Are Church “Fall Festivals” Actually Counter-Productive?


Last year I wrote a post that caused a lot of discussion.  I thought I would revisit the subject since this blog has grown by over 1,000 readers since then, and many of you were not able to be a part of the discussion.

For my first twenty years in Children’s Ministry, I planned and hosted a “Fall Festival” (a.k.a. “Harvest Party”, “Hallelujah Night”, “Fall Fest”, “Family Fun Fest”, “Trunk or Treat”, etc.) at the church where I was serving.  These events generally were seen as a fun Family Event that served as an “alternative to trick-or-treating and Halloween.”

The typical “Fall Festival” usually looks a bit like this:

  • It is a family-oriented celebration/party.
  • It may have costumes.
  • Games are played.
  • Contests are held.
  • Food abounds.
  • Music blares.
  • Everyone enjoys themselves.

Certainly there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Fall Festival on its face.  I love dressing up in funny costumes.  I love seeing what crazy costumes the kids will come up with.  I love games, fun, and candy.  All of that is awesome!!!

However, several years ago, I began to ask the question:  “Is our Fall Festival actually counter productive?” Could it be that this event actually works against what our mission is as the church:  “to know Christ, make Him known, and reach the lost people in our city and around the world?”

Now, before I go any further – I want to assure you that I am not indicting anyone who does Fall Festivals.  As I said, I have done one for the last twenty years.  But, as I and our pastoral team put more thought into it we had several questions come up.

1)  Why do we feel the need to do an “alternative event” for our families on Halloween?  We don’t do an “alternative event” for Mardis Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, or other random holidays.

2)  Are we really “connecting” with the lost people who come?  We consider it a “bridge event” (connecting the lost of our community to the church in a non-threatening way).    Do they end up just stopping by to play a game, win a bag of candy, and move right along to the next church that’s throwing a Harvest Party?

3)  What about the people in our neighborhoods?  I have been most frustrated by the fact that on the darkest night of the year, it seems the Church has gathered all of the “light” together in one place (the church) in order to “escape the darkness” – and there is absolutely no light represented in our neighborhoods.  For the last twenty years, the very people I MOST want to reach, my neighbors, have been out on Halloween going door-to-door.  On a night when they are voluntarily coming to MY house, giving me an opportunity to speak to them and show God’s love – my house is dark with no light on because…the pastor is at his church throwing an alternative party, mostly for other Christians.

I welcome your thoughts in the Comments Section.  I posted this as a means to initiate discussion and provoke thought on this subject.  I invite disagreement and diversity of opinion.  Would love to hear what you think.

Who Is This Clown?

This past weekend, we launched our “Family Month” event.  This is something we do every year during the month of July.  We always bring in outside ministry guests and have FREE family ministry/entertainment during our Sunday Night services that are dedicated to bringing the entire family together.

Our first guest was “Chagy the Clown.”  Chagy did an incredible job.  He was one of the best guests we have had – EVER!  Here are a couple of reasons why he was such a hit!

1)  He was FUNNY! – Everyone loves to laugh!  Chagy connected with the youngest and the oldest in our audience!
2)  He was professional! – Chagy was well-prepared, highly skilled, and easy to work with.
3)  He has a heart for ministry! – Chagy communicated the gospel throughout his entire presentation.  His heart for the lost was evident in every conversation I had with him!
4)  He was extremely affordable! – Compared to many guests we bring in, Chagy was VERY affordable!  Hard to believe considering he relies on these events to help pay for the dozens and dozens of Missions Trips to South and Latin America.

I highly recommend Chagy for ANY event you may have: outreach, family ministry, kids, etc.  If you are interested, visit his website http://chagy.com/

The “Atomic” Easter Disaster

It was one of my very first events at my new church.  Sadly, I was focused more on impressing them with my amazing creative ideas rather than providing a safe and secure environment for the kids.

We have very little grass on our property for an egg hunt, so I got permission to use a vacant lot that was across the street from our church.  Now, I didn’t realize it would be a good idea to provide a crossing guard – or even a crossing area for the families to make it safely over to the lot.  So, it was like a real-life game of FROGGER.  Families were dodging cars left and right.  Several nearly got hit.

For the pre-schoolers – I really didn’t know what to do.  I had really only worked with Elementary children up to that point.  So, rather than getting input from some of our preschool moms or volunteers – I just winged it on my own.

I chose what I thought was a great spot for the preschool egg hunt.  It was a grassy little ravine down at the end of the property.  It has large rocks that I thought would make great hiding places for the kids.  I could just imagine their joy as they peeked behind the rocks to find the eggs.

When I said, “GO!”, the little tikes starting rolling down the hill, falling and scraping their knees on the rocks.  I had parents looking at me like I was an idiot – they didn’t know the half of it.  They hadn’t opened the eggs yet…

When the kids opened the eggs, they found the little prize I had put inside.  You see, I had gotten a GREAT deal at Sam’s Club on Atomic Fire Balls.  How was I supposed to know they were a choking hazard??  😦

When it was all over I had a bunch of bloody preschoolers with candy they couldn’t possibly eat.  My Preschool Director – who also happened to be my pastor’s wife – walked up to me holding a handful of Atomic Fireballs.  All I remember her saying was, “Really, Brian?  REALLY?”  She was not happy – and I didn’t blame her.

I had not taken the safety of the kids into consideration at all.  And, if you ever thought that safety and security doesn’t have a correlation to the spiritual – think about this.  If we had any first time guests that day – they sure didn’t come back for Easter the next day.  Which means we had multiple families who did not have an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  All because I was more focused on impressing others rather than putting safety first – and utiliizing the talents of the rest of my team.

Here’s hoping your Easter outreaches are a huge success as you seek to make the Gospel come alive to the children and families of your community.  And, take my advice – avoid the Atomic Fireballs!

Are “Fall Festivals” Counter-Productive?

For the past twenty years in Children’s Ministry, I have planned and hosted a “Fall Festival” (a.k.a. “Harvest Party”, “Hallelujah Night”, “Fall Fest”, “Family Fun Fest”, “Trunk or Treat”, etc.) at the church where I was serving.  These events generally were seen as a fun Family Event that served as an “alternative to trick-or-treating and Halloween.”

The typical “Fall Festival” usually looks a bit like this:

  • It is a family-oriented celebration/party.
  • It may have costumes.
  • Games are played.
  • Contests are held.
  • Food abounds.
  • Music blares.
  • Everyone enjoys themselves.

Certainly there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Fall Festival on its face.  I love dressing up in funny costumes.  I love seeing what crazy costumes the kids will come up with.  I love games, fun, and candy.  All of that is awesome!!!

However, several years ago, I began to ask the question:  “Is our Fall Festival actually counter productive?” Could it be that this event actually works against what our mission is as the church:  “to know Christ, make Him known, and reach the lost people in our city and around the world?”

Now, before I go any further – I want to assure you that I am not indicting anyone who does Fall Festivals.  As I said, I have done one for the last twenty years.  But, as I and our pastoral team put more thought into it we had several questions come up.

1)  Why do we feel the need to do an “alternative event” for our families on Halloween?  We don’t do an “alternative event” for Mardis Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, or other random holidays.

2)  Are we really “connecting” with the lost people who come?  We consider it a “bridge event” (connecting the lost of our community to the church in a non-threatening way).    Do they end up just stopping by to play a game, win a bag of candy, and move right along to the next church that’s throwing a Harvest Party?

3)  What about the people in our neighborhoods?  I have been most frustrated by the fact that on the darkest night of the year, it seems the Church has gathered all of the “light” together in one place (the church) in order to “escape the darkness” – and there is absolutely no light represented in our neighborhoods.  For the last twenty years, the very people I MOST want to reach, my neighbors, have been out on Halloween going door-to-door.  On a night when they are voluntarily coming to MY house, giving me an opportunity to speak to them and show God’s love – my house is dark with no light on because…the pastor is at his church throwing an alternative party.

I welcome your thoughts.  I posted this as a means to initiate discussion and provoke thought on this subject.  I purposefully waited until AFTER Halloween to post this because I didn’t want to appear to be “dumping on” something that many people were in the middle of planning.  I invite disagreement and diversity of opinion.  Would love to hear what you think.