Make Your Halloween a safe one for children in your community. Instead of house-to-house trick-or-treating, try one of these alternatives in your congregation:
- Have a gathering for children at the church. Call it "harvest festival," "fall festival," or "Halloween carnival." Invite children to come in costume; and provide games, treats, and prizes. An event at the church gives children a safe place to have fun and worry-free treats.
- Invite the children to dress as saints from history or from your local community; or suggest a biblical story, especially if your congregation objects to secular, scary characters. The custom of Halloween costumes began in medieval times when churches let parishioners dress up as saints, since this is the night before All Saints' Day (November 1). When I served on the staff at University Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we helped sponsor an ecumenical festival and used the theme of "Noah's Ark." Children were invited to come in animal costumes or to dress as Noah or a member of his family.
- Emphasize All Saints' Day as a congregation. Move the celebration to November 1. Include games to help children and youth identify saintly people in church history and from the congregation. Have a costume "parade of saints."
- Turn the "treat" aspect of halloween into a time of giving treats to others. Many children and youth groups collect money for UNICEF. This money goes to support children all over the world. contact UNICEf through the Internet at http://www.unicef.org, or write for information from: U.S. Committee for UNICEF, 331 E. 38th Street, New York, NY 10016.
- Continue your congregation's Children's Sabbath observance, possibly held last month. On Halloween, sponsor a treat-making time at the church. Build on the "Leave No Child Behind" theme and collect food for hungry families. Fill treat bags and give them out to children in shelters for the homeless, or make gifts that can be distributed to children in local hospital's Sabbath resources, contact the Children's Defense Fund at http://www.childrensdefense.org.
- Have a mission fair on Halloween night. Use activities suggested in Children's Fund for Christian Mission. Help children learn about United Methodist programs that support children in the U.S. and in other countries. Collect money at the mission fair, or help the children prepare a presentation for the congregation to collect an offering for The Children's Fund for Christian Mission.