Pollard UMC Youth's "Tacky Prom" Brings Laughs -- and Bonds Across the Generations

Date Posted: 11/12/2015

Folks of all ages enjoyed tacky costumes and wacky food at the second annual “Tacky Prom” hosted by the Pollard UMC youth.
Where could you go (when dressed as silly as possible) and dance to bad music, eat a bizarre array of food, and still be accepted? At Pollard UMC, the answer to that question is: church! “Two years ago the youth were brainstorming about a way to have a fun event right after school had kicked off, but we wanted something inclusive where we could invite everyone,” shares Youth Director Marla Matthews. Pollard UMC youth often offer an open invitation for folks to join them for youth group, mission trips and church camp, and they host Sunday lunches for the congregation and often ask for support in whatever they are involved in, and even jointly provide for many needs in the community.
“However, in this instance,” notes Marla, “we were looking for something where we could just come together and have fun. So, two years ago the first annual Tacky Prom was held with wide appeal to all ages, and a tradition was born.
According to Marla, publicity mirrored the crazy theme with headlines such as: Pollard Youth Host Church-wide Tacky Prom…All Are Invited, No Date Needed, Snacks Provided, Awards Handed Out, All It’ll Cost You is Your Pride.
The second annual prom last month drew youth, their friends, their parents, families with children, young adults, singles, older adults, and even older adults. “You name an age and they were probably there,” she shares. “We danced, we laughed, and some even split their tacky pants.”
Adds Marla, “This year, we crowned a tacky king and queen for the youth and a set for the adults and we even wiped our hands on our pants because I refused to provide napkins (that’s tacky, right?).”
This year’s adult winners just happened to be Pollard UMC’s new Senior Pastor, Stephen Rhoads, and our pregnant Associate Pastor’s wife, Sabrina Bagley.
The first and second annual Tacky Prom booth backdrops were the hit of the night with themes such as:

  • I Haven’t Had the Time of My Life,
  • Paradise Lost,
  • Mardi Grass: Bons Temps Sont Revolus (the good times have rolled),
  • A Night in Paris…Texas,
  • Under Lake Palestine,
  • A Night Off the Titanic, and
  • Circus Sideshows.
The wacky tacky “misfit menu” featured powdered donuts, cheese balls, flat soda, mini corndogs, and pork rinds.

Freakish Fun for All Ages
Marla believes the best thing about this church-wide tradition is that all ages come together just to enjoy life. “Typically, we get wrapped up in work, or children, or sports, or even our service to the church or community and we forget to have fun, to laugh, to play,” she shares. “But, when you show up in your suspenders and pants that are too tight and you’ve cut mutton chops into the side of your face, it is really hard to take yourself too seriously. That is why our event motto is, It’ll only cost you your pride.”
After the decorating, cooking and selecting the music, Marla enjoys getting to sit back and watch a 3-year-old dance with one of her youth while one of the congregation’s retirees tries to keep up with the line dance underway. Adds Marla,  “We sometimes forget this is what church is about too…joy, laughter, feeding our souls. I’m thankful for my students and their families every day, but I’m also thankful for a congregation who will show up in crazy clothes and dance the night away just to show how much they care.”
She has a hunch that God would come to the Tacky Prom if He were invited. “In fact,” she chuckles, “I think He may have been there…”
Investing in the Young
Rev. Stephen Rhoads says, “The Tacky Prom is a perfect example of the welcoming nature of our God. The event invites youth and adults to wear their wildest and, oftentimes, ugliest clothing, knowing that they will be welcomed and appreciated. In a way the clothing could represent the personal quirks and strange behaviors that each of us reveal at all ages.” Adds Stephen, “Too often our youth feel that church is not the place for them because they think, look, and behave differently from all those formal church people. Tacky Prom is one of the ways that Pollard UMC tells the youth, and others, to come as they are and experience Christ.”
High school senior Kelli Kissinger, a youth group leader and this year’s Youth Tacky Prom Queen feels this year’s event was the best one yet. Shares Kelli, “Teenagers were the primary target group for attendees but other church members from newly-weds to our elderly congregation came and danced to the tacky tunes.” She recommends churches offer a variety of opportunities to keep youth engaged. Adds Kelli, “Unfortunately, keeping teenagers invested and engaged has posed a rather difficult challenge lately, but doesn’t discourage our efforts to try and keep a grasp on their involvement and more importantly their walk with Christ. Younger students can seem more interested in the entertainment aspect of going to church over the emotional and spiritual parts, but as they grow and mature they come closer to Christ that changes. I think we try to appeal to each phase, by having fun games that tie into the scripture or lesson. I personally participate in youth group because there is a fire inside me that solely burns for Christ and what he stands for. Youth group feeds that fire and there is nothing like letting it burn. The attraction of growing in faith with others and even leading them in the right way is just as intriguing. If there is anyway I can help someone else, especially if they’re younger than I am, with their walk with Jesus I am always willing a ready to do whatever I can, however I can.” 
Fun for All Ages
The pastors and other adults enforce the free-to-be-me message by attending the event, dressed in zany outfits, as well. “It’s a celebration of our uniqueness,” he shares. “Everyone has something different about them yet Christ calls and welcomes us all. Our youth appreciate the fact that adults want to participate and become part of their lives.”
According to Marla, volunteer Donna Ziober loves doing anything to help, support or promote the youth. “When Marla’s husband Jack, dressed in crazy clothes, came to invite our Sunday school class to the Tacky Prom,” adds Donna, “he challenged the men to try to out-do him and several gave it a try!” She admits that the older adults dressed up and attended, but were not sure how to intermingle with the youth at first. “It was a bit quiet until the line dancing brought everyone onto the floor,” she adds, “and was the biggest hit of the night.”
As a 70-year old “cheerleader” for the youth, Donna knows from experience how positive influence from a youth group can shape a teen’s life. “My son sees the value in getting his children involved, now that he is a father,” she adds, “and I involve my grandkids in VBS and anything else I can for the same reason.” Donna loved the creative decorations and food, but most of all she loves the freedom now to “go up to anyone in the youth group and give them a hug.”