Halloween outreach: Long after candy is gone…

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BOSTON (BP) -- Trick-or-treat night can be a delicate subject for a Christian parent.

There are layers of issues to think about: Will they be safe? Do I want my kids consuming candy? Are costumes OK? To be forthright, the biggest issue for most of us is truth. There is little in the modern celebration of Halloween that reflects biblical Christian beliefs.

Obviously, my husband and I do not want to be part of any celebration that honors behavior and things that are ungodly. But we run into a conundrum when we evaluate our family mission. Matthew 28:19 says: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

This has driven us to live a life in urban community-based ministry in order to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). We intentionally position our family in Boston to build relationships that will lead to making disciples. This starts with loving our neighbors and taking time to know who they are by being where they are.

In New England, there are two times when we are guaranteed to see our neighbors: one, right after a snowstorm when everyone is clearing their sidewalks, and two, the night of trick-or-treat. With our goal as a family to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors that will lead to making disciples, it makes sense that we should learn how to make the most of this opportunity each fall.

The last 10 years we have been involved in Halloween in various ways: church events, library parties, staying home and, yes, last year I took my kids door-to-door in our neighborhood.

We are not the only ones. Many Christian families we know are intentionally participating for Kingdom purposes. Hopefully, one of these strategies that has been used in our neighborhood will inspire you to wear a silly hat and get to know some of the people God has placed in your neighborhood, your ministry area.

-- Don't be spooked. Get outside!

One of the best ways to embrace trick-or-treating, if you have a lot of visitors, is to get outside and greet the trick-or-treaters. Rather than trying to clean the house, watch a movie or take a nap during the allotted hours of trick-or-treat, and then feeling annoyed every time the doorbell rings, go outside. Sit on your porch and greet people. Use the time to intentionally get to know your neighbors who are coming to your house.

-- Build friendships without leaving your front yard.

Let's face it, if you have ever gone trick-or-treating, it's hard work. A partner ministry in our hometown provides a place to sit and drink hot chocolate so trick-or-treaters and their parents can pause and rest. Set up your picnic table on your front lawn. If you live in a cold place like Boston, hot chocolate is great, but sweet tea and lemonade also are excellent options.

-- Celebrate all that is good.

If your church is hosting a harvest party, get involved! Extra hands are always welcome. But don't just go, bring people with you. Invite neighbors, soccer teammates and your hairdresser who has little kids. Pack your car with big and little people. Parents want their kids to have fun and be safe. A church party is a safe and fun environment that appeals to parents. Get flyers from your church or make your own. Give them out in the weeks leading up to the event.

-- Give something good to eat.

The name of the game on this night is treats. The Gospel information in tracts is invaluable compared to a snack-size chocolate bar, but to a kid, it feels like a trick to get a piece of paper when they expect a treat. It's all about expectations. Incorporating the Gospel or church information into the treat is great. We have creative friends who achieve both objectives. Our pastor lives in a high-traffic trick-or-treat neighborhood. Their family employs the greeting-on-the-porch method, but they also print out hundreds of labels with the name, address and service time for our church to attach to each candy bar they give out. The candy is good, the personal connection occurs, the information is there, and everybody wins.

-- Pray for every costumed child.

Not everyone is comfortable or ready to chat it up with every trick-or-treater, but we can all pray. As you place candy in a little pumpkin and you see the cute painted face God created in His image, pray over him or her. Pray protection, salvation, blessing and direction for that child and the family represented.

Sarah Riddle and her husband Keith serve in The Boston Project Ministries (www.tbpm.org) and are parents of three boys. This article first appeared in HomeLife, a LifeWay Christian Resources publication available at LifeWay.com and on Twitter @HomeLifeMag.
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