Are Church “Fall Festivals” Actually Counter-Productive?

Last year I wrote a post that caused a lot of discussion.  I thought I would revisit the subject since this blog has grown by over 1,000 readers since then, and many of you were not able to be a part of the discussion.

For my first twenty years in Children’s Ministry, I planned and hosted a “Fall Festival” (a.k.a. “Harvest Party”, “Hallelujah Night”, “Fall Fest”, “Family Fun Fest”, “Trunk or Treat”, etc.) at the church where I was serving.  These events generally were seen as a fun Family Event that served as an “alternative to trick-or-treating and Halloween.”

The typical “Fall Festival” usually looks a bit like this:

  • It is a family-oriented celebration/party.
  • It may have costumes.
  • Games are played.
  • Contests are held.
  • Food abounds.
  • Music blares.
  • Everyone enjoys themselves.

Certainly there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Fall Festival on its face.  I love dressing up in funny costumes.  I love seeing what crazy costumes the kids will come up with.  I love games, fun, and candy.  All of that is awesome!!!

However, several years ago, I began to ask the question:  “Is our Fall Festival actually counter productive?” Could it be that this event actually works against what our mission is as the church:  “to know Christ, make Him known, and reach the lost people in our city and around the world?”

Now, before I go any further – I want to assure you that I am not indicting anyone who does Fall Festivals.  As I said, I have done one for the last twenty years.  But, as I and our pastoral team put more thought into it we had several questions come up.

1)  Why do we feel the need to do an “alternative event” for our families on Halloween?  We don’t do an “alternative event” for Mardis Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, or other random holidays.

2)  Are we really “connecting” with the lost people who come?  We consider it a “bridge event” (connecting the lost of our community to the church in a non-threatening way).    Do they end up just stopping by to play a game, win a bag of candy, and move right along to the next church that’s throwing a Harvest Party?

3)  What about the people in our neighborhoods?  I have been most frustrated by the fact that on the darkest night of the year, it seems the Church has gathered all of the “light” together in one place (the church) in order to “escape the darkness” – and there is absolutely no light represented in our neighborhoods.  For the last twenty years, the very people I MOST want to reach, my neighbors, have been out on Halloween going door-to-door.  On a night when they are voluntarily coming to MY house, giving me an opportunity to speak to them and show God’s love – my house is dark with no light on because…the pastor is at his church throwing an alternative party, mostly for other Christians.

I welcome your thoughts in the Comments Section.  I posted this as a means to initiate discussion and provoke thought on this subject.  I invite disagreement and diversity of opinion.  Would love to hear what you think.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Are Church “Fall Festivals” Actually Counter-Productive?

  1. I agree. I can soapbox on this one for a while but here’s 3 things I learned by doing a Fall Family Fun Night on service night (the day before Halloween);
    #1 Families – broken up into 3 types (FAMILY A) they don’t like ANYTHING that even smells like or is deemed as ‘an alternative’ to Halloween and will even not come to service that night due to a “fun night” (FAMILY B) they are cautious but are ok as long as NO ONE dresses up in a costume. (FAMILY C) they continually ask “can we wear costumes?” and “will there be a lot of candy?”.
    #2 Outreach – Event was promoted as family and “a great night to invite your friends”. I even went so far as an additional “bring a friend and get entered to win a special prize”……same kids, no new friends (although it did have a few of them come back from being out a while). There’s so much “fun” going on that a true “outreach” effort was minimal at best. We have better results going into the communities and setting up jumpers, handing out boxes of food, etc than we do with inviting them to church (surprise!).
    #3 The Holiday Element – To your point, I question why we feel the need to compete with Halloween for ‘fun’. I get the idea of “alternatives” to the night but really, if a family doesn’t have a problem with teaching their kids to “trick or treat” or participate in a holiday constructed on elements of death, then they are going to celebrate Halloween one way or another.

    I’ll probably move to have FAMILY FUN NIGHT to any other week than Halloween week. Fall is a season; I have several other weeks to choose from!
    side note: Thanks for all you do Brian. I’ve really appreciated your input and curriculum in my first year as Children’s Pastor.

  2. I’m been thinking about this myself. My church has done one for the past 15 yrs & recently I have been wondering if this was doing anything to bring people to Christ. They said that this gives parents a place to go where it’s safe & I agree with that but just wonder if there is something more or different we can do to reach the community. Because, like you said, the church throwing an alternative party, mostly for other Christians. I have only seen a few people that didn’t go to church & a few people that went to other churches stop by other than that it was people from our own church.