Halloween 2011 came and went… and a ton of articles, blogs, and facebook posts marked what Christians and churches should or should not do on Halloween… and for the first time, I just sat back and observed all the conversations that were going on around me as well as in the cyber world. For the first time, I didn’t have to think about what our ministry should do this year.
In the last 17 years of ministry, I have planned and participated in over a dozen of themed Hallelujah Nights, Reformation Night, Movie Night, Carnival-type Fall Fest, and Community Harvest Festivals. And truthfully, I really enjoyed putting on a night of games and fun for families, not to mention I LOVED dressing up and eating lots of junk food. However, I often struggled with why we were doing what we were doing and just how effective we were. In case you’re wondering, I’m NOT against these events on Halloween Night. I think some churches and communities do them really well. For instance, I came across this article that talks about a very successful Halloween alternative in a church parking lot. Gosh, I would love to go to that event!
I have also read some GREAT blogs about how families can connect with their non-church attending, non-Christ believing neighbors on Halloween by serving them hot cocoa, hot tea, providing the best candy bar, etc. One of my favorite post is written by Gina McClain, Children’s Ministry Director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN. Another great post I read is written by Jeff Vanderstelt.
I think these are all great ideas… because at the core of these ideas are all well intentions. So many Christians and churches want to care for their community, and share Jesus’ love on what is considered to be a day overcome by evil. But what bothers me is that so many churches that I know are consumed with “what are we gonna do” for the sake of doing something on this night. Some churches put on an excellent, fun, and safe night just for the children in their own ministry. Some churches insist on doing their own small event when they don’t have the budget nor the resources to pull together a successful event. Some churches think it’s wrong to even participate in anything that remotely resembles dressing up on Halloween and challenge families to be set apart by not having their kids dress up (poor kids…). Some churches tell the families that the Christian way to be a light in their neighborhood is by being a gracious host when kids come to trick-or-treat.
In my opinion, I think each church and ministry need to take the time to evaluate their community and their resources. I don’t think there is “one-size-fits-all” program for every church. In the same way, I don’t think there is “one-size-fits-all” way of doing Halloween for all the families in the church. For instance, i would LOVE to be in a community where neighborhood kids come to trick-or-treat… but it just doesn’t happen on my street. For about four years in a row, we were prepared for kids to come by, but I don’t think we ever broke 5 door knocks in a year. There are kids in my neighborhood, but they just don’t go trick-or-treat here. It just doesn’t make sense for families that live in my area to prepare a pot of hot cider and a huge bowl of candy waiting for knocks on their doors.
I have also done quite few Halloween alternative events when I was serving in a small church. They were fun events, but for the most part, we really didn’t draw that many kids from the community. 95% of the kids that came were our own church kids. In my heart and mind, I felt that our event wasn’t a good use of our resources because there was no way we could compete with 3 other huge carnival type events in the area. I would rather use the manpower and finances towards an event that would have greater community impact. Everyone thought they were successful events, but in my mind… they weren’t.
All this is to say… what I think churches should do is to evaluate their current way of doing Halloween, and really focus on what they would like to achieve on this night. If it’s for families to connect with their neighbors, then encourage them to be the best hosts in their own neighborhood. If the goal is for the church to serve the community by providing a fun, safe place for kids to be, then put on a fabulous event. Don’t get caught up in just doing… but think strategically about the why and how! And since we just had Halloween, the best time to evaluate for next year is now…