By Sam Luce
If you would’ve told me our church wouldn’t have celebrated Easter together, conducted VBS online, and in October, we’d be canceling trunk-or-treat (our largest outreach to our community’s families) I would have said you were crazy.
Yet, here we are. Here we find ourselves in the odd position of coming up with an alternative to our Halloween alternatives.
Our church is located in New York state, and the regulations in our state are pervasive, so there aren’t many options for us to do anything close to most of these suggestions.
They would be logistically challenging for the size of our church or not possible because of COVID restrictions in our area.
But if your context allows and if you’re looking for a way to still engage families in your community, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Trunk-or-treat train
Have cars line up like a trunk-or-treat, but rather than walking through, do a drive-through and hand the candy to the kids through their car windows.
This would be very similar to the typical trunk-or-treat, but rather than having crowds of people mixing together, create a car tunnel.
Decorate these cars and have them open their trunks open and have cars drive-through and give out candy to kids as they drive from car to car or from station to station.
2. Reverse trick-or-treat
This would be something that could be done if you have a smaller group of kids or in a larger church that could be done by a small group.
Have the leaders dress up and knock on the families’ door from their church and bring them a bag of candy.
3. Do a harvest party parade
Have people in church decorate their cars or make floats somehow and then have kids come to the church according to certain time slots.
Mark out appropriately distant spaces in your parking lot, creating a parade route.
Then, from decorated cars or floats done by individuals or ministries in the church, throw candy to kids and families along the parade route.
Consider securing a school parking lot if you wanted to do a more community outreach event.
4. If restrictions allow, do neighborhood parties
Another option to make your fall festival parties smaller but still be outreach orientated is to identify key families in your church and help them do a smaller community party with kids from their neighborhood.
As a church, you could help make a few smaller parties successful through supplying the host families with candy and activities.
I like this idea because it’s outreach-focused, safe, and kids who perhaps wouldn’t come to your church may come to one of their neighbor’s houses.
Again, this is only if COVID restrictions in your area would allow for this. Please abide by the guidelines set out by your local and state officials.
5. Geocache candy
This one may take some planning to pull off well but could be a blast. My kids love geocaching. They call it “treasure hunting.”
One way you could make a socially distant event is to hide candy in containers all over your community.
This would be outside, and you could provide wipes or hand sanitizer at each location for people to use as they would be touching the same container.
Mark down the candy’s location with GPS coordinates along with a hint like, “look in the trees for a treat.”
This may be a cheaper way to do an event as it would need less candy, and I don’t think the kids would mind because finding it would be almost as fun as eating it.
Tips for all forms of outreach
Here are a few words of advice, no matter what you do this year for Trunk or Treat.
1. Make it memorable. Kids need distractions right now. School is different and for so many, routines are off. Kids need us to help them make the most of a challenging situation.
2. Make if fun. Just because it isn’t like what you normally do doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Do your best to make it fun for kids.
With a year like we’ve all had, something that brings a smile and makes you forget the difficulties—even for a few moments—is always welcome.
3. Make it legal. I can’t stress this enough: Know your state’s or local government’s regulations. You want your families and volunteers safe.
You want to make sure you reinforce to the families in your church and the families in your neighborhood that they can trust you and your church.
In these difficult times, we must care for their souls and not unnecessarily inflame their fears. This isn’t a time to make a statement, but to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. Experiment. Maybe you’ll create a new tradition. We so often get stuck in a rut doing what we’ve always done. Everything is new, different, and up in the air.
This is a challenging time to lead. But it can disrupt (in a good way) our normal way of doing things and lead to a new idea or creative outreach.
This can help us be even more effective at loving our neighbors and preaching the gospel.
Whatever you do, don’t lose heart.
In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, part of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the story’s heroes are sailing through darkness and surrounded by their worst fears.
As all hope seems lost, an albatross circles the ship’s mast and whispers to one of the characters, “Courage, dear heart,” before leading them out into the light.
That’s the word for you and me in the middle of this crisis we face together: Courage, dear heart.
Be faithful where God has planted you and lead with the clarity of knowing that what we do matters, but it’s Jesus who builds the church.