Are you conflicted about how your church should handle Halloween? Some families enter in while others strongly don’t. If your church does something to celebrate, are you giving ground to the evil one?
Those are valid concerns. In our earliest years, we went back and forth on the issue. But with the benefit of experience I have concluded that Halloween in the US can be one of our most effective evangelistic, outreach events.
Last year we had 2,000 people in our church parking lot for our Halloween Party. During Covid, we had 1200 cars drive through our socially-distanced trick or treat. Every year, we give the gospel to every family that comes to our safe, wholesome Halloween party for their kids.
Do you want to attract your community to church and Jesus, and overcome the darkness that rises on Halloween?
Of course you do!
Here are 13 best practices we’ve learned over the years:
1. Call it a Halloween Festival
Unchurched families don’t know what a Harvest Festival is, so they aren’t looking for one. They like celebrating Halloween and want a safe place to do it with their children. Some may show up at your Harvest Fest, but you’re asking them to step over your cultural barrier. Instead, your church should step over theirs and invite them to the Halloween party they are looking for.
That may not go over well with the saints in your congregation who believe that naming your event like the world means that you are lifting up all that is evil about Halloween.
Remind them that it began as All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saints Day. It started as a religious holiday, and evil has made it dark. It’s time to bring light and reclaim the day. Use All Hallow’s Eve to reach families in your community and to lift up the name of Jesus!
2. Hold it on Halloween Night
A Fall Festival on a Saturday in October is fine, but don’t think you are providing a light-filled alternative for Halloween. Families will come to your Harvest Festival, but more would come if you planned it for a time when they are looking for their place to trick or treat.
3. Publicize it to your Community
In our area in Southern California, surprisingly, we can deliver flyers about our event to the school district and they will send one home with every child. Go figure! It’s such good family publicity; we do it every time we have a family-oriented event.
What avenues exist for you to publicize your Halloween party?
Here are some basics:
- Print business-sized invite cards and put two in the program in the two weeks leading up to Halloween. Ask your congregation to invite their neighbors and co-workers.
- A sign on the street to get the word out to everyone who drives past your church every day.
- Spread it through social media. Post about it every day on Facebook and Instagram during October. Ask people to like and share it.
- Some years we have had a volunteer who took flyers to nearby businesses to post in their windows and put on their counters.
4. Raise up an Army of Volunteers
So many good things happen when you rally the church around an event that reaches into your community.
- Church members are more excited about it, and they will naturally talk about it and invite their friends and neighbors.
- It can be a first-serve experience for newcomers who haven’t found their way into an ongoing place of ministry. They get a good taste of what it’s like to be involved and afterward it’s a natural step to ask them to join a ministry team.
- Relationships are built as people have time together at the party.
- Joy and hope spread as the church works together to accomplish a common goal.
- Momentum builds as people see your church is on the move for Christ.
- Leaders are developed as church members take on small chunks of leadership.
- The church serves inter-generationally as you involve the teens in serving at the party.
Be sure to take good care of your engaged army of Halloween Party volunteers. Break the responsibilities into chunks that people want to do, cast vision, and express your thanks to them.
5. Provide Lots of Candy
It’s like the Easter eggs on Easter. Unchurched parents care about their kids getting the good stuff.
We mix Trunk or Treat, where people decorate their cars and pass out candy from their trunks as families walk through our parking lot, with some carnival-style booths. Every where they go, there is more candy. Kids come with empty pumpkin buckets and leave candy-wealthy.
During the weeks leading up to Halloween we place bins in our lobby and ask church members to fill them with high quality, wrapped and sealed candies. The volunteers who host a Trunk or Treat car usually supply about 80% of their own candy. We supplement them with these donations when their supply runs out.
And because we care about health, there are also non-candy prizes and gifts at the booths and from the cars.
6. Have a Booth where you Share the Gospel
This should be the biggest, best booth in the best location — the one nobody misses.
We like to use Eternity Changers resources. (Full disclosure: my daughter-in-law and son are the founders and I am proud of them for the work they are doing to equip their peers to disciple their children.) Use your favorite children’s tools to present the Gospel or go to Eternity Changers to see what they offer.
We use a craft to talk them through the Gospel, and give them a wristband when they complete it. We have trained team members and kids in the booth to talk with parents and kids about giving their lives to Jesus.
7. Get them Inside your Building
Years ago I read that 14% of people who see your church bathrooms will come back to check out your church, so we work to get people inside our building during the party.
Our Halloween Festival involves Trunk or Treat cars, so we do the whole thing in the parking lot. Except the bathrooms. We are clear with directions to the bathrooms, and we’re glad to welcome them into the building and show them our children’s area. We know it makes it easier for them to come to a weekend service.
Keep your visitor information in an obvious place so those who are curious can grab some info to learn more.
We’re meeting many people these days who haven’t been to church since the pandemic. They are looking for a new church home and if a non-threatening peek inside our building will help them venture back to church, we are eager to show them around.
8. Use a Raffle to Collect Contact Info
People tend to be more protective of their phone numbers and email address these days… until they discover you’re offering a raffle prize. There’s rarely hesitation to give us their contact info if it means a chance to win a big basket of prizes for their kids.
Draw a winner every hour during the event and announce the winner over the loudspeakers. After the drawings mention that another drawing is coming in the next hour, and tell them where they can put their name in the raffle basket.
You spread goodwill with your generosity.
Some church member might like to make and donate the raffle baskets as part of the volunteer ministry for the event.
A few raffle basket ideas:
- Craft supplies like markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, stickers, colored paper, and painting supplies.
- Christian books for kids and a children’s Bible.
- Games for kids with some family Table Talk Cards.
9. Follow up with People who give you their Contact Info
In the week after Halloween, send a casual email to those who gave you their contact info. Thank them for coming and invite them to come to church next weekend. Mention your children’s program, something in the sermon that might be helpful, and your next event for kids. Be casual and welcoming.
10. Have Security
We have never had a problem, but it’s wise to have a few muscular men on site with walkie-talkies ready to help out if a security issue arises. We have lots of Marines in our church who volunteer; you may have retired policemen or others with security experience.
11. Pray Earnestly over the Event
Two verses from Ephesians 6 are come to mind. Verse 12 outlines who we are fighting:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The battle is no joke, but we know that we have the victory through Christ’s blood shed on the cross. Ephesians 6:18 tells us how to pray:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Early on, work with your event leaders to make a specific list of prayer requests for your Halloween Fest and spread it around: your email prayer team, during staff prayer, in your regular prayer groups, and send it personally to those you know are intercessors.
It can be powerful if there are a few volunteers who will be in prayer during the event itself, tucked away in your prayer room or someone’s office, covering the volunteers, the guests, the children, and asking for the Holy Spirit to accomplish all he wants in each life.
12. Celebrate the Wins with your Staff and Leaders
Everyone worked hard, and for the momentum to take hold, you want to tell the stories and celebrate the victory with your staff, board, and key leaders. Keep track of the stories you hear of families who came to Christ or are coming back to church, of the teens who served, and even of the cute things the little kids said. Celebrate as you hear the stories, and be quick to share them with others. And if possible, film the event and show a collage recap in your church service the following Sunday.
Count the numbers and tell them, too:
- how many came
- how many heard the Gospel
- how many volunteers participated.
It’s all a win for your church and the Kingdom.
13. Plan your next Event to Attract the Families in your Community to your Church
Make these holiday events part of your strategy to attract young families to your church.
Parents are looking for fun events to do with their kids, and they will learn to watch for the activities your church offers. They will tell their friends about your events. And when the time is right, they will find themselves looking for God at your church.
Christmas is the next logical time for a family-oriented outreach event. We hold a Children’s Christmas Movie Night in early December and invite all our Halloween guests to attend. Then we have Valentines Day, then Easter, then Kids Camp. Four a year to become known as a church for children.
What can you do to make this Halloween a day of outreach and church growth?
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