Churches can provide a welcoming and safe environment for young people on Halloween that is creative and entertaining. The large church of which I am a member has been doing this successfully for a number of years, with approximately 1,800 young people in attendance on the evening of Halloween in 2009. About 1,500 of them were in the age categories of 5th grade and under, with the rest being in Junior and Senior High.
Because Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, our church will not be hosting a Halloween party in 2010, but this highly-successful activity will in all likelihood resume in 2011. We have regular church service on Sunday evenings, with a full sanctuary and people coming from many metro suburbs, so it is not possible for our church to host a Halloween party at the same time as holding regular church service.
A party of this size takes a great deal of organization and the help of many volunteers, but when planned well it is a very successful outreach program for young people. Various areas of our large church are utilized for different age groups, including the gymnasium that is in the part of the church that houses our K-12 Christian academy.
Even the roof of the building and the parking lot came into play last year!
The hours for this event have been from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the evening of Halloween. It has not been restricted to young people who attend our church, but has been open for anyone who wants to come. Throughout the evening people are free to come and go and security personnel are provided by the church to maintain a safe environment for party goers.
How this Halloween event is structured
The admission “charge” is one bag of candy for each young person attending, who deposits the bag of candy into one of several large containers placed at the entrance. In return, the attendee receives a treat bag to use during the evening. Volunteer “runners” are pressed into service all evening to collect the bags of candy and take them to the various booths and entertainment areas, where the candy is used as prizes and ultimately ends up in the treat bags of those in attendance.
Committee members plan for a wide array of activities by age classifications: ages 3 and under, ages 4 up to grade five, junior high and senior high. For children grade five and under, the event is called the “Hallelujah Harvest” while older students prefer to use the name “Halloween Bash” for their age groups.
Age-appropriate activities take place for each age classification. All activities for birth to age 3 are Biblically-based (those in other age categories aren’t), with 27 booths providing a variety of creative things for the little ones to do in 2009. Two examples from the past are a punching bag (punching the devil), and a slide with the children coming down the slide with a bag of coins, representing Zacchaeus coming down from the tree. Stories, a felt board, and even Tiny the Turtle (a pet that visits in the children’s ministry) are activities for this age category.
All types of events take place in the gym for the children in the first through fifth grades, with “bouncy” events for jumping, boxing, etc. being highly popular. “Golf” is another fun activity in the gym.
Junior high students had special fun last year with a “glow-in-the-dark” theme in their church area. Black lights, neon paint, tape, etc. provided a fun atmosphere for the space. Five lucky attendees had their names drawn, and they got to go up on the roof (which is flat) and each throw a pumpkin in an attempt to get the pumpkin into a garbage container on the ground.
Those in attendance in Junior High who could claim a partner also could opt to take part in an egg throwing event in the parking lot. Each person got an egg and could try to hit his/her partner with it. No prizes, but as one person put it, lots of satisfaction if the egg successfully hit the target!
Music and social activities predominated in the senior high area. This area is a fun setting in and of itself, with great lighting, booths, a counter, and places for youth bands to perform.
Both of the areas of the church reserved for junior high and senior high youth have their own basketball courts and an additional space with bleachers for youth ministry.
And yes, there were costumes. The only stipulation was to not come dressed in “scary” themes such as witches, demons, skeletons, etc. Costumes are always creative, such as two people coming as a washer and dryer, or maybe someone dressed like a lamb or even a techie device such as an iPod.
Staff members judge the costumes, and nice prizes are awarded, i.e., a bicycle or a $100 gift certificate at a large toy store. Last year pictures were taken of the participants who signed up for the costume contest, and a video was made to commemorate the event.
About midway through the evening, activities are halted for about one-half hour and all who are in attendance assemble in the sanctuary for a time of worship and singing. There is a special drama presentation, lots of singing, a short message, and, as at all of our church events, an invitation is given for anyone who wants to receive the Lord to then pray and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
Mid-size and even small churches could host a Halloween event such as this by just scaling down events to fit the number of participants and size of the building. Although such a party for 2010 might be impractical to consider, the idea of hosting such an event in your church in 2011 might be something to consider while next year’s ministry calendar is in the drafting stage.
A fellow church member who has been an active volunteer in all past Halloween events at our church, and a Junior High student who has been a regular attendee.