My main memory of Halloween growing up was that, as a family, we didn’t get involved. My parents were Christians and they made the decision that going trick or treating was not for us. I didn’t particularly mind as a kid because I hated getting dressed up, even though I would have enjoyed getting some sweets and chocolate!
A fair few years have passed since I was a kid, and the popularity of Halloween in the UK has exploded. In my view, it’s no longer something that can simply be ignored. Whilst we may understandably have some reservations about engaging with Halloween due to all the ghosts, witches and demons on display, the reality is that most people taking their kids out trick or treating are not deliberately entering into pagan worship – they just want to have some fun. Halloween has become one of the few occasions when strangers are welcomed at people’s doors, neighbours go visiting each other’s houses and a sense of community is developed. In short, it’s become a great opportunity for witnessing about Jesus.
So it’s been fantastic to see many churches respond by putting on light parties. These events are an excellent way to engage with Halloween and with people in our communities who normally wouldn’t come along to church. However, as with any church activity, a light party can easily become a party full of Christian parents and their children. How can we ensure that we avoid this all-too-easy pitfall and make the most of this evangelistic event?
Firstly, it’s important to be intentional in how the event is advertised in your church. When telling people in the church about the light party, be explicit that this event is geared towards inviting families in the community who don’t yet know Jesus. Why not use the run-up to the event as a time to do some equipping with the whole church family in how to be a witness to Jesus? The light party then provides a good opportunity to put into practice some of the concepts you’ve been covering.
At the same time, take the opportunity to begin or continue equipping the children in your church to be witnesses to their friend Jesus. You could take some time to look at passages like the great commission in Matthew 28 or Jesus’ final words in Acts 1:8. Use these passages as foundations to chat through the idea that not everyone is a follower of Jesus. Many of their friends won’t know Jesus yet, but at the light party we have a chance to help them find out more about what it means to be a friend of Jesus.
Secondly, think about how you are going to advertise the light party in the community. It’s possible to create Facebook adverts that are targeted at people living in a geographical location. Many communities have dedicated Facebook pages, so why not let people know about your event on there? As always, there are non-digital methods too – could you advertise in the local newspaper or how about printing some leaflets and putting them through people’s letter boxes? All that being said, the most common way for people to come to an event is by being invited by someone who they know. So again, encourage and equip the families in your church to chat with their family, friends and neighbours.
The Scripture Union pack is full of great ideas on how to plan and run a light party, but in the busyness of doing this, don’t forget to think about what’s next. If there are families who come along to your event who normally have no connection with your church, or are on the fringes, what can you do to ensure that relationship is grown and developed? I’m sure you’ll make treats for the children to take home with them, but what could you give to both children and parents to help them further engage with the message of Jesus? Will you be having a firework display or anything around Guy Fawkes night, or will you be putting on any events around Christmas? If you are, could you have invites prepared for the people who come? Effective outreach comes through a linked-up approach to all the different activities we put on, and the way we intentionally follow up after each one.
Finally, while it’s important to put effort into putting on an excellent event, our battle is not simply against flesh and blood. We need to be praying that on this night, of all nights, people are attracted to the light and away from the darkness. So get the whole church praying that people will come to celebrate the light who shines in the darkness and know that the darkness will not overcome Him.