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I really hate Halloween.  I don’t like scary or gory stuff in the least.  I don’t watch scary movies, I don’t play games with zombies, and I don’t like gross-out candy.  In fact, that stuff gives me horrible nightmares.  I really wish the day would just disappear.  That said, the kids and parents in my church do not feel as strongly as I do in this matter, which creates quite a conundrum.  Do I shy away from something I do not like?  Or do I engage culture head on and take advantage of an opportunity?  Our church has chosen to engage culture.

Last year, Halloween fell smack dab on a Sunday.  We decided to be a little creative in our approach and do a family experience, but not a normal service style event (see how we do our normal family experience in a small church).  Here is what we came up with.  We decided to do a scavenger hunt.  This event served multiple purposes.  It kept kids and their families safe on Halloween night.  It was designed for the family to work together, creating a memory.  It was meant to be fun.  It fostered a good experience between our church and families or family members who do not attend.

The rules were simple.  We established a few stations around our town that were manned by adults who did not have children or whose children were grown.  In this way, we got those who don’t typically participate in “family events” involved. 

The families started at our church at their leisure during a specified time period.  We figured the hunt would take about a half hour and wanted everyone finished by 7:30, so families could start anywhere between 6:00 and 7:00.  Once they arrived at the church, they were given their first clue.  To keep families from following each other, we gave each family a clue to a different first station.  Each station was designated by a flag on the vehicle or area where our volunteers were sitting.  Once they arrived at that station, the kids were given a certain type of candy and another clue.  Each station was visited once by each family, but no two families got the clues in the same order.  Once they had found and visited each station, they were given the final clue which brought them back to the church where we had cocoa, cider, and popcorn waiting. 

This wasn’t a race against other families, but some groups did make a competition out of it.  In fact, I heard about one family driving away with their son running behind them!  We all got a pretty good laugh out of that.  The point was to get them to create an experience together. 

I did this event as a one time deal.  I literally had families begging me to do it again.  They loved it.  There was a fair amount of prep work involved (writing clues, choosing locations, buying candy, getting volunteers) but it certainly is something that a small church can pull off (we did it).  We are planning to do it again this year, but one change I’d like to make is to advertise to our community better.  We didn’t have a lot of visitors participate.

There are a number of modifications that could be applied to this.  First, it doesn’t even need to be a Halloween thing.  You could do it any time of the year.  Here’s a great idea for a similar event for the summer.  We allowed the kids to dress up if they chose, but most didn’t.  If you are from a technologically savvy church, you may incorporate QR codes into your event.  Our church isn’t quite there yet.  A church in a large town that would like to do this may need to make some more major modifications.  It worked perfectly in our small town because the clues did not have to be too specific and people were still able to figure out where they were leading (there are not a lot of places to choose from).

A final thought that I’d like to leave you with.  We did not make this a “religious” event.  We did not have a lesson or give the kids tracts.  They just got candy.  In that sense, it was not an “outreach.”  Our goal was to bless families and to create a positive experience between them and our church.  The time spent interacting with them at the church, drinking cocoa and eating popcorn was probably more valuable than if we had preached at them or had given them tracts.  This may not be true everywhere, but that is the reality in our community.

How are you engaging culture this Halloween?  What creative ideas have you implemented recently to reach out to families?  Share a comment below and help all of us be better at what we do!