Every year on Halloween, rather than go down to a local church for a “Hallelujah Party” or hide out in our house with our lights turned off, we host a big Halloween party for our entire neighborhood. This is another practical way we have shared the love of Jesus with our neighbors. (To get more outreach ideas by email, enter your email address at the bottom of the post.)
The day before Halloween we hand out quarter sheets of orange paper in the neighborhood, inviting neighbors to join us at dusk.
Here are some of the things we do:
Build A Fire In The Driveway
On Halloween night, we take our iron chiminea and put it on the driveway. Then we build a fire, put a circle of chairs around it, and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters on the driveway.
We have also started to invite the neighbors to join us.
Last year, we put out a big pot of chili. And of course, chili needs cornbread to go with it. And since the night can be chilly, we put out hot cider and hot chocolate. While we’re at it, we make a few batches of our Secret Recipe Cookies.
Pumpkins, Cats, and Candy
We fill a large bowl with candy bars. Sometimes there is a neighbor who will not get home from work until later in the evening, and she gives us a package of candy to hand out for her. In addition to the circle of chairs, we set up tables to hold the food and carved pumpkins, fiber-optic pumpkin heads, and cats.
People start showing up just after dusk. We light the fire and people gravitate to the food tables and the chairs around the fire. Several neighbors bring their bowls of candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters on our driveway instead of at their houses. A few also bring food and drinks to share.
Some people stay all evening. Some only stay for a short while, eating a bowl of chili, and chatting with friends and neighbors. Others came by with their children, greet a neighbor or two, grab a cookie or cup of hot cider, and continue accompanying their children on their trick-or-treating rounds.
Tricking Our Neighbors?
Did we do this so we could invite people to a Bible study, church service, or give them Christian literature? – Never! People can smell this sort of fake evangelism a mile off. Don’t befriend people just to invite them to church.
We do this so we can get to know our neighbors better, and so they can get to know each other better. We’re learning to love our neighbors like Jesus, and before we can do that, we have to get to know them.
And we do! Simply by spending time with, eating with them, and sharing life with them, we get to know them. Inevitably, we have conversations about life – including the meaning of life and its problems and where God is in all of that, hopes, needs and a variety of other issues. These all take place before, during, and after these events.
What A Great Neighborhood!
Do people want community? In our experience most people definitely do.
After last year’s Halloween party, several people at the Halloween party commented that their friends and relatives have said they wish they lived in our neighborhood, a neighborhood where people know each other and have neighborhood parties. One of our friends who does not live in the neighborhood commented this week “What a great neighborhood!”
People often say, “You need to go to church to be in community.” I say, “We are the church, in our community!”
We are the church as we get to know our neighbors, live in community with them, and show them the love of Jesus.
We’re learning to love our neighbors and help them in places where they need help, in places where we are able to help. We’re helping build community, a community where people know each other and care about each other, a community where people talk about inconsequential things as well as about really important things, including Jesus.