Living on mission can seem daunting.
Sadly, we live in a culture where the idea of knocking on your neighbors door and having a conversation sounds completely alien. Many of our neighborhoods operate on an unspoken understanding of “If you ignore me, I’ll return the favor.” Since the invention of the automatic garage door it has been possible to go months without even seeing the people you live next to, never mind actually talking to them.
However, once a year culture lobs us a softball called “Halloween,” and with
just the slightest amount of intentionality the stranger down the block can become a friend. You just have to be willing to swing the bat.
Here’s a few thoughts for making the most of the opportunity that is extended to you every 31st of October.
1. Check Your Conscience
Halloween’s history is as complicated and diverse as its present-day reputation around the globe. The best brief handling I have seen on the history of the holiday and how Christians can reject, receive, or redeem it is a blog by Justin Holcomb. If you are not sure where you stand when it comes to you and your family’s participation, a quick read and some prayerful conversations with people you trust should be helpful.
Whether you feel compelled to participate or to find another way to spend your Halloween evening, do so with joyful confidence – knowing that you’re guided by the Holy Spirit, and with humility – understanding that others might choose otherwise and be just as faithful as you in doing so.
When we dress up our 3 boys (4, 2, and 8 months) like pirates on Halloween, it won’t be out of a desire to worship pagan Gods and summon evil spirits. If such activities were required to engage the culture and partake of the festivities, I assure you we’d pass.
No, we’ll be marching around our neighborhood with swashbuckling toddlers with completely different goals in mind; having a lot of fun with our kiddos, treating them to a one-night pass for gathering copious amounts of candy, and most importantly, meeting or reconnecting with the people around us we’ve been called to know, serve, and love.
2. When People Knock, Answer.
Sounds simple, right? Just to be overly clear, the very people you (should) want to be growing in relationship with will be walking up your driveway, and ringing your doorbell. They will be coming to you. So, open the door. Smile. Be friendly. Talk to people. Ask them their names. “Do you guys live around here?”
Tell parents their kids are adorable, or scary, or the appropriate adjective of your choosing. Give out candy — real candy — the kind kids want to eat. Go easy on the teenagers who are clearly too old to be trick-or-treating. Don’t be in a hurry. Be yourself. Have fun.
3. Visit Every House On Your Block.
Possible exceptions: a restraining order, an aggressive dog in the front yard, or a sign asking you to go away. Otherwise, this holiday is giving you the green light to connect with anyone with a porch light on. Even if the connection is brief and potentially awkward, it sets the stage for the next time you both check the mail at the same time, and keeps you from having to avoid eye contact while one of you is mowing the lawn. Introduce yourself. Remember names, and write them down as you walk to the next house.
4. Be Creative.
Feel free to go above and beyond. Consider putting a flyer in your neighbors’ mailboxes, inviting them over for hot cocoa and pumpkin bread before they take their kids out trick-or-treating. If you or someone you know is a photographer, set up a photo booth on your front porch and offer to take family pictures for people. If you think of an idea that ends up being a hit, do it every year.
5. Pray. A lot.
Before the evening’s festivities begin, pray that the Holy Spirit would give you eyes to recognize unique opportunities to connect with people, and the boldness to actually do so. If you do finish the night with a list of names, pray for them before you throw out the pumpkins and crash into bed. Start thinking right away, “How can I connect with these people again soon? Yes, to be a good missionary, but also just to be a good neighbor.”
Should doing so this Halloween lead to some good stories about new friends, make sure you pass them along. We’ll be excited to hear them.