If goblins and ghouls haunt you at Halloween, try these fun-filled Christian versions of a not-so-Christian day.
5 Halloween Alternatives for Your Children’s Ministry
1. Halloween Alternative One: Family Storytelling Retreat
Have a family overnight retreat at a camp, retreat center, or school. Start around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. Tell each family to bring their favorite hors-d’oeuvres for a potluck appetizer supper.
After dinner, lead the group in singing lively songs with actions. Then have people get together with their own family. Have each family decide on their favorite story about an experience that involved their entire family. Tell each family they need to prepare a skit about that story to present to the other families. Skits should be no longer than five minutes.
After the presentations, form groups of four families. Have these groups each sit in a circle. Give them a story-starter sentence, such as “Once there was a man who couldn’t figure out how to…” One at a time, have group members add one sentence to the story until the story is complete. Start the story with the person who has the most gray hair (the wisest) in each family group.
Close your group time together by pointing people to Jesus as the consummate storyteller. The next morning, give each family a story that Jesus told so they can discuss what the story means. Encourage each family to be an important link in the chain of storytellers that spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Other ingredients for this Halloween Family Storytelling Retreat could include fun table graces, craft projects, free time for each family, large group games, get-to-know-you activities, outdoor games, team challenge races, face painting, a campfire, picnic meals, or a service project.
2. Halloween Alternative Two: Children’s or Family Dinner Theater
Bring the children of the church and community together with a musical production. Select a children’s musical that your children or families can prepare to present. You may want to use a Halloween “good conquers evil” theme. Enlist a director, a music director, a choreographer, a props person, a director of ticket sales, and a publicity coordinator. This may require weeks of rehearsal, setup, scheduling, and arranging, but everyone involved will enjoy the end result.
On the Friday or Saturday before Halloween, invite families to enjoy a casual spaghetti or potluck dinner. After the meal, bring on the entertainment!
3. Halloween Alternative Three: Family Harvest of Blessings Party
If you “carrot all, you’ll turnip” at this party! Now, this may be a challenge, but have each family come dressed as their favorite food! The costumes will be fun and original. Encourage creativity and nurture a sense of excitement. Use food clip art in your publicity. This is a fun way to celebrate the harvesting of foods in October—a foretaste of the feast to come in heaven!
Here are a few key family ingredients for your party recipe:
- Service projects: Collect food for the family food shelf. Bring birthday party items and make birthday party packs. Or collect funds to support an inner-city free meal program.
- Crafts: Decorate pre-baked cookies. Tie-dye T-shirts with colors from foods, roots, or flowers. Make salt dough creations and ornaments. Decorate pumpkins or gourds. Create cornstalk wreaths, dolls, or ornaments. Face paint with a food theme!
- Games: Toss bean bags that look like different foods onto plates. Play Fruit Basket Upset. Get out the tumbling mats and have a Banana Flip Run. (See who can run and do the most somersaults before running out of steam.) Have food relays. For example, kids can carry radishes on a celery stalk.
- Devotions: Study the fruit of the Spirit. Use visuals and role-playing. Study biblical passages that deal with the harvest or vineyards.
- Music: Take familiar tunes and change the words to create fun new songs that go with your theme.
4. Halloween Alternative Four: Mystery Tour of Surprises
On the weekend of All Saints’ Day (Halloween), take kids on a two-and-a-half hour mystery tour. Arrange enough transportation for all the kids in your program. Plan approximately five stops and arrange for kids to receive a treat or enjoy an activity at each stop. Here are possible mystery tour stops:
- grocery store—receive an apple;
- park—play a game;
- hospital—deliver flowers to patients;
- community pool—take a dip;
- bowling lanes—bowl a few rounds;
- another church—hear a short message;
- department store—receive samples;
- homes—have a snack.
At each stop, the children can also give as well as receive. For example, they could sing a song, make a food donation, or deliver handmade cards.
If it’s impossible to arrange transportation, then adapt this mystery tour to your church facility, church grounds, or school.
5. Halloween Alternative Five: Family Hayride
Schedule a hayride at a nearby ranch or farm. Or use lawn tractors and trailers piled with hay on your church grounds. Include a cookout or campfire with fun outdoor treats. Have a rousing family sing-along with guitars, ukuleles, banjos, fiddles, and tambourines. Encourage the children to be part of the band by playing rhythm instruments to praise God! How about some easy line dancing? While some people are on the hayride, others could be involved in movement through line dancing.
Halloween alternatives are great for you to keep in mind for a successful celebration.
- Publicity: Move away from using bats, witches, and ghosts in printed publicity pieces. Instead, use nature images such as trees, cornstalks, food, or leaves.
- Costumes: Kids (and most adults) love to dress up. If you forbid costumes, you’ll spoil half the fun. So allow costumes, but encourage people to choose positive costumes such as animals; professions; and sports, Disney, or Bible characters.
- Guests: Consider who you could invite to your festivities. How about other churches, community people, or children with special needs? Maybe you could even take your party on the road to a children’s hospital.
Susan Lennartson is a children’s minister in Minnesota.