When I began my career as a Student Pastor on staff at a church, we had events called "Fall Festivals," "Trunk or Treat," "Harvest Festivals," and other types of "Halloween Alternatives". I'm not saying there was\is anything necessarily wrong with them, but to be honest, they weren't nearly as fun. I wanted my kids to enjoy it like I did, so we always made sure we took them out into the neighborhood too. I love going where the people were!
A confirming and liberating day in our lives came when I was the Student Pastor at Grace Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. The staff & elders led the congregation to move into the community for Halloween instead of away from it. Rather than trying to "bring them in from the fields of sin" for an event at our facility, they encouraged us to go into the "fields of sin" and be light in our community. They wanted us to come up with unique ways to connect with the people in our neighborhoods. Since we had already begun moving in that direction as a family, we couldn't wait to ponder the possibilities!
That Halloween we hooked a small trailer to a four wheeler, put hay on it, and had a hayride through our little neighborhood. We connected with the neighbors and had an awesome time with our kids. Halloween was never the same for our family after that.
When we moved to Texas, we brought this new found freedom and outward focused mentality with us. After we moved into our current house 12 1/2 years ago, we started a Halloween cul-de-sac party. It started out pretty simple, but along the way, two of our neighbors began a DJ business. They offered to set up their equipment, including speakers, lights, etc. to play music so loudly it could be heard through the whole neighborhood. Another neighbor loaned us a projector and screen so we could show fun videos and have a festive backdrop. Even now, every Halloween, we pull it all together and set up for the event. We dress up, hand out candy, show videos and play fun line-dance songs like the Cupid Shuffle (which I love because I actually know how to do it!). There have been as many as a hundred people in the cul-de-sac dancing in unison to this silly song. Kids & parents alike, dancing around, singing and laughing together. It is awesome!
This year was no exception. A few of our "initial" neighbors have moved away over the years, but with the help of my neighbor Mike & his DJ equipment, and a friend who graciously loaned us a video projector, we were able have our annual cul-de-sac party. We even built a big screen with some wood and a white sheet! Our new neighbors joined in and hundreds of people in our neighborhood made the pilgrimage to Tumbleweed Drive for the Halloween cul-de-sac party. We played the Cupid Shuffle of course, and even learned to do the Wobble. It was a blast!
The resounding comments we hear over and over again each year are, "We always look forward to coming here and hanging out," and "I wish we could do this more often." You know what? Those are the thoughts I find myself thinking too.
As the Holidays and a New Year approach, maybe we can all begin to think differently. Not just about next Halloween, but also about other opportunities ahead. Instead of focusing on special events or holidays to "bring them in," why not shift our thinking to creative ways of "going out"? Instead of quietly condemning our neighbors, think of ways to connect with them. We are called to be salt and light in our communities, not to be separated from them. As believers, we have a great role model in this area. Just read the stories of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. One thing is clear....Jesus was awesome at moving into the community...so awesome that He drew a crowd where ever He went. He impacted the atmosphere of desperate people who were searching for something. He gave up His comfort zone to reach the lowest of the low. It was so important to Him that His last Words before He left encouraged us to do the same.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)
"And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)