Well, it’s that time of year again. The nights are growing cooler. The leaves are changing colors and falling from the trees. Daylight savings time is just around the corner. And people at your church are arguing about Halloween . . . what joy! A godly, older saint frowns at you disapprovingly as you mention taking your kids trick-or-treating, while the family at the other end of the pew is preparing for their annual costume party bash, complete with pumpkin carving and spooky music! What’s a Christian to do, anyway, when October 31 rolls around?
As a father of four young kids, I’m right in the midst of the Halloween “craze.” Choosing the right costume requires weeks of careful planning. Hitting the prime street for trick-or-treating is the topic of school gossip and 8-year-old conversation circles (“I heard the Hunter family gives out full-size candy bars!”). My six-year-old is begging me to visit the local haunted house (the answer is no).
I don’t have all the answers, but my wife and I have sought to think biblically about this occasion that comes around every year at this time. And so, I humbly offer six aids for you parents, as you think through what to do with Halloween as a family.
1. Enjoy it but don’t celebrate it.
This has become one of the ways that we seek to distinguish with our kids how we engage with Halloween versus how we engage with Christmas and Easter. We enjoy Halloween. We have fun with costumes, we like the candy (and, let’s face it, we parents take our cut!), and we enjoy taking our kids trick-or-treating with our friends and their kids. But we don’t celebrate Halloween. We don’t emotionally or worshipfully engage with this day in any fashion.
We enjoy Halloween; we celebrate Christmas and Easter.
We enjoy Halloween; we celebrate Christmas and Easter. These are magnificent days on our church calendar, not just our cultural calendar. We celebrate these days by calling to mind what they’re about—the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Halloween is a time for some fun; Christmas and Easter are times for worship.
2. Don’t ever glorify violence, evil, or gore.
While Halloween can be an occasion for some harmless dress-up, costumes, and maybe even a “haunted hayride” with some good-natured people jumping out and yelling boo, there is never an occasion to glorify violence, murder, gore, or the harm of a human being. Some costumes, movies, and haunted houses go way too far in this direction. It is not a godly impulse that leads one to be titillated by severed limbs, bloody weapons, and grotesquely gory masks or scenes. As followers of the risen Lord who will one day raise his people from the dead—as followers of the loving Creator who made every man and woman in his image—we must not glorify or take pleasure in the violent destruction of his image. No, not even for one day each year.
3. Seek to know and love your neighbors.
When it comes to Halloween on the block, this day can be an occasion to serve, love, and get to know the people of your neighborhood. When you take your kids trick-or-treating, pause for a brief, kind conversation with the family down the block. Or, consider staying home, filling a big bowl of candy, and adding some words of encouragement as you hand it out to the children and parents who ring your doorbell. Last year, taking my kids trick-or-treating in my parents’ neighborhood actually helped my mom and dad meet one of their neighbors for the very first time! Don’t miss an opportunity to build relationships that could lead to a clear communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. Be confident in Christ’s power over darkness.
It is true that some aspects of Halloween can be traced back to dark rituals and linked with a fascination with the occult. October 31 has certainly been a day that has been named and claimed by people who are fascinated with the darkness, drawn to the demonic, and love to flirt with fright, fear, and even outright evil. But, as Christians, we do not need to be paralyzed by a fearful superstition that we might be supporting the work of the devil as we hand out candy to the 5-year-old dressed as a witch at our door. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is greater than he who is in the world. In fact, Paul reminds us that Jesus has already triumphed over the powers of darkness on the cross, putting them to “open shame” (Colossians 2:15). If you choose to engage with Halloween in any way, do it knowing that you serve a Savior who is more powerful than Satan and brighter than the darkness, and who causes the demons to shudder. And give some Skittles to the miniature vampire on your front porch.
This comprehensive handbook looks at every facet of youth ministry from a gospel-centered perspective, offering practical advice related to everything from planning short-term mission trips to interacting with parents to cultivating healthy relationships.
5. Enjoy Halloween . . . and celebrate Reformation Day.
For those of us who celebrate the Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther and the translation and preaching of the Word of God, we can remember that October 31 is meaningful because of its place in church history . . . not just because of the candy in our kids’ plastic pumpkins. This coming Sunday at our church, we’ll remind our people that it is Reformation Sunday. We stand in the tradition of those Reformers who courageously insisted on the biblical truths concerning our salvation: through Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone. So, enjoy trick-or-treating on Wednesday; celebrate the Reformation on Sunday.
6. We can sometimes agree to disagree.
Finally, it’s okay to admit that the family in your church throwing the Halloween costume party and the frowning, disapproving woman are probably not going to quite meet in the middle on this one. Life can go on. But, that family can probably try to understand a bit more the hesitation about Halloween that some in their church have. Those who refrain from enjoying Halloween can probably give Christ-loving believers the benefit of the doubt.
And, by God’s grace, they can stand together and belt out “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” on Reformation Sunday.
Engaging with your local community can provide numerous opportunities to practice international missions close to home.
Halloween offers opportunity to engage in new relationships or to revisit old ones with missional intentionality.
How can you always point your children and family to the spiritual significance of this time of year?