What’s a Church Supposed to Do With Halloween?

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and flannel abounds everywhere you turn.  While there are many favorite events and experiences associated with the Fall season, one of my favorites is North Side’s annual Fall Festival.

For years, this event has been a great night for people inside and outside of our church family to experience a safe, fun evening with their loved ones.

From time to time, someone will ask: “Why do you guys have your Fall Festival on October 31st?  You know what Halloween stands for, don’t you?”

That is a great question.  I always love getting to talk with people about what we do and why we do it.  I hope the following explanation clarifies some things.

The Origins of Halloween

The origins of Halloween are disputed.  From Wikipedia articles to encyclopedia entries, people are divided on the origin of the holiday and the meaning behind the holiday.

  • For some, this celebration represents “All Saints’ Day.”  It’s a time when the Church enters into a holy season in which they remember and celebrate believers who have gone before them and died.  This event is used to honor their legacy and learn from their stories.  Obviously, this celebration is marked differently according to which sect of Christianity one is belonging.  Catholics celebrate it differently than certain Protestant denominations who celebrate it.
  • For others, it is a day to celebrate “Reformation Day” remembering when Martin Luther hammered the 95 Theses on the door of the Church in Wittenberg.  Speaking out against unbiblical activities commonly practiced within the church at that time, Luther called out church leaders and began a significant time in church history called the Protestant Reformation.
  • For others, this holiday has pagan origins in which people would dress in costumes to ward off ghosts in order to provide peace around the home.  Some people will use this holiday to promote and practice pagan rituals associated with witchcraft.
  • And for the majority of citizens, this day is held as an American holiday in which kids can have fun by dressing up as their favorite superhero and get lots of candy.  For the majority of Americans, there is simply no more significance than that.

Due to the varying reasonings behind the holiday, you can understand why some are conflicted about whether or not to celebrate the holiday.  In lieu of celebrating the holiday outright, some churches have attempted to have a party but distance itself from accompanying connotations:

  • Some call their event “Trunk or Treat” because “trick” has a deceitful connotation.  Some will actually do it all in the trunks of cars in the parking lot to fit the theme.
  • Some have a “Fall Festival” but do it on a day other than October 31st.  They will do the same type of activities but just on another date to distance itself from the actual day celebrated as Halloween.
  • Some will have a “Judgment House” which is a church’s version of a haunted house.  In this situation, the scary part is watching someone visit hell and Satan is the scary figure who is ruling over hell.  The danger here is that fear doesn’t lead to salvation, the kindness of God does (Rom. 2:4).  Also, it can depict that Satan is the landlord of hell which is not biblically accurate.  It was created for him to be tormented and not to be the tormentor (Matt. 25:41).  If done well, it can serve as a good evangelistic outreach, but those presenting must be very careful with this type of presentation.
  • There are also many other names and many other activities that can be associated with them (Pumpkin Patch Party, Harvest Party, Trunk or Treat, Hallelujah Party, Hallow-Jesus, Holy Ghost Weenie Roast, and others just to name a few).

Why We Do What We Do

Years ago, I realized that churches must decide if they want to reject, to receive, or to redeem differing elements in our culture.  Whether it be Halloween, Christmas traditions, or whatever it might be, those are the options.

  1. Reject – Completely rejecting something that culture is doing.  Speak out against it and forbid members to practice it.
  2. Receive – Accepting it “as is.”  Join in with the celebration in an attempt to keep people and don’t change anything.
  3. Redeem – Using the day on the calendar as a way to take something with certain negative connotations and flipping it to something positive.

That is what our church has decided to do on the day of Halloween.

We have decided to redeem that day and use it for something good.

This is how we try to redeem that time:

  1. Provide a Safe and Wholesome Alternative – Let’s face it: parents feel the pressure from their kids to get costumes and candy on that day.  As our culture progresses in certain ways, it is becoming less safe to walk down streets these days.  In the times we live in, parents can no longer feel safe with allowing their children to just wander down the street.  So at our Fall Festival, we provide a great place for families to enjoy together.  People can dress up.  Games are played.  Candy is dished out.  But all of this happens with your family and not without your family.  For many parents, this type of event keeps the family united and safe.
  2. Welcome in the Community – The parents mentioned above are not just church-going parents.  Parents value safety for their children.  The Fall Festival has proven to be a great first exposure to our church for many people in our community.  Many people’s first contact with our church campus and our church family came as a participant in this event.  Our staff has been praying for weeks that God would use the Fall Festival in order that people outside our church family would have a positive experience here and believe that the people of this church are caring, accepting Christians who they wouldn’t mind visiting again sometime.  Every year, we get a stack of cards from visitors that desire more information on the church and it has been a great introduction into the life of our church family.
  3. Enjoy Fellowship – This element is a huge one.  We don’t shrink back from the fact that we want this event to be a fun and memorable night for those of all ages.  That’s why we have something for all ages.  The early church was seen as a people who gathered together for worship but also did life together.  In the life of our church, we try to incorporate times which are unhurried intentional times of fellowship.
  4. Share the Gospel – At each Fall Festival, we share the gospel in different ways.  We always provide a book to the children that shares what it means to follow Jesus.  We also have 4 presentations throughout the night that uses a creative way to share the gospel with people of all ages.  I just love watching over the room every year as I see faces that I do not recognize be engaged with the gospel.  Kids and adults alike get exposure to what it means to become a Christian in an engaging way.  If we did nothing else, this part would be worth it!

Should We Host It on October 31st?

Should we celebrate it on another day in order to clarify our acceptance of certain practices?  Should we do the same thing just on another day?

If our intention is to reach the most amount of people possible, than the answer would be “no.”

Since our community is looking for something to do that night, we want to provide an opportunity that night.

Scott Smith is a dear friend of mine who serves as a collegiate minister at Lander University.  When he came to the university, he found out what night was the party night for most students.  It just so happened that many campus parties happened on Thursday nights and would have lingering effects on class attendance the following Friday. So when he had to decide which night of the week to have a worship service for students, he chose Thursday nights intentionally.  He desired to offer a great alternative for those not wishing to participate in the activities of a significant portion of the student body.

That’s why we do the Fall Festival on October 31st.  We want to open the doors to the people of our church and the people of our community and say, “If you don’t feel comfortable in dealing with the uncertainties of the activities out there, you are welcome here.”

Hope that clarifies our intentions and desires for that evening!  We do hope you and your family can come.  We hope you have a great, safe time.  We also pray that the people and the activities here will find you closer to knowing Jesus by the time you leave.  Hope to see you at this year’s Fall Festival!