Many churches have taken a stand against any kind of the celebrating Halloween because the darkness the day and night may promote. “Because Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources, it is reasonable that many believers would find some aspects of its celebration disturbing”. According to Focus on the Family’s founder, Dr. James Dobson, “The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this “darker side” of Halloween. But the irony is that Halloween was the Church’s idea in the first place. The word is simply a shortened version of ‘All Hallows Eve’ – the day before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day. On this day, the Church celebrates Christ’s defeat of death and life beyond the grave for those who believe in him. Maybe it’s time we reclaimed Halloween. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Church could turn Halloween into an opportunity for hope?
I agree with Dobson when he writes that there is a place for some harmless fun. “Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than on the occult, there is no harm in it. Costumes for our children should represent fun characters, princesses and cartoon heroes. Going door-to-door asking for treats is a fun neighborhood pastime. This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for little ones.”
For years as a church pastor I would personally use Halloween as an outreach opportunity. Our family would light the outside of our home brightly, shining a large spotlight on the garage that says, “Trick or Treaters Welcome Here”. We then wait in anticipation , dressed in some funny attire, for kids to come by so we can give them candy, fuss over their costumes (especially if they are not dark, gruesome or violence promoting) and generally love on them.
Instead of handing out one piece of candy to each costumed trick or treater, we would let the kids dig both hands into a wash tub filled with a variety of their favorite candy. Like the crane amusement in an arcade, the kids would try to pick up as much candy as they can possibly scoop. You should see the wide eyes of the kids as they plunge their little hands into the tub and come up with more candy than they can eat in a week. I’ve heard that some, who have done this year after year, will strategize as to how they can corral even more candy than they did last year.
We orchestrate this ritual not to spoil their appetites, rot their teeth or promote greed, but to convey to them something about the overwhelming generousness and graciousness of our loving God and what he has done for us in Christ. I also give to each trick or treater a “Good News” message tract in their Halloween sacks, sharing with them the love of God in Jesus Christ.
At this time of year many churches promote an event called “Trunk or Treat” as an upbeat alternative to traditional neighborhood strolls in the dark. The children who are encouraged to dress up in non-scary costumes and participate in various scheduled activities and games. Some churches have costume contests, such as “most original,” “best hat,” “funniest,” etc. Funny prizes are awarded for each winner. The adults all park their cars in the parking lot of the church with their trunks open and accessible. At a designated time, all the children are “turned loose” to go say “Trunk or Treat” at each adult handing out goodies from their trunk!
Another popular event is a Family Fun Fall Festival. Consider hosting a hotdog feed or chili dinner. Decorations could include a fall “Harvest” theme with items such as hay bales, apples, mums, pumpkins, and decorative squash.Fun activities could be planned like carnival games, inflatables, bobbing for apples, wheel barrel races, hay-rack rides, singing around the campfire, and other “country” activities. Fall themed “goodie bags” for each child could be prepared ahead of time and passed out to participants.
Whatever you choose to do at church for Halloween, take this opportunity to reach out to your churches neighborhood with love as you lift up the light of the world in our ever-darkening culture.