For Lamar Baptist Church, the October fall festival is a hallmark event for community outreach and children’s ministry. But this year, restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic make the usual event impossible.
So church leaders came up with the “North Arlington Candy Hunt,” which the 500-member church will host Oct. 31 from 6-8 p.m. The event will be COVID safe and rain proof, according Ryan Gilbert, the church’s lead pastor.
“We had an all-day staff meeting back in July, with the goal of figuring out creative ways to do outreach during the coronavirus,” Gilbert said. “This is usually our biggest outreach event of the year, so we were disappointed to not be able to do it. But now we’re even more excited about the opportunity.”
Attendees will stay in their vehicles as they drive past eight designated stops where children will be given a bag of candy and a sticker, which will be applied to a map showing each “stop” around North Arlington.
The event will allow for anyone from the community to join in, and Gilbert hopes kids from all around the area will participate.
In a short video about the event, children’s pastor Joel Edgemon explained that at whatever “stop” a family arrives at first, they will be given the map which provides directions to each location. If participants fill up the entire map with provided stickers, they can bring it to church the following Nov. 1 and be placed in a drawing to win a Nintendo Switch or an Xbox.
“We’re collecting candy from the congregation now to use on Oct. 31,” Gilbert said. “The two Wednesday nights before Oct. 31 will serve as ‘candy-bag-stuffing’ nights, for anyone in our congregation to be part. It’s rain-proof because people don’t leave their cars, and we will have small canopies at each location right next to the curb. It’s COVID-proof because people don’t leave their cars, and our volunteers will have masks and gloves to hand out the candy.”
The two primary goals for the event, according to Gilbert, are to provide a fun and safe opportunity for children to enjoy trick-or-treating, and to welcome families to church the next morning, where the drawing will take place.
“Our vision for the next five years is this: ‘Declaring and displaying the gospel to and from north Arlington.’ We believe this is one way we can accomplish this mission,” Gilbert said. “We want to display that we love and care about our community, and we also want to declare the gospel to any who show up on Sunday morning.”
Gilbert also noted he believes other congregations could replicate this event model with some candy, a few host homes to serve as “stops” and a clear map.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Schoonhoven is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)