You’re probably still battling your on-the-blink air-conditioner, slathering the kids in SPF40 and actually using your pool for once. The last thing you want to think about is your fall festival. Still, like it or not, the lazy days of summer are the perfect time to start planning.
And boy, have you got your work cut out! I remember the annual fall bazaar at our church was a very big deal to my family. While Mom busied herself in the pie room and Dad refereed the sack races, we kids whizzed back and forth between the book fair, fishing pond (Read: stick + string + clothespin = oodles of prizes), cakewalk and Bingo—lots of Bingo. Normally, this particular game would not register so much as a blip on our radar screen o’ fun where there was PacMan on Atari and Hot Wheels to race around their little track. Nevertheless, we looked forward to the bazaar and all its old fashioned fun every year.
Of course, autumn heralds another event: Halloween. A number of studies have gauged various faith groups’ attitudes toward the day.
Not surprisingly, quite a few faithful families— nearly 30 percent, according to one Focus on the Family poll—said they would turn out the lights and ignore it altogether this year. On other hand, the same poll showed nearly as many Christians (29 percent) said they enjoyed the costumes and candy. Moreover, they planned to organize fall festivals at their churches that included these elements.
The challenge, which can feel like a water into-wine-size commission, is to make this outreach fun. You don’t want to dilute your Christian message, but you also know that whatever you do must be entertaining enough that the youngest members won’t feel “punished” for their faith.
Fortunately, some trailblazing churches have managed to walk this line very well, and their creative alternatives are food for thought. In Connecticut, for instance, one church hosts a harvest festival/outreach event starring puppets.
To counter children’s fears of ghouls and goblins, they perform a skit called “Jesus Protects Me” and lead a sing-along of Veggie Tales tunes, including “God Is Bigger.”
Meanwhile in Hickory, La., two Christian business owners host the Corny Harvest Festival, featuring a “fear-free” maze, hayrides and Pumpkin Parables story hour. Wacky costumes are encouraged, but anyone who shows up as a ghoulish character is funneled off to the Goblin Rehab Center. There, with the help of a hairstylist and a face painter, they are transformed into funny new characters.
Other activities are much simpler to organize.
Every year, thousands of churches order scripture mints, gum and candies from CTA Inc. (www.ctainc.com) and distribute them to members to hand out at home on Halloween night. And the American Tract Society (www.atstracts.org) offers some terrific kid friendly tracts in its Halloween Rescue Kit.
Candy is taped to each tract—a sweet treat for the palate and soul.
These are just a few ideas, and more follow on page 12. But no matter what you do about Halloween this year, remember one thing: None of these alternatives “celebrate” the day. Obviously, glorifying darkness is not an option—but turning it into light is a great trick.
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