When we first moved into our neighborhood ten years ago, we were the youngest family, surrounded mainly by elderly couples. We didn’t have children at the time, and the neighborhood remained pretty dark and quiet on Halloween night. But through the past decade, younger families have slowly moved into the area, which has encouraged us to be more intentional with how we engage our neighborhood during seasons and holidays like Halloween.
1 Peter 4:9 tells us, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” and in Hebrews we see the command, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
Regardless of your beliefs regarding Halloween, or Reformation Day, or however you choose to celebrate or abstain, the fact remains that the culture around us chooses to be out and about on this particular evening in October. What a neat opportunity to get to know our neighbors better and build relationships with those around us. Instead of focusing on being consumers, why not approach the holiday with the desire to share and gather with those around us?
Paul shows us a description of relational evangelism in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when he says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” Relational evangelism includes both sharing the gospel and sharing our lives with those around us. When we see our neighbors and ourselves as being intentionally placed where we are by God, it changes the lens through which we see others and engage them. As Rosaria Butterfield writes in her book, The Gospel Comes with a Housekey, “God never gets the address wrong.”
Here is what we plan to do this October 31 in our neighborhood, broken into steps for how to organize something similar if you choose to do so:
Step 1: Choose the front yard of the home where you will gather.
This could be your own home, of course. Or you may want to gather with your community group and even another group in the church (a great way to meet other CCC members) and choose a home together. Just choose where you plan to gather and engage others.
Step 2: Choose activities that encourage gathering.
Another benefit to planning this with your community group is that you can all contribute to this part of the evening – find people to donate cornhole boards, smores ingredients, a firepit, and other backyard activities (for the front yard, of course) to make your yard not just a place where people stop briefly to collect candy, but a place where people want to gather and stay a while! If your neighborhood is larger and you have the means and resources, maybe consider offering hayrides. Be creative and have fun!
Step 3: Choose a menu of treats or food.
What will you give away at your house? The creativity and possibilities here really are limitless, especially if you involve your community group in the process. Pre-packaged candy bags, slow cookers ready to serve bowls of chilli (if it actually happens to be cold in Texas that night), mugs of hot cocoa, apple cider or wassail. Set up tables and chairs and invite people to stay a while. This year we plan to do a candy apple dipping and decorating bar in the driveway. I’ve even seen families do a brisket nacho bar! Again, plan your menu to encourage gathering.
Step 4: Spread the word.
Make a basic flyer to put in mailboxes in your neighborhood and spread the word about what your neighbors can expect! Explain on the flyer that you’ll have games and activities, food and drinks, or whatever you’ve decided on, and invite them to come join for the night, and even bring a lawn chair if they want to stay for a while. One year we invited our neighbors to bring treats to join for a block party, and one neighbor showed up with all sorts of treats to share. Involve and include your neighbors and you may be surprised who all wants to join in the fun.
Step 5: Gather.
Show up, gather and engage people. Build relationships. Share food and fellowship and make friends. Choose to follow-up with those you get to know and make plans to have them over in the future. Let’s be intentional with this night when our neighbors tend to come to us more, and let’s not just hand them candy and say goodbye – if they care to stay, and we give them a reason to do so, let’s gather together and show truly radical Christian hospitality to those around us this Halloween.