Christians: Is Trunk-Or-Treat a Terrible Idea?

This awesome picture totally negates my point.
This awesome picture totally negates my point.

As a Christian, I have insider access to other Christians and I have to say, Christians are a weird species. We have to make our own everything. Christian music, Christian coffee, Christian mints (I’m not joking), but I may have found the strangest one: Christian Halloween.

Trunk-or-Treat as it’s commonly called, is when Christians gather in a parking lot such as a church or a Chick-fil-A, and hand out candy from their trunks to children who come by. Sounds creepy when you put it that way, but it’s like a micro-Trick-or-Treat where you go to the next trunk instead of the next house.

There’s really nothing harmful there, but…you know…when I think about it…it could very possibly be the worst idea ever. Why?

IT TAKES AWAY THE ADVENTURE.

Now, I am all for getting the maximum amount of candy with for the least amount of travel and time, but isn’t Trick-or-Treat supposed to be a fun time of exploration? Walking around in your tiny Darth Vader costume, seeing how each house is specially decorated to scare or entertain? Knocking on the door, wondering what kind of candy you’ll get next? Hollering at your friends as you pass by?

Some of you may say that Trunk-or-Treat does all that. People decorate their cars, there’s still a mystery to the candy, and you see your church friends. It’s just condensed into a single parking lot instead of a whole neighborhood or multiple neighborhoods.

First of all, that might reduce the amount of overall candy, which is a Halloween party foul. But more importantly: are we that crunched for time? Are we so busy that we’d rather take our kids for a quick walk through the parking lot instead of driving or strolling through the neighborhood?

That seems like it’s more for the parents than the kids and Trick-or-Treat, should you do it, is about kids.

IT NEGATES COMMUNITY

There’s nothing wrong with Christians getting together for fellowship, in fact, I’m for it. But not when it comes at the expense of our community. Halloween is the one time of year you can knock on your neighbor’s door without fear. They expect visitors. Except that old jerk with all the lights off and the threatening yard signs. He’s just the Halloween Grinch.

Christians must be careful not to insulate themselves from their neighbors just because they’re not fellow church-goers. Christ called us to be salt and light to the world, and he spent more time with the unsaved than the religious. And you don’t have to be in church to witness. Shoot, you don’t even have to evangelize in the strictest sense. Just being a good, friendly, compassionate neighbor is a witness to Jesus’s character. So don’t think you’re not doing any “Christian good” just because you aren’t inviting them to church or handing out tracts. Just show you care and that starts by acknowledging their existence.

That’s why my wife and I are staying home this Halloween even though there are a couple church-group events. We’d rather meet the people of our neighborhood who come and say hi to us. It’s mostly kids, but many parents, come, too, and we can show ourselves to be friendly, accepting, and loving examples of Christ, even in those few seconds of interaction. Oh, and give good candy. Only Pharisees give tooth brushes and apples.

Plus, it’s good to let your kids meet people outside the church bubble. Show them the real world time and again. But this brings me to my final point.

IT PROMOTES FEAR

One big reason a lot of Christians opt for the trunk-or-treat is because it’s a safe environment for their children. I don’t know what’s more ironic, that Christians, who are called to be bold in Christ’s name, are cowering with fear in a Chick-fil-A parking lot, or that it’s done on the holiday that celebrates fear.

Want to know something even more ironic? I’m from St. Louis, yearly rated one of most dangerous cities in America (the East Side was listed as number 1 for three years in a row in one poll), and I never saw a trunk or treat in the dangerous areas: downtown, north county, East St. Louis, and parts of south city. You know where I saw them? The rural subsidies, the safest places in the Greater St. Louis Metro Area. That’s where people thought their kids needed protection. Why are Christians so good at fabricating fear where there is none?

Yes, our children should be kept safe, but tell me something: is your neighborhood a crack den? Are there pedophiles up and down your street? Have children been abducted in your area? If you’re honest, most of you said no. If you’ve watched too much TV News, you said, “Well, there MIGHT be!” We can’t live our lives in fear of what might happen. Anything can happen.

Your kid could get run over in that parking lot. You could crash on the way to the event. Your kid could develop an allergy you didn’t know about and choke to death. Your toddler could choke on a candy wrapper while you’re not looking. Or here’s the really scary thing: any one of those lovely Christian folks you trust could turn out to be a child molester. You don’t know. Anything could happen. We, as parents (I have a kid coming), must not lock ourselves inside for fear of the world. Jesus certainly didn’t and his was a far more dangerous time than ours.

If you’re concerned for your kid’s safety, walk with him! Go with your children into the scary world and show them how to stand firm in it. If they’re too old for that, have them go with other kids like friends or siblings. Every kid pretty much has a cell phone anyway. Be wise, definitely be wise, but don’t be driven by fear. God wants you to live in courage and confidence, not terror. And again, we Christians are called to be examples to the non-Christian world. What are we telling them when we walk with an all-powerful, all-loving God, but are petrified or our own neighborhoods?

IN CONCLUSION

No, I don’t think trunk-or-treat is evil. And it’s wonderful for people who live in secluded areas without any neighbors. It’s also a great way for new church folks and their children to make friends. And yeah, it can be a ton of fun! My problem isn’t the means, it’s the intent.

Are you going to trunk-or-treat because it’s the most efficient? Because your kids have more fun this way? Because you have a fantastic trunk decoration you want to display? Because you’re aching to connect with other Christians?

Or because you’re trying to make trick-or-treat about you and not your kids? Or because you don’t want to be salt and light to your neighbors? Or worst of all, because God isn’t safe enough for you? I don’t want to condemn; I just want you to think. Whatever you do, have fun. Happy Halloween, everybody!

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8 thoughts on “Christians: Is Trunk-Or-Treat a Terrible Idea?

  1. I hadn’t thought of a lot of those things, and I live directly across the street from a church (let me tell you, I don’t even try to get out of my driveway those days). I’ve been to that one a few times and it seemed like a great idea. It was cozy, people were very friendly and overall it was a great experience that I could see why people enjoyed.

    But… I didn’t consider how closed off it could be or the impression it could give younger trick or treaters. I agree with your closing statements, I think it’s the intent that really makes or breaks it.

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  2. There are reasons this “tradition” began, the most grievous being that in the late 70’s and early 80’s there were people putting razor blades and drugs into candy and fruit that was given out in neighborhoods. Parents panicked, and not only Christian parents. So at first, and in some places, still, the church became a place to take neighborhood children (all children) to trick or treat safely. It was born out of necessity and was a nice evangelism tool, as well. In my town, there are several churches that invite the rest of whoever wants to come, and have games, contests, food, and tons of candy. Some large churches have over 10,000 pounds of candy to distribute (just so you know these are not small parties!) Most churches have changed the name from Trunk or Treat to something else, like ‘Fall Festival’ for example, and have events and drawings to include adults, as well. Its truly a family event and one that includes community. The communities these parties are in love going to these events, and taking their kids for one big party night that isn’t usually on Halloween (so they can still go into neighborhoods that evening.) I am sorry your experience hasn’t included these other things, but maybe you could actually help bring back the evangelism tool it was meant to be, and provide a different experience in your city that would amount to more than trunks opening in a parking lot. I agree that this isn’t what it is about.

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    1. That sounds like fun, and yeah, it can definitely be an evangelism opportunity. I just hope people aren’t trying to hide from the world there. In my experience, they have. Of course, my experience doesn’t dictate the norm. Thanks for the fresh perspective! I hope you’ve all had a good one!

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  3. I have never even heard about trunk-or-treat until this very moment! I know my church has something separate but usually it’s for really, really young children and it’s a few days before Halloween.

    What an interesting concept. You bring up multiple good points though and I thank you for that. You look at everything from both angles, so I applaud you! Perhaps I should drive around tonight looking for a trunk-or-treat to see if they exist in my neighborhood.

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    1. The fun thing is seeing the commenters responding with how good Trunk-or-Treat can be without being jerks about it. It’s always nice to have multiple perspectives without sniping at each other. I’m not a fan, but I don’t think it’s a sin or anything.

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  4. I see your points, but we have had a fantastic response from trunk or treat for several years now. Our church is located in metro St Louis and we did the fall fest thing for many years but tried a trunk or treat event the Sunday prior to Halloween and had the biggest response in all our years of fall events. It was publicized just like the fall fest had been, as a community event and open to the public, but maybe b/c it was always inside the church folks didn’t feel as welcome to come? But in the parking lot….wow! We have run out of candy more than one year and had to buy more across the street from the grocery store. We also offer a free hot dog dinner and stop the “trunk or treating” for about 15 minutes to have some type of short but entertaining message. My friends and I still participate in traditional trick or treating within our own neighborhoods, both in taking our kids around AND spreading a little love/candy from our own front door. As with many things in life, it’s all in your intent.

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