So Halloween is just around the corner. Already the kids are out in the streets, dressed up and knocking on doors and parties of all shapes and styles are being organised!!
How then can we engage our children's ministries, family ministries with the festivities that go on?
Instead of focusing on halloween why not focus on "All Saints Eve" or "All Souls Day".
Some fun alternatives to try in your children's ministry.
Sam Donoghue from Children's work magazine gives some very useful suggestions:
1. Shine like lights
If your church building is in a prominent place in your community (perhaps on a square or a main road), why not work with your children’s group to decorate the outside of the church with lights and positive images, so that it stands out.
This could be a good project to work on with other groups in church, helping children meet other adults in your community apart from the children’s leaders.
On the evening of Halloween, you could give out hot chocolate to passers-by. If you are holding an All Saints’ or All Souls’ service, hand out invitations to that during the evening as well.
2. Reverse trick or treating
Instead of children going round the neighbourhood asking for treats, you could give out treats to people in your community who might appreciate them. In the days leading up to Halloween, make biscuits, cakes, cards or other simple gifts and put them in nice packaging. You’ll need to make sure children are aware of hygiene guidelines as they make food to give away, and ensure that your team (or at least someone on it) has had the appropriate food preparation training.
Before Halloween, identify people in your community who might appreciate a gift – maybe you could visit people who aren’t well, who are housebound or lonely. Then on the evening itself, walk to their houses together and give out your gifts.
3. A time of remembering
The festivals of All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows’ Day) and All Souls Day (1 and 2 November) were times when people remembered Saints and those who had died. In the Protestant tradition, these two festivals are usually celebrated as one. On Halloween or on the two days after Halloween, you could hold a special service or meeting, where children and their families can remember those in their families or circle of friends who have recently died.
You will need to be sensitive about how you go about this, but create a space where people can bring photos or mementos of those who have recently died. Have a time of thanksgiving and acknowledge that we will still feel sad, and that’s OK.
You might want to widen it to families who have held a funeral at the church in the past year. This will help them remember positively and also let them know that the church community is not just there for them at the time of the funeral, but throughout the year.
AND some more ideas . . .
Make your own scratch art
You will need: card or paper, wax crayons, black paint, washing up liquid
This is a great way to help children think about light and life overcoming darkness. Give children small pieces of card or paper (small is best as it takes effort to cover the whole area). Get them to cover the whole of the card with wax crayon patterns. Don’t leave any space that is not covered in wax.
Then paint over the wax with black paint that has been mixed with a little drop of washing up liquid. Let the paint dry and then you can start to scratch off the paint with a stick, making patterns and pictures so that the colours underneath show through.
Use this to think about light shining in the darkness and the darkness not being able to overcome it. Even though darkness and bad things seem to get in the way, God is more powerful than they are. Like the colour that comes through the scratch art, we always have hope of new life, the goodness of God’s gifts for us and the colour of his kingdom.
Mina Munns is the founder of Flame: creative children’s ministry
Walk of heroes
You will need: Lanters, torches, pictures of saints or heroes and leaders, sparklers or glo-sticks
Rather than focus on Halloween, we prefer to focus on All Saints Day. This gives you a chance to talk about the origins of Halloween (All Hallows Eve, just as Christmas Eve is the night before Christmas). So at our party we have the Walk of heroes where we share some of the stories of the saints and heroes in Christian history.
For this we set up a path around the outside of the church. It is dark, but the path itself is lit by candles, lanterns etc. We also give the kids torches so no one is frightened of being in the dark. As you go around the path, you see different pictures of the favourite saint or hero of a leader and the leader talks briefly about that person. We try to space them out throughout history: we’ll have someone from the Bible (eg Peter or Elijah), someone from church history (eg Patrick or Francis of Assisi) and someone more contemporary (eg Martin Luther King Jr or Amy Carmichael). We place a giant mirror at the end and ask who else is on this path (hopefully they’ll say ‘Me!’ or ‘Us!’). We round off by saying that we can be part of this incredible story of Saints and Heroes, part of the story of the church. It is All Saints Day after all! And to end we say that All Saints Day is a day of light and celebration so give the children sparklers and glo-sticks to help light up the darkness.
Steve Mawhinney is the children’s worker for Barnsbury Parish, Islington
Still looking for some more ideas? Here’s a selection of what else is out there:
Friends and Heroes
The team behind popular cartoon series Friends and Heroes has produced a party pack for children’s ministries to use at the end of October. The ‘Bright Sparks’ party pack includes games, crafts, quizzes, costume ideas, posters and flyers. The event includes characters from Friends and Heroes with a ‘light’ theme. For more information go to friendsandheroes.com/uk/party-packs
Scripture Union has created an online guide for parents and children’s workers, to help us talk to children about Halloween. The page looks at the history of the festival, relevant Bible passages and some counter-cultural ideas. Have a read at scriptureunion.org.uk/Families/Parents/Talkingabout/Halloween
They have also produced a Light Party pack which is available to order for free at scriptureunion.org.uk