5 Ways to Build Relationships on Halloween
Be intentional about getting to know your neighbors and develop bonds that will last long after the candy is gone.In New England, there are two times that we are guaranteed to see our neighbors. One, right after a snowstorm when everyone is clearing their sidewalks; and two, the night of trick-or-treat. When our goal as a family is to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors that will lead to making disciples, it makes sense that we should learn how to make the most of this opportunity.
Obviously, we do not want to be part of any celebration that honors behavior and things that are ungodly. But we run into a conundrum when we evaluate our family mission. Matthew 28:19 says: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This has driven us to live a life in urban community-based ministry, in order to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). We intentionally position our family in Boston to build relationships that will lead to making disciples. This starts with loving our neighbors and taking time to know who they are by being where they are.
The last 10 years we have been involved in Halloween in various ways: library parties, church events, staying home, and yes, last year I took my kids door-to-door in our neighborhood. We are not the only ones. Many Christian families we know are intentionally participating for kingdom purposes. Hopefully, one of these strategies that has been used in our neighborhood will inspire you to wear a silly hat and get to know some of the people God has placed in your neighborhood, your ministry area.
1. Don't Be Spooked. Get Outside!
One of the best ways to embrace trick-or-treat, if you have a lot of visitors, is to get outside and greet the trick-or-treaters. Rather than trying to clean, watch a movie, or take a nap during the allotted hours of trick-or-treat, and then feeling annoyed every time the doorbell rings, go outside. Sit on your porch and greet people. Use the time to intentionally get to know your neighbors who are coming to your house.
Churches spend a lot of time creating strategies to entice the unsaved into the church building. On trick-or-treat night, you have your community coming to YOU at your door! Get out there, be the Church, and get to know your neighbors.
Ask the kids about their costumes. Introduce yourself to parents. Build the foundation of a relationship. If you feel inspired, dress up a bit. Try something that would tell a little about yourself. Wear a hat you bought on vacation or put on your favorite sports jersey. A relationship requires an exchange of information. Learn something about your costumed guests, and share something about yourself.
2. Build Friendships without Leaving Your Front Yard
Let's face it, if you have ever gone trick-or-treating, you know it's hard work. A partner ministry in our hometown provides a place to sit and drink hot chocolate so that trick-or-treaters and their parents can pause and rest. Set up your picnic table on your front lawn. If you live in a cold place like Boston, hot chocolate is great, but sweet tea and lemonade are also excellent options. Fire up the grill and serve hot dogs. Purchasing hot dogs and buns from your local warehouse store is almost the same investment as getting good candy.
Create a space where neighbors can sit and then sit down with them. Share a bit of life with your neighbors. Find out what sports their kids play. Ask your neighbor where she bought the beautiful flowers you noticed lining her front walk. This environment also lends itself to testimony and prayer. Share your own story of what God is doing in your life, then offer to pray with a neighbor who may share a difficult situation she is experiencing.
3. Celebrate All that Is Good
If your church is hosting a harvest party, get involved. Extra hands are always welcome. But don't just go, bring people with you. Invite your neighbors, soccer teammates, your hairdresser that has little kids, and your own kids. Pack your car with big and little people. Parents want their kids to have fun and be safe. A church party is a safe and fun environment that appeals to parents. Get flyers from your church, or make your own. Give them out in the weeks leading up to the event.
Don't close the book after the event. While you are there, introduce your guests to other church members. Tell them about programs your church has available. Then continue the conversation later. Maybe while bobbing for apples, you learn that your neighbor loves apple pie. If you are a baker, make them an apple pie (or buy one), and take it to them. Continue the relationship, continue the conversation, and continue to listen and learn about your neighbors. If your church doesn't participate, look for events at your local library or community center.
4. Give Something Good to Eat
Contrary to popular belief, trick-or-treaters do not want tracts. The name of the game on this night is treats. The gospel information in tracts is invaluable compared to a snack-size chocolate bar, but to a kid, it feels like a trick to get a piece of paper when they expect a treat. It's all about expectations. Incorporating the gospel or church information into the treat is great. We have creative friends that achieve both objectives. Our pastor lives in the high-traffic trick-or-treat neighborhood. Their family employs the greeting-on-the-porch method, but they also print out hundreds of labels with the name, address, and service time for our church to attach to each candy bar they give out. The candy is good, the personal connection occurs, the information is there, and everybody wins.
It doesn't have to be candy. Other friends of our ministry don't give out candy, but they purchase glow bracelets in bulk. This gives them two advantages: glow bracelets are cool, and they get more than half a second with each trick-or-treater while they crack the bracelets and loop them around the wrists of the children. They have time to talk and interact with each one. Some companies sell pencils, bracelets, and bouncy balls that incorporate biblical themes, at affordable prices if you plan ahead.
5. Pray for Every Costumed Child
Not everyone is comfortable or ready to chat it up with every trick-or-treater, but we can all pray. As you place candy in a little pumpkin and you see the cute painted face that God created in His image, pray over him or her. Pray protection, salvation, blessing, and direction for that child and the family represented.
Trick-or-treat night can be a great opportunity for Christians to build and grow relationships with neighbors if we are intentional about it. It can also provide a solution to the stress-inducing issue of how to involve our children in this day as families do ministry together. When I explain to my kids about getting to know our neighbors, they are all in. They dress up, and when the doorbell rings, they all bolt. Our trick-or-treaters are overwhelmed with candy, love, and conversation. There are some kids that we consistently see on that night. We know them. We have enjoyed the opportunity to watch them grow during the last two years. It's a small connection that allows us to stop and chat in the grocery store that can lead to a birthday party invitation, a mean when someone is sick, and chats about life that lead to the opportunity to share the gospel, and make a disciple.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.
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Sarah Riddle and her husband, Keith, have served with The Boston Project Ministries since 2002. They have three boys who fill their lives with thrilling adventures. Some of their favorite family activities are biking around Boston, camping, and rooting for the Red Sox.