God’s Love Shines Year After Year

April 9 3 Minute Read????

God’s Love Shines Year After Year

Hello April 9th, 2024

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At a church in western Florida, God used a limo ride, a red carpet, and a dance floor to shine the light of the Gospel on some of their community's most under-served members.

On February 13, 2015, Trinity New Life Church (TNLC) opened its doors to host their first Night to Shine, an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs.

When Emily Hoogerwerf, Special Needs Coordinator at TNLC, experienced that first Night to Shine event, she remembered it being overwhelming because it was so new. However, the excitement for how the event had already impacted their community and the anticipation of how it could continue to bring impact was far greater.

“One of the unexpected things that we’ve seen through Night to Shine is how God has moved the hearts of our church family as a whole...My heart, my eyes were opened to the special needs community when I was in college,” she said. “Years later, we hosted the first Night to Shine, and it was amazing to see how God was able to combine my heart for the special needs community and my heart for the church in the same setting.”

For the past ten years, TNLC has answered God’s call to serve and celebrate people with special needs through Night to Shine.

Every year, the entrance doors open to a red carpet lined with cheering paparazzi, the dance floor is illuminated with lights, and honored guests dressed in beautiful ball gowns and suits, or a favorite outfit arrive for an experience fit for royalty. The night has become an outward expression of the Gospel that is positively impacting not only their honored guests but their community, church members, and staff as well.

D Photo 3.jpgWhen asked how he felt about Night to Shine, honored guest Peter immediately answered that it made him feel special. “Night to Shine is special for me... I feel happy with all the people around me,” Peter said. He keeps the crown he received at Night to Shine as a keepsake and a reminder of his true identity as a valued, loved, and worthy image-bearer of God.  In addition to receiving his crown, Peter also felt like royalty during his favorite part of the whole night - riding in a limousine fit for a king!

Because of his experience, Peter wants to invite others to be part of Night to Shine, "all the time if you want to,” he said, smiling.

How can others experience Night to Shine?

“The largest unreached people group for the Gospel is right here in our neighborhoods, our communities, our families and our kids’ schools. It’s estimated that 80 to 85 percent of churches don’t have the accessibility, capability, or the willingness to serve the special needs community and have even turned away these individuals and their families,” said Emily.

Volunteer paparazzi cheer for honored guests as they enter on the red carpet. Volunteer ‘buddies’ ensure that honored guests have the best and most enjoyable experience by spending the evening with them one-on-one. Many other volunteers take on various roles including setting up the event, checking honored guests in, serving food, and so much more – all contributing to an unforgettable night.

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Jessica, a Night to Shine volunteer, has returned to TNLC to serve every year since its inception. She sees this night as a chance to do something she does well and an opportunity to act on a need in her church.

“Being able to be a part of [Night to Shine] every year has strengthened my faith,” she said.  “To see our guests come back every year, see new guests every year, too, and have a night that shows them how worthy they are, how amazing God has made them. It’s just been such a blessing and an honor to be able to see that year after year.” 

After hosting their first Night to Shine, TNLC saw a great need in their community to serve people with special needs for more than that one day a year in February.

Through Shine On, a ministry of the Tim Tebow Foundation, TNLC was able to do just that with specific programming created to inspire, equip, and encourage churches to embrace and offer belonging to families living with disabilities year-round.

We’re so inspired by the way TNLC has created a thriving ministry that brings their church community and their community of people with disabilities together weekly for worship fellowship, prayer, and discipleship.

“The resources of Shine On have been unmatched,” Emily said. She encouraged other churches to use the resources to aid their special needs ministries.

C Group 2.jpg“My prayer for our community of people with special needs is that they would experience the love of Christ and the hope that he offers...that they would experience real life change, salvations, and baptisms. Here at Trinity New Life Church, we exist to make disciples. And my simple prayer for Night to Shine is that we would exist to make disciples, as well,” Emily said.

Will you join us in praying that all people living with disabilities will come to know the transforming power of Christ’s love for them and experience belonging in their communities and the Church?

Visit to learn more about how you can be part of the worldwide movement of Night to Shine.


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