Are Church “Fall Festivals” Actually Counter-Productive?

harvest party

Two years ago, I wrote a post that caused a lot of discussion.  I thought I would revisit the subject since this blog has grown by well over 10,000 monthly 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 did one for 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?  Are there really strong opportunities to connect to the people who are “dropping in?”

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.

It seems that on a night that is completely devoted to things that are “dark” (Halloween), that would be the time that the church would want to be OUT in the world spreading the light.  Why do we, instead, feel the need to bring all of the LIGHT into one place and have a party for ourselves?  It’s worth asking…

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

  1. We do our Trunk N Treat around the Central Park in downtown Wellsburg. We surround the park with our cars (it is literally a big square surrounded by streets). For all of the reasons you listed above, we are in the heart of action on that night! We average over 500 kids – with only about 50 of those being our church kiddos! We do our best on this night, to make HIS name known and share the LIGHT! Great article!

  2. We have been discussing these same things and this year have decided to enlist small groups, groups of friends and individuals to offer their houses as “safe houses” for trick or treating. We are asking that they use a theme or game of some kind and will have a contest for best theme/game kind of like we did for our trunk or treat. We will be advertising the homes and are also providing a give a way at each house to connect back to our church.

  3. Thanks for this post. It is definitely something that we all need to give some deep thought. I do think, in some cases, this can be a valuable event. As you point out it is the one night all year that people are voluntarily coming to your house. Some churches that do such events experience the same thing. I am new at my current church and this will be my first trunk-or-treat since coming on staff. But, as I understand it, there is a pretty big draw of un-churched people.

    So, with this in mind I would counter that for some churches the very reason that you suggest maybe they should not have a Halloween alternative is the same reason they SHOULD have one. IF they are drawing un-churched people to their event, then I think they should continue to have this event. After all this is the one time all year when these people will voluntarily come to the church, giving us an opportunity to speak to them and show them God’s love. If we don’t do this event, then it will be the church that is dark when these people come looking for light.

    Ultimately, I do think that we ALL need to closely examine this event and any other we do with a mind for how effective it really is. For me the biggest problem with trunk-or-treat is not whether we attracting un-churched people. In my experience the call of free, abundant candy is enough to bring kids in significant quantities. Rather the problem is what are we doing during these events to TRULY connect with people? What are we doing after the events to follow-up with people? How are we encouraging relationships between our church and the un-churched people that come?

    These events can indeed be bridge events, but what is at the other end of the bridge?

      • I agree with the core of what Matt is saying. This is really driven by community and culture. Having most recently served at a large church in south Florida, I can honestly say that our Spooktacular (Trunk-r-Treat + family friendly service) drew in a lot of the community that didn’t go to church anywhere. We treated the whole service like a Disney experience starting with a family friendly “show.” Once the “show” was over, people waited in rope lines and were “entertained” again. When they finally got to the trunks, it was definitely a party atmosphere and very safe. We reached about 4,000 people last year with our Spooktacular events.

  4. This issue is so polarizing and impossible to know how to best affect each of our communities. If we participate in any way, we are seen as being “part of the darkness” or condoning the celebration. If we don’t plan any alternative in the church, then our kids ministry families are forced to make independent decisions that they may not be strong enough to discern well. If we give out tracts and invite kids to church when they come trick or treating, we can only impact those who knock on our doors. If we go to the streets and scream in a bullhorn that the celebration is evil, then we limit our effectiveness to ever impact people. Geographically, there are so many variables. Everyone has to pray and ask God to give them understanding about their personal responsibilities. It’s a long season of negativity, when darkness and fear are the norm… how could God have ever dreamed this up? It’s extremely difficult for me to see Jesus joining in this spiritually charged, fear-filled event, wearing even a Disney costume and begging for candy from strangers. When my kids were little, we just didn’t participate at all. As they got older, we gave out kids ministry invitations at our door with candy. We’ve done a few church events, but have NEVER had unity within the leadership to provide a clear message that light and peace is the proper message… this always boggles my mind. Why can’t light and peace be a clear message every day? This year, Halloween falls on our community’s final football game of the year, “Senior Night”, and I have a High School Senior, so it takes the evening schedule off of my plate, whew! We will, however, have a 5th Quarter for the JH and HS students at the church following the game. We’ve decided to NOT have any Halloween emphasis, but just celebrate our team’s final game.

  5. I also have been in Children’s Ministry for over 20 years and have done a variety of events on this night. 5 years ago we moved into a new building, a move more visible in the community. We have apartments all around us. We have always had our event, Trunk or Treat on October 31 and had around 1000 to 2000 and a majority of them were not from our Church. Last year it rained on October 31 and we postponed Trunk or Treat to November 2. We still had around 2000 walk through our parking lot. We have had some families visit and some still attend after attending Trunk or Treat. We enjoy the night together as a Church family meeting all of the families. I do not live in this community, the Trick or Treat night was on Nov. 1 and I got to pass out candy or bouncy balls to all of our neighbors, 14 children and 16 teenagers. Where I live is a huge community that everyone would think there would be lots of kids. This is where I am with it… if you are involved in your community and sharing with the families in other ways, don’t feel like you have to do an event just because. We have to plan according to God’s purpose! Right now we feel that God is leading us to continue Trunk or Treat and continue reaching out to 1000 to 2000 or more that comes our way!

    • We have discontinued any and all “Halloween” alternatives and instead have something the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a harvest party. Our focus is the “harvest” field. I don’t want anything to do with Halloween or Halloween alternatives. All they are (in my opinion) is a place for trick or treat inside God’s house. It’s the same thing having the Easter Bunny at Easter. We need to recognize our mission and leave the secular in the world.

      • I agree with you! I wish churches would stop asking themselves what seems to be a good alternative without asking God. Reminds me of the 5000 He fed, and after a while He saw they were only following Him to get fed with food, and not Spiritually. So He says Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you have no part in me. Then many of them stopped following him from then on. Jesus was trying to reach their greatest need the need for Spiritual salvation but they only saw him as someone who could just feed them and give them their Earthly needs. Now if he can review them for just simply wanting their Earthly needs met why does the church try to lure in the world with candy? Not possible because the world knows that the church is just trying to use this as a marketing attempt. Thanks for your post it is encouraging!

  6. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is what I’ve been saying for years! Go into your neighborhood and meet your neighbors! Build a relationship with them! Love it!

  7. Thank you for confirming the stir in my heart over the last couple of years. We do T or T as well. I love it, but now I am trying to break it up I to 3-5 locations in key neighborhoods. Thankfully, our church is smack dab in the middle if the neighborhood. We have many guests that come thru the event and some have visited on Sundays. But there is so many more areas to reach. I won’t be making major changes this year but will prob make the leap in 2015. The biggest drag about our oct 31 this year is Sr Night at the football game…for those who don’t know, TX football is a huge deal. I’m just praying for a good turnout at our T or T; in spite of FOOTBALL!

  8. I was recently asked to take up the task of out reach at our church recently. We normally would do exactly what you’re talking about and gather all of us together in our church apart from our community.
    This year I offered an alternative to this and I am implementing it right now. I rented a building right in the middle of our small world downtown that is in the middle of all the local businesses. This give us an opportunity to interact with our local businesses and to begin to develop those core relationships that can lead to so much more. They were more than excited to have an opportunity to have their shops open and be a part of our downtown event which is driving business to them along with utilizing the downtown as a way to reach people we normally would come into contact with. It’s a win-win for both parties 🙂
    We will have lots of candy, games, gifts that are gospel centered, and also we will be having the Gospel presented to all the little children as they gather at the end by a local favorite character invented by one of our own congregants.
    Our congregation has been in this community for 25 years, but over time we have lost touch with the average person inside of our small real city, so this will be our reintroduction into the community through fun, love, and service.
    I agree with you that the greatest mistake we have made as Christians is to congregate in a bubble somewhere apart from the community we are called to reach. Time to get out of the four walls and walk among the communities we live 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for posting this. We need to remember that not everyone went to Jesus. Jesus had to go to them. We are doing a “light up your city”event where at our home bible groups, they will pass out glow sticks, candy, information about the church, and show the love of Jesus to the trick or treaters. What would show more love, a sign that says “go away, we don’t celebrate Halloween, we are Christians” or actual Christians showing love. Thanks again for posting this, this helps us confirm that we are on the right track.

  10. You can do both. We’ve had an event we call Trac-o-treating. We go in groups door-to-door with our youth and instead of taking candy, they give candy along with an invitation to the Famly Fun Festival which is held later. There is also information about other events and ministries provided by the church. The response at the home when the youth are giving instead of receiving really gets attention and many positive comments. This is taking light to the street. The later event can still have lots of candy (which can be purchased after Halloween at a greatly reduced price!). It can still include costumes which give the kids another place to wear the outfit. The choice can also be made to focus on Thanksgiving instead. When the event is held, we’re not completing with others so have their full attention. I would like to recommend having a good photographer at the event and offer free family photos. This brings out many families and gives you a great reason to have a follow up contact with the families after the event. Blessing to everyone who is working to reach families and children!

  11. Thought provoking article on how we should rethink many approaches the church takes. Each ministry should take the Light to where they have prayed and believe to be the most fruitful. We do ours not as an alternative but on the Sunday night closest to Halloween. We average 300 in our small town. We capitalize on outreach 2 nights in one week! Privately and corporately. Let’s be salt and light!

  12. We have struggled with this as well in the past. We have several smaller communities in our area and we use our Fall Festival as an opportunity to reach out to the families in our neighborhoods and give them an easy way to come and see our church in a non-threatening environment. Because of my concern for it being the biggest block party in town 🙂 we adapted a few years back. Now we host in addition to trunk-or-treat and carnival games a Biblical Scavenger Hunt. Kids search the entire event for different characters from the Bible. When they find them the character shares their story from the Bible and how God worked through them or in them. If the kids find a few or all of the characters they get a special prize. It has made a big impact to sharing the love of Christ with our families that attend. We took our largest outreach the church does and with the Lord’s leading made it more spiritually relevant to those that attend.

  13. I agree ♡ I understand that some people say that the right thing to do is not celebrate it. I get their reasons. I also understand the safety and mission behind the Hallelujah Party and etc. For me, from the second I gave my life to Jesus, I began to notice how the enemy takes everything he can that is of Christ and for His praise and perverts or distorts it for his own darkness so I immediately saw Halloween as a way to do the very same for the Kingdom: Take what was created to be a day to celebrate that which is dark and bring the LIGHT. So each year I decorate my home and every Halloween decoration outside has a scripture attached to it, I buy a BIG bowl and fill with candy goodies with prayers attached to them and leave by the door for children to take while I take my own son out into the world to love on whoever God brings us to. There are SO many people in the world whose lives can be changed by simply noticing them and showing them they matter. I think your blog is so dead on and I am thankful others have heard the same message from God that I have. Blessings!!!!!

  14. couple ways you can do this. one make sure that reaching the kids for Christ is #1 whether in a gospel booth, or in a area the kids need to go to before doing trick or treating/fall harvest
    or go and do the city Halloween event and do a gospel craft etc.
    This is a opportunity to reach kids and families

  15. Last year as a church, we went out into our community and, instead of taking candy from doors, we delivered a special gift to them. We put together a bag filled with a fun candy message using candy bar names, upcoming events, and a few other items. This was a family friendly ministry that they could do together. Parents and the kids both loved it. People were amazed that we didn’t ‘take’ a thing but ‘gave’ a gift. In addition, we were able to meet families on the street too. We didn’t pass out tracks or get overly religious. We just shared Jesus in a practical way. We’re doing it again this year and adding some other fun blessings to it. Excited for opportunities.

  16. We do our Fall Festival the first Wednesday of October every year. We push it as a safe invite for pwople who do not normally attend church. We have bounce house, face painting, ballon animals, mascots from businesses in town, mini golf, mini ponies, laser tag police cars, fire trucks, military vehicles, John Deere tractors, family photo ops and more. We do our best to make this event as attractional as possible for people far from God as well as those close. Conversations happen, relationships form and invites happen. In the end the Holy Spirit is the one who grabs the heart and next steps begin to happen.

  17. My husband and I have felt this way for years. We have not attended our church’s alternative and stayed home greeting the 400 kids and their parents that come to our door with a piece of candy with John 3:16 printed on it. We also carve our pumpkins with the Christian fish cymbal and crosses.

  18. I’ve enjoyed reading many of the comments (hopefully I can finish the rest soon)! Great ideas!! I love seeing how creative our God is! One thing we’ve done in the past is to hold a Fall Festival on a different night and then look for things to do on Halloween. One year we drove the bus around neighborhoods close to our church and did a reverse trick or treat. Gas prices were soaring at the time so we had our church people donate gas cards. We then took those to the doors of the houses in the neighborhood and told the people we wanted to give them a treat. We treated them to a gas card for their family. What strange looks we got!!! But it was fun!
    One other year we took our bus out into the neighborhood, dressed up, and had people walking beside the bus giving out candy as the bus drove around the neighborhood. There wasn’t much of a chance to share the gospel with anyone that way, but it was a way to share kindness and for people to know it came from a church.
    I like the fact that we keep revisiting the things we do and asking if there is another way to reach out to people. I love that God just keeps blessing with more and more ideas. Thanks for leading this discussion!

  19. For several years we did a fall festival and it was very popular. We are a small community of 1700. Then the chamber decided to do a trunk or treat downtown. The first year we had many hundreds of people while the downtown trunk or treat only had a handful of cars and very few people attended. We decided to take our inflatables, games and cotton candy to the trunk or treat and help make it bigger and better.

  20. In my church we usually do a trunk or treat, but not on Halloween night. I like doing the activity at the church because it’s safer than walking around the neighborhood in the dark. My church has the rule of no masks and no full facial make-up, so nobody is anonymous. Also, I’m less likely to expose my children to “adult costumes” worn by teenagers around town. I’ve brought friends with me to the church trunk or treat, too. This is an easy way to get people to meet and befriend others. I think Halloween is a holiday that has a lot of tradition attached to it and that is why we feel we must to something. My church also has a Christmas party, a Valentine’s party, and other random parties all year long. I don’t think Halloween is singled out above any other major holidays. It’s just our culture.

  21. Been there, done that applying my administrative and CM gifts for the church to enjoy. Yep you can even pick up a couple people to fill the endless need of CM workers cause they had so much fun. It encourages Family participation for the Family Ministry visioned church. The church is called to disciple the body to “go and spread the Light & life of Jesus”. GREAT PUMPKIN people.
    I figured it out when a JW neighbor, whom we had befriended, challenged me with a quip as he walked past my home as I decorating on Oct 31 with my big blow up scarecrow the neighborhood kids have come to look forward to, orange lights, & pumpkins. He said , “I thought you were a Christian!!!” with a challenging look & tone. “I am”, I replied, and added, “I want the neighborhood kids & parents to know they are welcome here, that it is a warm, positive place where I will smile and greet, & serve them.” So take those great hang around & visit party ideas & put them in your front yard and let your whole family participate in serving. Plant seeds for the harvest to come. Let the neighbors talk about the house that was the most fun ( not spooky or scary ). I do the same thing at Christmas. I took the Church display activity and brought it home. The neighbors are invited to an Open House where we decorate cookies, make Nativity ornaments, have treats, activities, fun and they get to see my extensive Nativity display. At both events there are take home items that include truths about Jesus. You know the song, “don’t hide it under a bushel, let it shine…” Yep, the Bible says join together & worship and celebrate Him, but more times we are told to put our faith into action and reach out. If people come to your church activity-GREAT. Just be open to it also being training for them to do elsewhere as a family if it becomes counter- or less productive.

  22. I not only agree with what you are saying, but I would take it even one step further. Our church culture today is really caught up in an “event” mindset. Even our community outreach tends to focus around events to coincide with things such as Halloween, Easter and Christmas. The problem is we are called to make disciples…that is not an event. Consider this….wars are almost never won in a single battle. We remember the names from great battles and we celebrate those victories….but wars are won from the many actions of unnamed soldiers fighting in unknown places day after day. My point it this…while events are great and there is nothing wrong in celebrating them…our outreach strategy needs to focus on building bridges into the lives of people in our communities and connecting them with Christ..day after day after day. I strongly recommend programs such as sidewalk Sunday school that can take Jesus into the community and reach children and their families week after week. It is tremendously effective in building relationships…building lives and building disciples. If we’re going to reach people…then we need to go where people live. That is truly what we are commanded to do!

  23. I can see your point and agree. Our Church has the Harvest Festival before Halloween. We do it more to draw the neighborhood together and a time of family fellowship at the end of the summer.
    Getting the kids involved in clean spiritual fun, and also being able to bring the Light to some that may never have a chance again. The neighborhood needs to know that Our God is Alive and WELL.

  24. I agree!!!!!!! I did this for years and it seemed that it was mainly church folks who came out. Even though many guests came, the sweat, blood, and tears (yes tears from dropping pumpkins on my foot to whole displays falling down), and the money, were NOT worth the effort as far as reaching people for Christ. Next year we will be MUGGING our communities! We will knock on doors (yes, trick or treating) and instead of taking we will give. A cool Mug with church logo and website filled with cool stuff. Can’t wait for our communities to get MUGGED!

  25. I am encouraged to hear the progression of thought you all have gone through. I am first a seed planter. To plant good seed and shine brightly for Jesus in my neighborhood I have to be present in my neighborhood. Our Senior Minister has led us in understanding that we need to be at our homes with our lights on engaging our community where we live. I love it. My wife and I were going to set up outside with hot chocolate and fresh popped popcorn last year but it was rainy out. We did the popcorn inside. Others I know get together and grill up hotdogs and pass out pop. They do this by connecting with their neighbors. We always strive to give out good candy along with a Bible Verse attached to a pencil or bag of popcorn. We have so many kids who come by our house. Last year we gave the candy to the kids and the pop corn to the parents. Lots of fun and my kids enjoy dressing up and helping us pass out the candy to the kids. Service project and an attitude of giving.

  26. I appreciate your thoughts on the “dark” and “Light”. Really hadn’t thought about that aspect of the no one being home. I haven’t thought of the “fall festivals” as an alternative but as a safe choice for our church families and the people in the community. We live in a society that has so many “sick” people in it. This gives people chance for their kids to collect their treats without worry of needles or drugs inside of them. As for leaving your home dark…have someone stay home with the light on. Pass out nice treats and a tract telling them Jesus loves them, with the name of your church on the back. Believe me, the kids remember who gave them a normal size candy bar instead of a mini. Two places to minister the light.

  27. The Fall Fest or Hallelujah Carnival that we have on Halloween is for anyone and everyone, not just our church. If all you do is have kids come in, play games, eat food, and get candy, then, yes, I would agree that you probably aren’t reaching many if any at all. However, we intentionally present the Gospel. We have one booth for our candy art. We buy the Gospel candy art. As the kids fill their tubes with the candy art representing the colors of the Gospel, the leaders at that booth also, present the Gospel. The year before last, we also, had a camp fire for s’mores and halfway through the night gathered everyone around the campfire for a Christian skit and then, resumed the night’s activities. We give out Christian prizes and we have a jail where we discuss the theme “wanted by God: reward in Heaven”. As far as the neighborhood, hardly any kids in our town go door to door because they are at the church instead. Many people tell us that they only had 2 or 3 kids when they used to have over 100. So, I guess it’s how you approach it.

  28. I grew up in a church that did an amazing “Harvest Party” and drew thousands of kids every year and had a great presentation of the Gospel to boot. When I became a pastor for the first time where I am today, the first year we decided to follow suit and have an alternative candy filled, costume themed extravaganza. (Keep in mind we are in a small rural town of 800 plus people)

    It was a HUGE success and we were the talk of the town… I think we had 130 kids. BUT… it came with a large financial cost and the short 5 minute presentation at the end seemed to be more about people wanting to win the “Wii” than hear about Jesus.

    After some discussion and prayer… we decided to pour the additional funds/resources into our Spring VBS the following year. So instead of doing 2 things well… we now do 1 thing GREAT! It has been 4 years now and we have had 120 to 130 kids the past few years. Not for just one night throwing candy at monsters… but 5 days of sharing Jesus in more life changing ways! (I guess technically we still throw candy at little monsters…)

    Here is my thought… if you are seeing FRUIT from your Harvest Party and that is your churches niche in your community, KEEP DOING IT with excellence. But if you are just doing it because it’s what you have done or what you have seen done elsewhere… pray and ask God to show you if there is a better alternative for your church.

    My LONG 2 cents… be blessed and go be about the Father’s business my friends!

  29. Hi,
    We do Trunk or Treat at our Church but it is never on Trick or Treat night. We use it as an opportunity to share with the children and the families that come from our community the love of Christ through fellowship of the word, food and going trunk or treating. Our Pastor will do an interactive devotion such as the pumpkin message. This year we want to focus on connecting with the visitors, and to do this they must register their child so that we have contact information, and their name will go into a drawing for a nice prize. Always looking for new ways to connect.

  30. At our church, we have put together some fun Servant Evangelism events over the years that have given our people a chance to “be the light” in our neighborhoods on that very dark night know as Halloween. One we have used many times is “Reverse Trick or Treat”: Families from our church take home with prepackaged apple cider or hot cocoa & candy baggies, microwave popcorn packets, etc, with a little sticker on them saying “Happy Harvest from your friends at ____ Church”. We may put some info in the package too about an upcoming event at the church we would like to invite them to. People take those packets with them as they Trick or Treat with their kids, and when they knock on a door, hand the homeowner our packet as they hand our kids candy. People are pleasantly surprised with the gift, and are grateful for this small act of kindness!
    One other idea we have used is to host “Light the Night” events in area neighborhoods. Families from the church are “hosts” (and several from the church volunteer to help at each home). Host homes are equipped with food, cotton candy, hot cocoa, candy (of course!), games, bounce house, etc, as well as extra lighting so their house is the “brightest spot on the block”! Families stop by as they Trick or Treat with their children and are curious as to why this family would do all of this for their neighborhood for FREE. We tell them that on what could be a dark and scary night, we are trying to show God’s love in a simple way to them, no strings attached.
    We try to model the Servant Evangelism motto that “small things done in great kindness can change our world.”

  31. I read your post 2 years ago and knew we needed to make a change. I read one of the comments on that post and modeled our event after thiers. It was similar to Dawn’s comment. We did it last year with huge success and many families are looking forward to doing it again this year. Thanks for bringing this up and offering an alternative to something that we’ve always done.

  32. Our October 31st activities are a two-pronged attack. Our children’s ministry puts on a Harvest Festival complete with costumes, contests, games, food, and fun while our outreach department produces a play with a strong gospel message. Since we anticipate 2-3,ooo visitors from the community, we hold a separate Harvest Festival for our kids on Oct. 29th.

    Families come from the neighborhood and surrounding areas for the Harvest Festival and stay for the drama. Every year hundreds of people come to the altar at each of the two showings on the 31st as well as additional showings for two nights before the Harvest Festival.

    Last year, we put on the Harvest Festival without the drama. Thousands came to the festival, few stayed for the movie that was a last minute addition. The fun was there, the impact was not. For us, it wasn’t a bridge event if it didn’t lead to presenting the gospel. This year, the play is back.

    One of the deciding factors for reinstating the play was the number of members of the congregation who stated that the reason they are serving God and they reason they joined the church was they were reached by the message presented in the play.

  33. I think it’s ok to have an “alternative” if you’re being purposeful inviting the “outside” in. I lived out in the country for years and was very excited to be in a neighborhood where I would have trick-or-treaters. I was very disappointed that I gave out 1 piece of candy! In the city in which I live, people who live in less privileged neighborhoods flood the local trunk-or-treats. I think it depends on the community and the circumstances whether or not it’s counter-productive.
    Also, St. Patrick’s Day often focuses on the pinching and luck, but St. Patrick was a real man (Maewynn Succot sp?) born in England and sold as a slave to Ireland. He escaped and was trained as a theologian and took the Word of God back to Ireland as a missionary, using the shamrock to explain the trinity to the local people.

  34. In our town, the kids go to Main Street to trick or treat on Halloween. It’s the main shopping area in our small town. We used to do the alternative party at our church, but a couple years ago decided to get our church members out on Main Street and made tshirts that say “shine!” We give out candy to nearly 2,000 children on Halloween night and invite families to our Fall Festival the weekend after Halloween so we can connect with the families even more. This will be our 3rd year and it continues to grow.

  35. i believe you can only find an answer if you define the question. What is the true “goal” of the church in holding the event?

    I am known as “The Block Party Guy” in my organization. For 6 years I have traveled to churches and assisted them in holding events such as Fall Festivals. I bring all the trappings of a great party; bounce houses, popcorn machine, cotton candy, stage & sound system.

    If the goal is church unity and fellowship, as is sometimes needed then reaching lost shouldn’t be on the grading scale of a success or not. I have done those kinds of things with churches but it is truly rare that a Pastor will state that as a goal.

    Typically they want to do an event that reaches out to people and either draws them to take a step towards Christ that very day or in the very near future at another church function.

    Either way if a church fails to plan and then follow up with those they reach out too, then I do call that a failure and perhaps spiritual abortion.

    The properly planned and executed Block party or other outward reaching event can be an excellent evangelism tool. I call it The Big Industrial Net Method. It is just that though, a tool and should never replace a corporate bodies understanding for personal soul winning and mentoring.

    I have been a part of these types of events and have seen churches double, Sunday Schools explode and hundreds be saved as a result of one day’s work.

  36. We had a pastor several years ago that taught us that Halloween was the devils holiday and explained what all the things of Halloween stood for. That is when we started having Hallelujah night as an alternative to trick or treating. This past year we had everyone register before they played games and we sent out follow up letters afterwards.

  37. I just want to know why Halloween is “darker” than…say…Christmas or Easter. Those last 2 are supposed to be holy…Biblical celebrations…sacred to the church…right?
    Well, last time I checked the history…there was a whole lotta evidence that all of them…and then some…are deeply rooted in pagan, secular, illicit, for self-agrandizing and power-protecting motivations. Just do a little research and it’s there.
    In fact…while you’re at it, check out how the institution of church got it’s start…and have some internal convo’s about what God really had in mind. If you’re really open and seeking truth, it should be a long and GREAT discussion.

  38. at the small church we attended prior to moving to LittleRock, our annual Halloween activity was something we called “the Pitstop.” knowing that most kids are just making the rounds to get as much candy as possible, we opened our doors & offered a potty stop. anyone could use our bathrooms while we served hot cocoa & coffee & handed out full sized candy bars for hours. the church members were dressed in costumes & available for conversation throughout the night. it was a great opportunity to interact with the rest of the community & we got a reputation as a generous & approable church 🙂

  39. I think things like that are important, if not even for bridging the gap and reaching the lost, just for the kids who already go there. I think it’a important to know you can still have fun while serving God. They don’t have to miss out on the fun. I know serving God isn’t all about having fun all the time, but I like to think God knows how to have a good time. LolWhen I was growing up, we didn’t have fall festivals at church and my mom did not let us go trick-or-treating. I remember always feeling so cheated by that.

  40. The fact that Christians stay in their homes and hide from Trick or Treaters is the very reason I implemented Reverse Trick or Treat. Reverse Trick or Treat is an event where parents and kids go out into the community and give a gift to those that are passing out candy. The “gift” usually consisted of bags of microwavable popcorn that were fitted with a sticker that had the information of the church.

    We would meet at the church and pair off into groups and hand maps of the city to each group. The teams were then fitted with their popcorn bags and sent into the community. When the teams came back we would have snacks and a time of testimony. I would always tell the kids that our mission is not to go out receive candy but to be a blessing to the community. To tell a kid to turn down candy is probably the meanest thing I have ever done, but we immediately rewarded the kids with a hug tub of candy (as much as they can fit into a large bag.) This outreach was not really successful in terms of promotion of the church but it was successful in moving the church into the community and getting the “saints” out of their comfort zone.

  41. Great insight, we went to doing hotspots throughout our city and homes would cook hotdogs and hand out tons of candy, connect with neighbors and invite to our kids Christmas event. Very effective and we have 12 spots this year.

  42. I guess, at what point is it no longer an “alternative” event?
    If non Christians and Christisns are attending, what makes it alternative?

    • Well, Joe, I think the “alternative” part of the event was the fact that it is an “alternative” to going out and trick or treating and celebrating in the traditional “Spooks, Ghost, and Goblins” way that the world is celebrating. It wasn’t meant to be an “alternative” to being around non-Christians. I am pretty sure there is never supposed to be an event that we desire to “exclude” non-Christians. Not every event is evangelical in nature, of course. But, my point and reason for stopping our event was that non-Christians WEREN’T attending. I felt that, as “salt and light”, we were missing a rare opportunity to be with those who need us most on those evenings. Make sense?

  43. Many years ago I asked myself this very question. We decided that it was not good to hide in the church and let evil reign even for one night. So we started holding a street party in one of our neighborhood during Trick or treat. Puppets, Dramas, Food and Prizes for the children. It has become an annual event for our city drawing hundreds each year. We have people working the crowds sharing the gospel. A Prayer tent for people who request it and a Gospel presentation just before the prize give away. Last year we had eleven salvation’s. I will never go back to just having a harvest party. One response that we receive from a young mother was “I am so Glad you are here every year Giving me a safe place to bring my child. Thank you for caring for my family.” This Halloween will be our thirteenth year reaching our neighbors.

  44. I look at it less as being a bridge and more as seed planting…it isn’t about the activity, the fun or the candy, it is about what you show…Love. We are to be a light, an encouraging word, a prayer for a protected night and someone who gives wanting nothing but the best for those we come in contact with. I did the carnival, but switched to just being an open door, a place they can show off their costume and make a memory by taking their picture, printing it out and tell them we are praying a safe, fun night for them and their family…no names, no lists, just love.

  45. My pastor believes that if we get them on the campus it’s one step. Possibly the first step toward getting them in the church. He believes that every “touch” we can have creates the possibility for one more connection in the future and that if someone comes on our campus more than 5 times for anything they will begin attending services. Thus we will probably always do Trunk Or Treat as long as he is our lead pastor. Many drive by our building all the time and do not even realize we are a church. Part of our issue is that we are a cinder block building and people around here seem to think we area a school or an industrial building. Our signage is regulated strongly by the city. So we can’t have bigger or nicer signs. But when we do Trunk or treat we have over 600 kids annually. I can’t see our lead pastor nixing it. But I sent him the article and it might initiate some good conversation among us. As far as this year goes. We are doing it.

  46. I actually love this discussion! Every since I can remember, we have always had an event at whichever church we have attended and I never thought twice about it! Interested in reading the different views on how we as Christ followers are to handle this “dark” holiday and treat it the way Jesus would.

  47. We have always used Hallelujah Night as an outreach. We have conducted in a community center of a project near our church. And at times have held it at the church. But the gospel is always preach at a child’s level (with parents watching). We take a break at the height of attendance and our children’s pastor ministers. We also tell of the evils of Halloween ( and Satan). It is well attended by the community and most of our own people are busy running the games, serving food to our guests and mi fling among the parents for one on one evangelism.

  48. We , the church, have to make every opportunity to invite others into our church and share the “good news” of Jesus Christ. This is a perfect opportunity for us to evangelize…plant the seed and God will give the increase.

  49. I see things differently in some regards. I have a friend who is putting a bible verse on his garage, having a popcorn machine, cotton candy, and hopefully passing out tracks. Last year he said people were very blessed and they prayed with some others.

    I think this is great. Long story short its not what I decide to do and I spend the night with my family and enjoy harvest fest. I understand the whole “they are coming to our house” idea. But I decide to evangelize my neighbors everyday of the year or as often as I can. I would rather have popcorn, cotton candy on another date where incan invite people over letting them know our beliefs and desires for our neighborhood and community. The pressure to evangelize on Halloween is kind of silly to me. We at times knock on doors every Thursday to share Christ why feel added pressure on Halloween, just be me -a Christian. I just see it as a Amen from believers and get your propaganda out of my face from the heathens. And a nice change for the moralist. Building relationships is important fly by nights get more #’s and look good to the church but genuine friendship is where you impact lives. My 2 cents

  50. It is clearly no different having a festable at the church rather than trick or treat. The church should not e en acknowlege satans great day. The churches are basically joining in and don’t want t to sacrifice giving up the fun of holloween for God totally . If you change the name of it to a bar est festival, I guess it takes the guilt away… Right?

  51. I’m an adult Sunday school teacher and my church just hosted a fall festival. And again I’m upset. I don’t understand. I love my church, bur really? A harvest festival? Whaaat?

    Kids dressed up.
    Elders passing out candy.

    Man this is obsurd. I spoke to 2 other brothers and said I didn’t agree with this is a pagan practice the bible says not to be part of pagan practices. They one agree and told me to just close my eyes. The other said it’s a harvest festival. Shouldn’t we thank got for the harvest?

    I’m thinking what are you talking about; we are not a farmer and even if we were please show me where in the bible does it say to celebrate the harvest? I don’t want to leave my church. But how could I attend a church that hosts a holloween party? They say oh its just for the kids they are having fun. But kids can have fun without any of that. What are we showing the kids? Nothing new I tell you all we are doing is perpetuating this pagan practice.

  52. I totally agree with what you wrote. I recently began attending a local church which I found out celebrates Halloween in a big way. God led me away from having anything to do with it 35 years ago, when my daughters were very young. I never have agreed with the “alternative”, either. Now, I must find a different church. Jesus is the Light of the world and the giver of life. How can His people participate in a holiday or alternative that honors and celebrates darkness and death?
    Thank you.

  53. My thoughts also! Great words for Christians to hear. We are the salt and the light. Thank you for your honest truth in Christ. Just like other things we give away to live this life….why not give this “celebration” of evil away?