Reflecting on Halloween – Or some other holiday that local Christians take issue with.
This is the second edition of an article that I wrote for the Awakening, the youth and young adults ministry of our global denomination, the IPHC, some years ago. The changes reflect the fact that I am no longer in ministry at the church in focus within, that much has grown there as well as in my life and ministry since the original publication, and the purpose of this article’s publication.
Somehow our society as a whole has gotten really good at segregating within itself and producing individuals surrounded by crowds who are not connected and are adept at passing each other by. We are constantly running around working on something and trying to get somewhere and miss the amazing people who are all around us. Fortunately the most social of holidays is just around the corner – Halloween. For all you Christians out there, this is an amazing opportunity to show God’s love to people. For all you non-Christians, maybe we Christians won’t seem so scary while standing next to some guy with a severed head. Maybe.
Halloween is one of those times of the year when the crazies come out in droves, and yes I am talking about well-meaning but suddenly outspoken Christians. Elsewhere throughout the city, there are thousands of people having a great time getting a sugar-buzz on and these are my kind of people.
This first group has really become quieted over the years in our little corner of the world. While yes, there are those that I can see coming a mile away to ‘talk’ as the season approaches, most Christians around here participate in their church’s functions that evening and/or Trick-or-Treat. My kids have fallen under the ‘both’ category.
Our previous church held an annual fair that I could never remember the name of, which was hosted by our children’s department. Way back in the day when I was young it was the ‘Harvest Fest’, tagged as a safe alternative to Halloween right alongside every other church’s take on the evening. I was never sure what the ‘unsafe’ part of the evening was or why the city folk were talking about harvests. I did know that the harvesting of candy was much better in my complex than at the church – but whatever, we often did both. Another fun development at some churches has been the Truck-or-Treat events which, while being a play on the evening’s name instantly becomes the scariest maffia sounding event in history – but who thinks of these things.
To be fair our church did connect with some amazing people from our community through the fair. Free entry, free candy, free games, free prizes, free inflatable stations everywhere. Not a bad night by any means, but unfortunately there were a few cons. The church did this event so well that we later learned after changing its nature that community members would walk past believing that it must have been for the churchgoers alone. Add to it the large bill that we racked up (which really isn’t really a con as we did it gladly). Hey! Think of it this way – it was probably just as naturally inviting as a Christmas production… To be very clear, in the church’s continuing effort to be part of the community the leadership moved the entire event outdoors, ‘curbside’ and it has been received far better than anyone could have hoped for. Way to go guys!
While this is a great community connection point for the church it is missing something that is pretty typical for any church event when it comes to engagement; it is full of self-selecting participants. So what about the other people that are in our communities that won’t approach a church property for a whole host of real and maybe even painful reasons?
Years ago, after so many conversations taking place in the hallways of our church office about Halloween and its potential to connect, I decided to shut up and do what we’d been desiring. The next October 31st I abandoned my church family and set off into the community to spend time with people on this infernal night while they sacrificed the neighbor’s cat and drew pentagrams everywhere.
Much to my delight Halloween was just as I remembered it, full of happy kids and their parents enjoying conversations with other group members and even other families while walking about. My neighborhood’s normally vacant roadways were abuzz with activity and laughter where I would normally only experience cars entering their respective garages followed by the gentle thud of the automatic door cutting off all contact. Halloween, as it turns out, is the only day of the year that my neighbors gleefully come knocking on my door looking for interaction!
For the past three years, my townhouse’s garage has been re-tasked as Halloween central. Everything gets moved to the back, up goes some pipe ‘n’ drape or black poly to hide the mess and in comes a bunch of jack-o-lanterns that I make with my kids, a ton of candy, midway games to see how much candy the visiting kids get, awesome thumping music, smoke, lights, and a coffee and hot chocolate station for the parents to round out the experience. How’s it gone? Amazing!
There were not as many as I had hoped the first year but that grew significantly the second year. The key here is that these are my neighbors so I’m not concerned with numbers. There was not a single negative or odd reaction, only repeated grand thanks and some great conversations. People were looking for this the following year as they had planned to stop in for a ‘break’ on their candy spree route. On one of these great nights my wife had returned from the church fair thingy and I was asking how it was going only to overhear a lady who was currently helping herself to some coffee and the mixings that I had ripped off from the church earlier that day say, “I wouldn’t go anywhere near a church!” Well, guess what sucker – you just loved. I didn’t say it out loud. She was back next year, and the next and each time we served her. Did it help her – I don’t know. But I’d never laid eyes on her until she was in my garage drinking my coffee on Halloween.
What if our Vintage Church families learned to host fun Halloween moments in their neighborhoods? What if we all took just a little bit more time to forget about the people that we always spend time with a set up an evening for people that we don’t know that live two doors down?
If you’re up for the challenge here is a brief outline to help you be present with the people in your neighbourhood:
- Have Fun. That’s why they are there – not to worship the Dark Lord – we’re all looking to have fun so smile and laugh with whoever shows up.
- Give Candy, Nothing Else. And if you’re a Christian NO Bible tracks or sermons. Just be with people in the moment.
- Have Help. It is best to have several people around. I found it chaotic at times when large groups rolled up. You always want to have an adult to talk with the other adults so make sure that there are family members or friends who are old enough to add to the workforce.
- Stand Out. It’s got to look good. Not for decor sakes but so that people can tell that you care. This does not mean that your setup has to be expensive, just thoughtful.
- Plan for the pass-through. While making the stop at your home most people are generally looking to enjoy and move on. Don’t add elements that require lots of time as they may choose to pass by.
- Be kid-friendly. In your efforts to engage your neighbors don’t move away from the ‘safe’ part where ‘safe’ means ‘underpants safe’. NO SCARY STUFF. Older kids will enjoy the game – even the ‘too cool’ kids can be engaged. Just trash talk them. The aim here is to be a blessing to everyone, not just a few people.
Best of luck should you proceed, and remember, some of the best people that you will ever know may just walk across your property. Take time, be present and enjoy the moment.