October 31, 2017Culture

Leverage Halloween to Love Your Neighbors

Halloween gives Christians a unique opportunity to welcome our neighbors
Leverage Halloween to Love Your Neighbors
Matt / Flickr

I know several Christians who detest Halloween. A 2015 Lifeway Research study shows that 21% of American Christians avoid Halloween completely. I’ll be the first to admit that Halloween is not my favorite holiday; I’m both jumpy and squeamish, and to this day I cannot stand with my feet beside my bed for too long thanks to watching Stephen King’s Pet Semetary 20 years ago. But Halloween gives Christians a unique opportunity to creatively serve, love, and welcome our neighbors.

Acts 17:26 tells us that God has placed us specifically and strategically in our “places” (our neighborhoods) to know him, and to demonstrate his love, his generosity, and his care for the people around us. We are called to live our lives on ‘assignment’ and to take seriously the responsibility that we have to pray for our neighbors, engage in relationship with them, and speak the truth of the gospel to them.

Just because we’re on assignment doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. In fact, I would argue that fun and whimsy are a great way to tighten relational strings! Here are a few ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help us leverage Halloween as a way to connect with and invest in our neighbors.

DO pray for your neighbors

Our neighbors live beside us because God placed us in proximity with one another. We should take seriously the powerful opportunity that we have to go to battle in prayer on behalf of our neighbors, even if they never know we are doing it.

Pray for them as they walk up your driveway. Pray for them as they walk away. Pray for opportunities to develop lasting relationships with them. Ask God to reveal himself to your neighbors, to encourage them through their interactions with you and other Christians in their lives.

Prayer is undeniably the most important and powerful thing you can do to love and serve your neighbors well.

DO display bold generosity

Our lives are opportunities to display God’s character to the world around us. We have a generous God who delights in giving. Halloween is a great time to display bold generosity to our neighbors. Be the house with the ‘good stuff.’

Choose to give M&Ms instead of black licorice. Also, if you insist on handing out toothbrushes, hand out gummy treats with them so that the kids have something to work out of their teeth.

Consider giving out full-sized candy bars to the neighbors and children you already know. Or perhaps a small “Boo Bag” full of little treats for your immediate neighbors. My husband and I moved into our home just before Halloween three years ago, and our new neighbor gave our son a plastic pumpkin full of treats. That generous gesture opened up a relationship that we still share!

If you have children who will be trick-or-treating, consider being the ‘go to’ house for an after party for the other neighborhood kids and their families. If you haven’t already gotten to know them, be sure to give them your full name and phone number in case they ever need the proverbial “cup of sugar.”

DON’T have any strings attached

People have an innate sense of when they are being treated as prospects and goals. Yes, share your faith. Yes, be ready at any moment to tell about the hope you have in Jesus. But be wise about when and how. Our generosity and love displayed at Halloween, or anytime for that matter, should be for love and generosity’s sake. View your neighbors as people to know and serve, not prospects.

Contrary to the classic Halloween phrase, sharing our faith should be all treat with zero tricks. Using bait-and-switch tactics can limit the effectiveness of relationship building. I recently read a fantastic article by Toni Ridgaway about how to know if you’re using bait-and-switch tactics when sharing your faith. Your motives and your commitment to the long-term relationship with your neighbors are guideposts to knowing if you’re tricking your neighbors into opportunities to proselytize them.

DO engage community events

Loving our neighbors well can be as simple as showing up and being hands on within your community. Last year, a small group of people from my church went to a local “Zombie Walk” and simply handed out free donuts and hot chocolate to all participants. That was it. No gimmicks; just free treats. Not only did that group show up to serve again this year, but they are now invited into other community events and opportunities to serve and build influence as well.

Small moments over time can have significant impact, so while handing out donuts and hot chocolate might not lead to Gospel conversations immediately (though it might), it does leave an impression about the God we follow, and build stronger, lasting relationships.

DON’T be weird

Halloween is an opportunity to connect with your neighbors; it is a chance to build relationships, and to serve your neighbors well. But like I mentioned when discussing having strings attached, your neighbors can sense ulterior motives. Remove the pressure from the opportunity to connect, and just show up, open the door, and be you.

You don’t have to force the moment. You don’t have to hold up a strawberry Twizzler and compare it to the red blood of Jesus. That’s weird. And it most likely won’t result in many future interactions with your neighbors. Be genuine. Be loving. And have fun.

DO continue your investment

Halloween shouldn’t be the only time we demonstrate hospitality, generosity, or an interest in our neighbors. It can make a really great starting point, and a really great way to continue building, but Halloween should be a part of a long continuum of relationship development with your neighbors. When you see “Jim” checking his mail, say hello. When everyone is snowed in, use your souped-up snow plow to plow another neighbor’s driveway in addition to your own.

Keep showing up. Keep praying. Keep investing. And be ready for the moment when neighbors start to open up about real life needs, and opportunities to share the hope of Jesus with welcomed authority.

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Haley Bodine and her family now call metro Detroit “home.” She currently serves as the North American Relationship Catalyst and Communications Director for NewThing Network. She has a background in small group ministry, nonprofit communications, and content development. Her work has been published by Relevant Magazine, World Vision International, Neue Magazine, and more.

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Leverage Halloween to Love Your Neighbors