table with this gentleman and his sister, and she had Down syndrome… He said, ‘I don't know how much to thank you for this. I drove all night to get here because my sister has never had anything like this in her life. And she asked me if I'd come. I just want to thank you guys for putting this on. It makes all the difference in the world for her,’” Pastor Gary recounted.

‘I don't know how much to thank you for this. I drove all night to get here because my sister has never had anything like this in her life.” 

It's moments like this that make all the preparations, logistics, and planning worthwhile. Another Night to Shine memory that stands out to Pastor Gary is from the red carpet. “One of my favorite stories is a young man who has autism and Down syndrome. He had never been to anything like this. They went to the paparazzi that we have, and everybody was applauding and cheering him on,” Pastor Gary recounted.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​C Group 1.jpgThe guest’s mom was watching from the end of the red carpet in the building. She was so moved by it that she asked if they could re-create the moment so she could take a photo. She explained, “When my son gets to heaven, I want to know what it's gonna look like for him when he gets to heaven and they're cheering him on.” 

For this mother, this moment gave her hope and a vision of what her son may experience one day in Heaven. How beautiful is that? 

This is what Night to Shine allows us to be a small part of - showing God’s love to precious image-bearers with special needs who so often don’t feel celebrated or seen. It is a beautiful and sacred space to witness and be a part of. Stuart Heights recognizes this and continues to provide the opportunity for people with special needs to be loved, celebrated, honored, and cherished at Night to Shine year after year.

Our goal at the Tim Tebow Foundation for Night to Shine is for people with special needs worldwide to have the opportunity to experience and know God’s immense love for them as worthy, beloved, and precious children of the King. This year, Night to Shine was held by 725 churches in all 50 states and in 56 countries around the world! Praise God! 

  Our hope is that one day, there will be a Night to Shine in every country and community to celebrate God’s precious children with special needs as the Kings and Queens they are. We want all God’s children around the world to know their inherent value and worth as an image-bearer. 

 We encourage you to volunteer, participate, and refer your church to host Night to Shine in 2025 so that more Kings and Queens can be celebrated for exactly who they are: God’s beloved children. 

Join the worldwide movement and refer your church to host Night to Shine 2025!  

Share This Story

More Impactful Stories

Join the Mission