NASHVILLE – Pastors and church leaders faced the question of how to handle Christmas Day when it fell on a Sunday last year. The news media highlighted churches that chose to cancel services on Sunday to allow families to celebrate at home. A LifeWay Research study, however, found that nine in 10 pastors planned for their churches to host Christmas services on that Sunday.
This year, Halloween falls on a Wednesday.
According to a 2011 National Retail Federation study, “seven in 10 Americans (68.6 percent) plan to celebrate Halloween.” If your church is like most others, you have midweek programming on Wednesday nights and it is unlikely that you would cancel those activities for Halloween.
The question is: What do you do when a major cultural event that does not represent your values threatens to hijack your activities?
Let me share how our church has chosen to tackle this. Our Wednesday night programming includes dinner, age-level activities and short-term connect groups for adults. I called an “ad hoc strategic meeting” with key staff members who lead or are involved in Wednesday activities. The only item on our agenda was to deal with our plans for Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012.
After discussing all the options, we decided not to ignore Halloween, but to plan a few simple enhancements for the night and communicate to our church family in time for them to make their own decisions about participation.
This is what we are planning to do.
1) We will not cancel any of our activities on Oct. 31.
2) We will host a Fall Family Festival the previous Sunday evening (Oct. 28).
3) We are planning a fun “family meal” on Oct. 31.
4) We are planning service-focused activities and games for our children and middle school students. They will be packing Operation Christmas Child boxes.
5) We will hold normal activities for our high school and adult ministries.
While that may not sound revolutionary, we have clarity and agreement about our path, and we can communicate this direction to the larger staff, church leaders and the whole church family. If you have not decided what you will do, here’s my suggestion for your church:
1) Call a strategic meeting with your staff, key church leaders or those involved in leading Wednesday night activities.
2) Discuss ways to capitalize on Halloween for your Wednesday activities.
3) Plan enhancements on Wednesday night that will make people think twice about missing.
4) Communicate these plans to your leaders and your church family.
Two other options to consider for Oct. 31:
1) Host a trunk-or-treat or fall family festival.
2) Host a community movie night. Visit LifeWay Films for help.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Craig Webb is pastor of vision & purpose at Gladeville Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. This article first appeared in the Pastors Today weekly newsletter published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)