For the last two months I have talked to students and teens at the high school where I work. There have been tears, complaints, and laughter. All of this surrounds the fact that our school will not sponsor a Prom in the Spring.
You see, where I live, Prom is no longer the event where you can take pictures, have dinner, and dance with your friends before graduation. In fact, the dance has little to nothing to do with Prom as it has become.
- Very few will stay for longer than an hour at a dance they have paid almost $300 to attend.
- Parents throw parties before the Prom because they consider it safer if their teens “drink at home.”
- Limos have alcohol in them, even though the passengers are in high school.
- After being at Prom, it isn’t uncommon to go to a club in the city, rent a boat with friends to have an after-party, or to go straight to what is known as the “Prom Weekend.”
- Prom Weekend is usually in a rented house, guaranteed by a parent, stocked with alcohol and unsupervised.
- I can count on one hand the number of teens I have talked to who have had a good time at these Proms.
In all the time I have have worked with teens, I have come to hate the time of year that Prom is scheduled. I see the most dedicated teens abandon the morals they have embraced all year because of one weekend that most of the time they don’t even enjoy.
- Prom has become something bigger then what it was ever supposed to be. Far from the one night “dress up and dance,” it has become a pressure-filled weekend to party without authority.
- There is always pain associated with Prom that the Youth Minister, Teacher, or Priest must clean up. Not with every teen, but with more then we would care to admit it. I have sat with teens who have cried (and some have been guys) because they are being pressured to work three jobs to afford Prom. They have cried because of decisions they made that led to pregnancy, sexual assault, drunk driving, the police, and not to mention the damage that was done spiritually. Many times they can never admit this to their parents, even when encouraged to.
- I haven’t spoken to one student, teen, or parent that wants to participate in the post-prom “orgy” that has been on display in the time I have been working with teens. To a person, every single one simply wants to go to a dance and dress up with their friends for one last party before they graduate. Yet for some reason they feel that they must drink before, drink in the limo, sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend, go to the prom weekend. Why the contradiction?
- The girls seem to care more about the “prom experience” as it was meant to be than the guys. The girls seem to have a fantasy night in their head of the date, the dress, etc. Overall, the guys simply want to hang out.
What is the solution? I see the pain that students feel when the school will no longer sponsor a Prom, but what other option does the school have? Every year we see so much hurt. Every year we see so much pain. Every year we see people manipulate you teens to get as much money from you as possible by throwing every temptation in your face.
If you were throwing a party every year and after the party, people used it as an excuse to engage in ritual suicide, would you continue to have the party? If students, teens, those that I want to lead to Christ more than anything use a party that I sponsor to engage in ritual spiritual suicide, what do I do?
The Prom needs to be re-invented. Maybe it needs a new name. Maybe we need new traditions. Maybe it simply cannot exist in any form because our society is so caught up with money, things, and consuming everything.
We were made to love people and use things and somehow it all became mixed up.
So now the school I have the honor of working with is trying to change a tradition, a culture… the Prom. I know it hurts. Change always does.
But think about it, we have a chance to be the first school that lets you be free from the pressure, free to be who you really want to be, not what you think you should be.