Proms and homecoming dances can be fun and carefree social events for teenagers. But they can also be places where teens can be introduced to and pressured into various worldly temptations.
If your teen years are behind you, perhaps you recall the experiences of your own youth. And if you are a Christian parent, you no doubt wrestle with how to keep your children safe while still preparing them for life as adults.
The Bible doesn’t give us a “thou shalt not…” that we can apply neatly to prom, homecoming, and similar events. And so we must search the scripture for answers as we contemplate the question of whether or not Christians should go to prom or homecoming?
Christians are permitted to attend prom and homecoming. But as with any secular event, Christians must use wisdom and discernment to avoid unnecessary temptation and resist worldly pressure.
What are Prom and Homecoming All About?
Prom and homecoming are school-sponsored traditions, typically for high-school students that mark and celebrate certain aspects of school life. Proms originated in the Victorian era as a way for teens (high school seniors and juniors) on the cusp of adulthood to learn etiquette by replicating the debutante balls of the wealthy.
Proms are formal events that take place in the spring where the attendees are expected to dress in formal attire (gowns and tuxedos) and engage in social dancing in a chaperoned environment.
Homecoming is a fall celebration that also involves social dancing and interaction, usually without the formality associated with prom. Most schools center their homecoming celebration around a school football game and invite past attendees and alumni to attend and celebrate their alma matter (thus the name, ‘homecoming’). Current students are also invited to attend a post-game, chaperoned homecoming dance.
While the traditions and events themselves are well-intentioned and benign, both prom and homecoming have since given rise to new traditions and purposes which understandably give Christian parents pause about whether or not their children should attend.
In the World, Not of It
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17:15-16
Since man’s fall in the Garden of Eden, humanity has had the inclination and capacity to take what is good and use it for selfish and indulgent purposes. Prom and homecoming are no exception. Temptations to engage in sexual activity and drug use abound as such occasions, or more specifically at post-event gatherings, away from the structure and supervision of the school-appointed chaperones.
Any teen who attends a prom or homecoming dance will quickly see that if the temptations are not overtly visible, they are lurking just below the surface. Provocative or revealing outfits, overtly sexualized dancing, and whispers of post-prom parties all contribute to the pressure that the typical teen experiences at prom or homecoming.
Since prom and homecoming are secular events with no root or tradition in our faith, we might be inclined to dismiss them outright and forbid our children from participating.
However, we cannot escape the reality that we live in a broken and fallen world. The corruption that has infiltrated high school proms is reflective of the brokenness of our entire world. But how do we live in a broken world while still honoring God’s instruction to not be of the world?
So instead of shutting ourselves out of the world, how do we live in a God-honoring way in the midst of a corrupt world? And do prom and homecoming provide teens with an opportunity to practice living as people of God in a fallen world? Here are some practical steps that teens can take to the dance:
What to Wear?
Boys and girls alike should avoid dressing in a way that encourages lust. We can all look presentable while remaining modest. We should also be mindful to avoid extravagant spending in selecting our outfits. If we want to be effective Christian witnesses, we must practice not only bodily modesty, but financial modesty.
Dates or no Dates?
When, how, and for what purpose a Christian teen should date is beyond the scope of this article. However, the principles that apply to dating certainly apply to prom and homecoming as well. If you’re not dating with the goal of preparing for marriage, then consider the risks. Does ‘pairing off,’ particularly with a date who does not share your faith, open the door to sexual temptation? If so, consider alternatives to taking a date to the prom.
Strength in Numbers
As Christians, we need each other. This is why God established the church as a community where we could build one another up, hold one another accountable, and protect each other. Attending prom or homecoming with a group of like-minded Christians is a great way to insulate against the temptations often associated with these gatherings.
Have a Plan
Does your church (or another local church) host an after-prom party to provide a safe space for teens to socialize apart from the more worldly alternatives? If so, this is a great way for you and your friends to continue the fun (and perhaps even invite some unchurched friends). Post-prom excursions to an all-night diner or a movie could provide safe alternatives for your group as well.
As you work out the details, remember to first “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans,” (Proverbs 16:3).
“I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23
Even with the best strategies and tactics, it is right for some teens to avoid gatherings such as prom and homecoming. Some might be too vulnerable to sexual temptations. Others might be recovering from substance abuse. And in some places, there simply may not be adequate supervision to ensure a safe environment for anyone. These are all valid reasons for staying away.
As Christians, we must look out not only for ourselves but for each other. Would your attendance at prom set a bad example for the new believer that you’ve befriended? Is someone close to you vulnerable to the temptations of the evening? If so, prayerfully consider staying home and supporting your friend. Even if we are permitted to do something, Christian love demands that there are times when we shouldn’t do those things, for the sake of others.
The Bible was written long before our traditions of prom and homecoming were established. And so, like many areas of modern life, we must extrapolate from what the Bible does teach and apply it to our present environment. And that is what we’ve done here today, so that all Christian teens who are considering attending prom (and all parents who are deliberating with them) can have a Biblical framework for wrestling with the question. May the Holy Spirit guide you in all wisdom.