Halloween…just mentioning the word stirs up a whirl of emotions. Some people love it and wait all year to don yet another costume; others loathe it as one more tool of the devil.
When I was a kid I paraded around the neighborhood just like everybody else filling my pillow sack full of candy, hoping for the elusive full-size Snickers bars. But in high school, I decided Halloween was an evil day and decided to drop out of any Halloween festivities altogether: no costume, no candy, no party.
As an adult, I created an alternative Halloween party for our church, complete with dressing up, games and food. This was also the year I received the Terrible Dad Award. We were setting up booths in the gym and my 5-year old son needed to go #2 in the bathroom. I got him settled on the toilet and stepped out for a minute to blow up a few more balloons. Twenty minutes later I was looking around, trying to figure out where he was, when I suddenly remembered. I rushed back to find him lying on the floor with his pants to his knees, whimpering. Wups. But I digress…
I must confess my views on Halloween have taken yet another turn, all because I started serving as a children’s pastor. Our church is located in an old theater downtown; matter of fact, it was the same theater I watched Star Wars in when it came out in 1977. Every Halloween, the downtown businesses pass out candy, coupons, pencils, and the like to thousands of children. It’s a safe place for kids to trick-or-treat, and a great way to get people to come downtown.
My first year leading our sugar extravaganza the weatherman predicted cold, and he was right. So we fired up a couple of big coffee pots with hot chocolate and handed that out in addition to bags of cookies, thinking we could help warm a few little fingers and faces. A few fingers and faces ended up being a whole lot. The word spread fast and soon our little room was jammed with grateful shivering families, and stayed jammed for the entire time. When I realized kids were doing the potty dance, I opened up a path to our bathroom and soon a steady stream headed that direction too (the pun may have been intended).
After it was all said and done, we had almost fifteen hundred people visit our church, twice the amount of people who came to our church. The interesting thing was that one common question visitors asked that day was “Why are you doing this? Hot chocolate, opening up the bathroom, providing a warm place, all at no charge – why are you doing this?” Wow. Great question. They saw that we loved them which opened up an amazing opportunity to tell people that God loves them. The next year we prepared a much larger room and had over 2500 visitors, the year after that over 3000. All because of Halloween.
That definitely got me thinking. Why can’t we steal Halloween from the devil? Take what he intends for evil and use it for good. Yes, I know many awful things happen on Halloween, but the reality is that Halloween is a very, very popular day, and it isn’t going anywhere. If we refuse to interact with our culture on that day, we MISS OUT on an opportunity to steal subjects from the kingdom of darkness and put them into the Kingdom of Light.
This is more than just putting tracts in pillow sacks. I’m convinced that tracts can actually PUSH people from God’s Kingdom because parents feel like churches are skimpy and opportunistic. (Unless, of course, the tract is attached to the elusive full-size Snickers bar.) We actually got a phone call from an irate parent one year when a tract fell off the bag of cookies, and they thought all we handed out was advertising. Christians should be known as the generous people, the houses where kids run away excited, shouting to their friends, “Don’t miss that house!”
So here’s the question: what can YOU do to steal Halloween from the devil? Love to hear your creative ideas in this ongoing question to bring kids into God’s Kingdom.