So it’s Halloween and parents everywhere are finalizing their plans for next week. Candy is purchased and placed in the requisite pumpkin bucket near the front door. Costumes are selected and purchased. And evangelical car trunks stand ready to be decorated for the church parking lot. It’s go time.
But before you venture out at the end of this week, make sure you are ready, as a parent, for the holiday. To get you ready I’m here with some important things not to do.
1) Don’t Be That Parent Who Judges What the Other Parents Do.
Regardless of your parenting posture on Halloween (and if you need help, here’s a helpful guide from Russell Moore), don’t be the parent who either self-righteously talks about how you shield your kids from the devil’s holiday or how you are so much more enlightened than the parents who shield their kids from the devil’s holiday. Follow 1 Corinthians 8.
2) Don’t Be a Candy Killjoy
There are several ways to be a candy killjoy. Maybe you are the healthy parent (not that there’s anything wrong with that) who will only accept gluten-free, free-range, grass-fed, no-hormone candy. I’m exempting here parents who have kids with allergies. Those are serious and we should do whatever we can to make those kids get candy they can enjoy that doesn’t make them sick. But with that caveat out of the way, don’t be the parent who lectures on “all the chemicals in the candy” and “how kids are so obese these days.” Those are important discussions, but can we let the kids have some fun and save those discussion for another day? And, for the sake of all that is good and holy, don’t put carrot sticks in some poor kid’s candy bag. Just don’t do it.
The other way to be a Halloween candy killjoy is to not allow your kids to indulge the candy on the first night. Our rule of thumb is that we allow them to go a little bit crazy the night of collection, then my wife Angela rations the candy like the food rationing during World War II. This allows them to enjoy candy in moderation the rest of the year.
3) Don’t Be a Gospel Killjoy
When we grew up, we didn’t trick or treat–that was my parent’s conviction–but we did give candy to the kids who did. We also handed out gospel tracts. I think gospel tracts are great evangelism tools during this season. I know of several people who came to faith in Christ after receiving a gospel tract. However, don’t make the really big evangelistic fail of handing out tracts without candy. Don’t do this. First of all it’s cruel and unusual punishment for kids who are coming to the door for candy and not pamphlets. Secondly, it says all kinds of unintentional things about the God whose love you are trying to communicate.
Another way to be a gospel killjoy is to work a “light and darkness” Bible reference into every other sentence when you are trick or treating with your kids or discussing Halloween with friends. Yes, this is a great moment to talk about spiritual warfare, light and darkness. Yes, yes. We do this with our kids every year at this time. But don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be a killjoy. Have fun and let your kids have fun.
4) Don’t let your daughters wear sexy costumes
Somewhere along the line Halloween grew from a holiday where kids dress up and go get candy from neighbors to a holiday where adults dress up in increasingly inappropriate and creepy costumes. I’m amazed when I look at the sales fliers at how these sexy costumes are increasingly being marketed to young girls. I have three young girls and this disturbs me on many levels. As parents, we need to resist the culture and make sure we practice modesty give our kids a young and wholesome time on Halloween. As a father I feel a weighty responsibility to protect my kids’ innocence.
5) Don’t be too cool for your church’s events.
I’ve noticed a kind of elitism when it comes to church’s attempts to do outreach on Halloween. Ok, Judgement Houses are a colossally bad idea. But don’t be too cool for your church’s Trunk or Treat or Harvest Fest. Yes, you are missional and will do trick or treating to meet your neighbors for gospel conversations, but you can also do your church’s events as well. Participate, encourage the body of Christ and, if you are smart, set up two nights of candy for your kid’s consumption.
6) Don’t be too churchy to not use Halloween to build relationships in your community.
On the flipside, I think Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity to get to know your neighbors. It’s hard to reach people with the gospel if you don’t actually know them. And you should attempt to get to know them in a long-term friendship kind of way, not in a “I’m being nice to you so I can get you to my church” kind of way. Be genuine. Be friendly. Be human. Your unchurched neighbor probably doesn’t really need to hear about the supposed Satanic origins of Halloween the first time you meet him.
7) Don’t forget the 10% Daddy tax
I saved my best tip for last. A universal rule of parenting is the 10% Daddy tax. In exchange for your wandering around dark streets with plastic pumpkin buckets with your kids, you have the right to skim at least 10% of the candy they collect. The best time to do this is after they are in bed and will not notice a few missing 100 Grand bars or Kit Kats. You shouldn’t feel bad about this. This is how the world works. Your parents took 10% of the candy you collected when you were a kid and now this is you completing the cycle. Plus, they really aren’t old enough to appreciate the rich chocolate and caramel of a Rolo.