In recent days it seems that Halloween has become such a "dark" celebration. However, while that is the unfortunate nature of the holiday, it doesn't mean that churches must miss an excellent opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Here are a few ideas.
Some churches sponsor the popular Christian "reality houses," in which a dramatic, real-life presentation of the Gospel is acted out. Other churches host "harvest celebrations." These festive nights present an exciting, carnival-like atmosphere where costumed children can enjoy various attractions. In the parking lot they might find the pastor sitting in the dunking booth, or they can slide on the inflatable slide and jump around in the "moonwalk." Inside, Sunday School classes sponsor various booths where children can participate in games and activities, complete with prizes. If a church is too small to host the event by itself, it could partner with other churches. Often, local merchants will donate inexpensive prizes and candy. Of course, every child leaves with a bag of candy, a Gospel tract, and church literature.
For off-site activities, you might also consider what some call "Hallow Him" celebrations out in the communities. I borrowed this phrase from my good friends, Loren and Kathryn Robinson. As church planters in Indianapolis, Indiana, they would sponsor theme parties which consistently attracted growing crowds of trick-or-treaters. For instance, one year they dressed up as the Flintstone family. They even decorated their house like the fictional town of Bedrock! It obviously attracted a great deal of attention as their daughters dressed like Pebbles while Mom and Dad looked the part of Fred and Wilma.
Another year it was a fifties theme with authentic music, dress, and occasional "Elvis sightings!" In each case, the crowds were given hot chocolate, cookies, and Gospel tracts appropriate for the occasion (for options, you might check out the American Tract Society at www.atstracts.org). It grew so popular that people made special trips each year to see what was happening at the Robinson's house.
We used a similar approach with our small community in Ohio. After learning that almost everyone came to our neighborhood on "Beggar's Night" because it was patrolled by police, we decided to do the "Baptist" thing — feed the folks with hot dogs, candy, and hot chocolate.
The first year we prepared 125 hot dogs. The second year it grew to 275. By the third year it ballooned to 340. However, the best part was that one of our neighbors, who was fed through the second outreach, actually manned the grill the third year! Praise the Lord — after years of sharing and serving, he was gloriously saved!
We gave out hundreds of Christian sports DVDs from Athletes in Action (log on to www.aia.com) along with literature from our local congregation. When people asked why we were doing it, we responded by telling them "if Christ fed the multitudes, so should we!"
Another good alternative for youth is "servant hunts," a reversal to scavenger hunts. The basic idea is to send your youth out in groups of five to ten with a list of servant projects they have to complete in an hour, along with a video camera to record the happenings. Imagine the youth being directed to a convenience store where they offer to clean a person's windshield or pump their gas. If it's raining, they can provide umbrella escorts at shopping malls. When asked the reason, the youth simply respond by telling the person that Christ loves them and then offering a brief testimony. If the Holy Spirit opens the door, by all means, they can share the Gospel!
A similar idea is sending out teams to do "reverse trick or treating." Simply purchase large candy bars, Christian DVDs, etc., and go out to houses with the intent of giving something back and demonstrating appreciation for your neighbors. Teams should always be on guard for houses needing their leaves raked or other small repair jobs. They should make a note of the need and then offer to bring a small group back to accomplish these tasks over the weekend. When they return to do the work, they can drop off a fresh platter of cookies with a friendly note giving the name of your church and contact information.
Because of the dark associations with Halloween, there has been intense debate over the appropriateness of Christians participating in this holiday, but there should be no debate over the appropriateness of using the occasion to shine His light into the darkness.