Should Christians distance themselves from Halloween? Two-thirds of pastors in the U.S. believe it is a good opportunity to reach out to people outside the church, according to a new survey.
LifeWay Research conducted a phone survey involving the senior pastors of 1,000 Protestant churches to ask what they tell their church members to do during Halloween.
Sixty-seven (67) percent of the pastors said they encourage their church members to invite friends or neighbors to church events related to the season, such as trunk-or-treat or fall festival.
Half of the survey respondents said they tell their church members to use the occasion to build relationships or befriend the people in their community who trick-or-treat.
“This is a time when your neighbors literally come to your doorstep,” Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research executive director, said. “Pastors don’t want their church members to waste that chance to make a connection or invite someone to church.”
Only 8 percent of the pastors tell their church members to “avoid Halloween completely.” More African American pastors (23 percent) tell their church members to avoid Halloween altogether compared to white pastors (7 percent).
The survey also found that pastors aged 65 and older are more likely to be skeptical about Halloween (13 percent), while younger pastors aged 45 and below are less skeptical (4 percent).
Handing out gospel tracts seems to be losing its appeal, as only 25 percent of pastors encourage their church members to engage in this activity. In fact, almost two-thirds of pastors (63 percent) from bigger churches prefer that their members befriend trick-or-treaters than give them gospel tracts.
Halloween is a major holiday in the U.S. Last month, the National Retail Federation reported that Halloween spending is estimated to reach $8.4 billion this year, the highest amount ever recorded in their annual surveys.
At this time of the year, the question often debated among church members is, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”
Christian preacher, teacher and author John Piper said in an article for Desiring God that he hopes believers would “think biblically and carefully” about any holiday, not just Halloween, and consider how they could witness for Christ during these events.
“I would hope that all Christians would think biblically and carefully about any holiday, any event, and how they might be salt and light in it,” he wrote. “The same thing with Christmas and birthdays and Easter and worshipping on Sunday. All of these things have pagan connections.”
He said parents should not stop their kids from trick-or-treating if they feel it would be a learning experience for them and help them to enjoy God’s grace.
“I want to be loose and broad and give freedom to believers to find their way to be most effective. So I respect those who are renouncing it as too connected with evil, and I respect those who say, “No, let’s redeem it and penetrate it and use it,” he concluded.