Hey friends, with Halloween just two weeks away, I reached out to my friend and neighboring expert Chris McKinney for some advice and ideas. Chris and his wife Elizabeth work for a ministry called Cru City and did some training for us over the Summer. I asked him a few questions on how to be a great neighbor on Halloween. I’m thankful for his wise and creative ideas! —Jeremy
1. Why is Halloween a good time to connect with our neighbors?
[Chris] According to Jimmy Carter’s presidential proclamation made in 1978, and a Senate resolution passed in 2003, National Neighbor Day is to be celebrated on September 26. And while September 26th is as good as day as any to celebrate the importance of being a good neighbor, I think a better case could be made that National Neighbor Day should be celebrated on October 31st: Halloween. Think about it- there’s no other day in the year that it is okay and not awkward to have neighbors knocking on your doors and for you to do the same. To not engage with Halloween in some way in your neighborhood is to miss out on an incredible opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors.
2. What are some of the best ways you've seen Christians engage the holiday with their neighbors?
When we moved into our neighborhood over 6 years ago, we were excited for our first Halloween. But when October 31st finally rolled around, we realized to our dismay that our neighborhood turned into a ghost town (pun intended). There were no kids out trick-or-treating, neighbors weren’t out interacting with each other and most of the front porch lights were off. This trend went on for several years and we headed off with everyone else to the bigger, more fun neighborhoods. Finally, three years ago, we decided to try to convince everyone to stay.
The very first step we took—and one that I would recommend to anyone looking to engage with their neighbors on Halloween—was to encourage neighbors to get outside and do something in their driveways. A very easy thing to do is to purchase a cheap, portable fire pit and instead of remaining inside your house, simply sit outside with the fire going and hand out candy that way. You could also offer for people to stop and make some s’mores or pull out your grill and cook hotdogs for people as they come by. You want to provide neighbors with an excuse to stop and hangout out for a bit. If you want to take it to the next level, see if you can get the neighbors right around you to help you pull it off. Over the last few years, we’ve come to have these little Halloween stations all over our neighborhood and I think the best part about it is that neighbors are working together with other neighbors and getting to know each other in the process; That’s how we’ve seen community be built.
3. For families with small and school-aged kids, what are some ways to connect with the non-church-attending families in their neighborhoods?
There really are endless ways for families of small and school-aged kids to connect with others during the Halloween season. You could host a pumpkin carving party, a s’mores bar or a little game night at your house and do a Cupcake Walk, play Pumpkin Bowling or Halloween Bingo. Or be super cliche and let the kids wrap each other up as mummies with toilet paper- always a crowd pleaser!
For Halloween night, see if any of your neighbors want to meet up and take a picture of the kids before walking around to trick-or-treat together. Make your driveway a fun place to stop by setting up a Spin-to-Win or Shoot-to-Loot game. Or put on some chili and see if those right around you want to come over afterwards for a candy swap post-party..
4. How can single believers, or married couples without children, engage opportunities?
In our neighborhood, some of the best things that happen are because singles, young married couples without kids and empty nesters get involved. Sometimes the young families are so preoccupied, it’s nice to have help and participation from those without young kids. If you fall into one of these categories, one of the best things you can do is ask some of your neighbors who live next door if they would want to help you set up a “station” on Halloween night for people to stop at. It could be a food station (hot dogs, hot chocolate, popcorn, etc), an allergy-free station connected with the Teal Pumpkin Project (Moms will love you for providing something on Halloween that doesn’t center around candy) or maybe you could set up a little Halloween Photo Booth and offer to take people’s pictures (think hay bale, balloons and a sign that says “Halloween 2018). People love to have their picture taken, so you would be offering them a service and it could be a great connect point.
There are lots of other ways you could try to connect before Halloween as well. Consider an outdoor Hay Bale dinner, a Saturday morning “Monster Dash” run around the neighborhood, a Halloween Jamboree nail party, a Fall-themed One Read book discussion or an apple potluck party.
5. Are there any other Fall holidays or opportunities you prioritize in your neighborhood or community?
I think the Fall season offers a lot of great neighboring options. Basically, Halloween is just another excuse to have people, build relationships and get to know people.
If you wanted to try something in the next couple weeks before Halloween, one fun activity is called “Boo’ing.” It’s kind of like a Halloween version of Secret Santa. You fill a goodie bag with treats from the dollar store and print off two sheets- a sign for them to hang on their front door or window and a set of instructions. The instructions tell them to spread the love to 2-3 other neighbors. It’s a fun community-builder. We have also done some outdoor movies in the past, which are a fun way to bring people together. Some suggestions could be: Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ghostbusters or The Wizard of Oz. For young kids, we recommend Toy Story of Terror, Scared Shrekless, Monsters Inc. and Hotel Transylvania.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by trying to do everything. We’ve given a lot of ideas here but it’s important to remember to start small and maybe just pick one thing that fits your season of life, giftings and neighboring context. You never know how God might use a simple gesture or small act of kindness to build a relationship that could have great impact for His Kingdom.
Picture by rawpixel on Unsplash