Trick or Treat: What Message Does Your Church Send on Halloween?

Trick or Treat: What Message Does Your Church Send on Halloween?

October 28, 2010 by

This year Halloween falls on a Sunday.

It’s like a mash-up of good and evil, sure to stoke the anti-Halloween crowd into a pumpkin-smashing spree (unlike a few years ago when Christmas was on a Sunday, prompting an explosion of good cheer so intense churches had to cancel services).

It prompts the age-old question: How should your pastor dress up for Halloween?

Or that other age-old question: How should Christians respond to Halloween?

We’re here to remind you that how your church deals with Halloween is a marketing decision. Like everything else you do, it communicates something about your church.

  • Are you deep and serious, not distracted by sweet distractions?
  • Are you concerned with unveiling hidden evil, even if it means telling the kid down the street his Iron Man costume is evil?
  • Do you want to have your cake and eat it too, hushing the holiday but passing out candy with a wink?
  • Do you have your head stuck in the sand, pretending a standard culture practice doesn’t exist?
  • Or do you join in the fun (and Team Jacob) and dress up as a pastor-turned-vampire slayer?

Consider the church that’s leery of zombies. Instead of a Halloween party, they have a harvest party with costumes and candy and smiling jack-o-lanterns. But it’s not Halloween—no sir! That’d be evil.

These churches are only fooling themselves. Everybody else knows it’s a Halloween party. You can’t decry something as evil but then co-opt it for your own message. That’d be like Mark Driscoll launching a yoga ministry. Instead you need to be sneakier and take over a pagan holiday, but that’s another story.

Instead of wringing our hands over Halloween and planning harvest festivals, maybe we should lighten up a little:

  • We could encourage costumes on Sunday morning.
  • We could fill the collection plate with candy and offer folks a trade.
  • We could hit the local homeless shelter to pass out candy (and toothbrushes) to the kids.

Whatever you think about Halloween, just remember that whatever you do you’re sending a message. The only question is if it’s a message people will respond to or not.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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16 Responses to “Trick or Treat: What Message Does Your Church Send on Halloween?”

  • Jeff Boes
    October 28, 2010

    We’re encouraging members (of all ages!) to come in costume. No special service is planned (no Halloween holiday message), but I’m expecting about 10-20% participation. I’ll be in costume, too.

  • Keith Williams
    October 28, 2010

    My church (which is situated on the edge of a neighborhood) is setting up a Halloween event in our parking lot. Hot drinks for the adults, decorated car trunks with candy for kids, and a bounce house. Almost every family from our community will file through our parking lot and converse with members of our church.

  • Rob Dickerson
    October 28, 2010

    We are having a fun family Sunday. There will be video for the kids that focuses on letting Jesus shine his light in their hearts & an illustrated Gospel presentation using pumpkins. Costumes are allowed. I’ll be in costume too. As a youth pastor, I hated trying to coerce people to come to a Harvest Party and do all this work for the same 30 churched kids every year. Especially when over 100 kids came to a darkened door at my house because I was at church! So we changed our philosophy and created garage parties. We started collecting candy in September and made sure we gave away huge candy bags to each kid. And created a quick Gospel presentation using a pumpkin judging contest. We had a barrel fire in the driveway, hot chocolate & coffee for the parents. We changed from reaching the same 30 kids to reaching 800-1000 kids every Halloween! I love Halloween!

    • David
      November 1, 2010

      My wife and I have been seeking the Lord about how newly approach the way we handle Halloween and we love what you shared. I wonder if you wouldn’t share more details about specially you did? Would you kindly share your short Gospel presentation with us and any other activities or idea you implented?

  • Chilly
    October 28, 2010

    I just blogged some thoughts about this today – check it out if you get the chance @

    I’ve always embraced the opportunity to look into the homes & hearts of every one of my neighbors. What other day of the year does your entire community open their homes to anyone who stops by…

    And, now, that we live in Detroit – we are using this night to do some really creative things for the kids without costumes (and love).

    Halloween can be redeemed. Find Jesus in it & let the light shine (even if it’s through a pumpkin)!

  • Pastor Rick
    October 28, 2010

    We are helping the city put on a Fall festival and helping them pass out candy ..We are the light so let’s shine people!

  • Pastor Rick
    October 28, 2010

    Last year our church came up with games and helped the the little city of Los Ftresnos Tx give out free candy to all the kids. Other churches saw us do it and this year more churches are going to get involved I told them what better night to shine then Hollowween night !. The city mayer is very thankfull along with the local police dept. So shine on my brothers!

  • Israel Sanchez
    October 29, 2010

    Your honesty and sense of humor I may add, is like a breath of fresh air amidst all the posts about Halloween online. I’m posting my own thoughts on this tomorrow on my blog.

  • Franklin in Cool Springs TN
    October 30, 2010

    I wonder if Dave Ramsey is giving out candy for Halloween at his new home? Full sized candy bars and $2 bills would be nice!

    Check out Dave Ramsey’s new mansion:

  • Michael Buckingham
    November 1, 2010

    I saw this on Facebook regarding Halloween:

    The only sad part: so many folks aren’t home tonight. My next door neighbor remarked, “those darn churches, they’ve taken away all my trick or treaters by scheduling harvest festivals on Halloween”

    What a shame. The way the church so often decides to depict itself is really sad.

    And if you’re dead set (nice pun) on thinking Halloween is evil, skip it. (and maybe spend your time looking at the history of it…hint the church is involved in its roots).

    Kevin’s spot on, changing the name says nothing but makes you look like you think you’re trying to be better than everyone else. As if you’re above all this Halloween stuff.

    And why does everything have to be within our walls? Get out there church, be a part of your community, carve friendly face pumpkins, dress in cute costumes, give the best candy, set an example of how bright a light the church can be.

    Is their darkness on Oct 31. Of course. There’s also plenty of darkness on Dec 25 but also every other day of the year…we can spend our time point at the darkness or being the light in which no darkness can exist.

    • Marc Aune
      November 1, 2010

      I think it’s a bit naïve to suggest that churches are the reason kids don’t trick-or-treat. The primary reason is that parents have been scared indoors by all the presumed dangers of Halloween, as expressed by the news media: kids could get razor blades hidden in candy, kids could get hit by cars if they’re wearing dark clothing, kids could get abducted, etc. Not all of these dangers are unfounded and some precautions should be made, but the culmination is that parents want a safe environment for their kids to get candy in costume and have fun.

      Last night, I learned that kids were bussed in from their (presumably dangerous) urban neighborhood to trick-or-treat in my dad’s (presumably safer) suburban one. What if there was a church in their own neighborhood that hosted an event on Halloween? What would it say to that community if the church was willing to open its doors instead of close them and send the kids across town?

      Our church (about 600 people to give you a point of reference) held a “Fall Festival” last night and over 200 faces we did not recognize showed up. If there are a few people who share the sentiments of Michael’s neighbor compared to a few hundred who had a great experience with a church, is that worth it? Numbers never tell the whole story, but I think the answer is a definite yes.

  • Angela Gildner
    November 1, 2010

    The Director of Children’s Ministries arranged for the children and youth (costumes encouraged) to reverse trick or treat at the nearby Methodist Home. The children handed out candy and little decorated pumpkins to the elderly residence during the Sunday School hour.

  • Brian
    November 1, 2010

    My church’s ( student ministries put on an event called Fright Night (

    The event is a scary guided 30-minute trail. The event attracts 1000s of students who are introduced to our youth group and given a safe and fun event… plus they raise great money for the ministry.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 2, 2010

    I love that Shaun King asked his congregation to dress up. Nice.

  • Our small community ( had a “Pirate’s” theme Party this year and since there is something similar every year.. we have a major turn out of our Youth’s friends! Every year some become part of our Youth Group!

  • Todd
    December 23, 2010

    For the past 3 years, our church has held a “Trunk-or-Treat” on Halloween night. It is designed to be a safe alternative for parents who aren’t necessarily happy with door to door trick or treating. Our church members decorate their car trunks and truck beds and have tons of candy and treats to share with the children…we also include a FREE hotdog supper for everyone. This year, we served over 800 hotdogs, and lots and lots of treats! We see it as a good outreach and an opportunity to show our community that we care about them and their children! Can’t wait til next year!!

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