Have you ever had that moment as a parent where you go into “Protector Mode”? Last year, my family walked around our neighborhood to Trick or Treat with my kids. My son was so excited, as he had been dressed up as Woody from Toy Story for what seemed like a whole week leading up to this night of candy collecting fun. Then there was a moment when the whole night changed. We walked up to one of the neighbor’s houses, and they gave my son and daughter candy, but as we walked away, a teenager dressed up as a vampire sat up out of a coffin and began to cry out, “Woody! Where are you?! Woody, I have come for you!” I’ll never forget the look on my, then, three-year-old’s face—the look of terror and confusion as he jumped in my arms and wondered what was going on. And then it hit me. I felt like I could lose it on someone trying to scare a three-year-old. Every part of me wanted to say something as we walked away, and in that moment I thought to myself, “Last Halloween ever.”
Since then, I have had a chance to cool down, and my son has had a chance to understand a bit more about reality versus pretend. I’ve also had time to think more about how we are to approach a day that can be very difficult for those of us who follow Jesus. As I’ve thought through it, three options have come to mind.
The first option is to accept it. Halloween just is what it is, and we should participate in it as everyone else does. This may mean trick-or-treating, going to haunted houses, enjoying parties, or checking out a corn maze. It’s simply not giving thought to the matter and enjoying the moment. While I appreciate the idea of enjoying the moment, I believe that for the Christian, the celebration of Halloween calls us to a better option.
The second option is to reject it. We can reject Halloween because, in our culture, the “remembering of the dead” can be intertwined with the building up of fear and interest in the demonic. The truth is there is a spiritual battle going on, and we should be wise in how we walk in this world, putting on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand firm in our walk with him in a world that is not yet made new. It may seem logical to reject Halloween in the sense that it can put our focus on fear and the demonic instead of on the Lord. At the same time, how are we to be salt and light if we isolate ourselves from those we are to be salt and light to? Which leads us to a better way.
We don’t have to settle for either accepting or rejecting the celebration of Halloween. There is a better way, and that is to redeem it. As Christian parents, we can look at things in culture, in this case Halloween, and think through ways we can redeem its purpose. You see, this happens throughout Scripture. Specifically, I think of Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. He could have easily rejected the Egyptian culture, refusing to comply with his master and refusing to do anything that would associate himself with that culture. He also could have accepted it and done everything to fit into the culture, including taking on their gods as his own. Instead, he followed the Lord as he lived in Egypt, and God worked it out that he would be put into a position of leadership. Through all of this, God would end up reuniting him with and providing for his family. I write all this to suggest that God has the ability through us to redeem the celebration of Halloween to be used as a catalyst for your family living out the gospel in your neighborhood.
There are a lot of ways redeeming Halloween could play out for your family. It could be setting up a great Halloween candy stand at your house to bring over neighbors to build relationships with them for the sake of the gospel. I’ve even heard of people renting bounce houses to make their house the best in the neighborhood; all for the purpose of meeting neighbors to share Jesus with them. Another idea could be to walk through your neighborhood and intentionally learn the names of neighbors. The beauty of Halloween is that it drives your community out into the streets. It’s unique to have so many neighbors out at one time, and it gives you a unique platform to connect with them.
This Halloween, I encourage you to be intentional about how you can redeem it for the gospel. Talk with your kids, and together, create a plan for how you will engage their classmates and your neighbors for the gospel this Halloween. Let them see how God can use them on mission, even at three or four years old, and give them a taste of living missionally in your neighborhood. Who knows? Halloween could be the catalyst for gospel conversations in and around your home for a long time.
-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)