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By:  Anna Carrington

“My friend used to live here,” a sweet seven-year-old girl said to me on Halloween night two years ago. It was the first major holiday in our new home, and this trick-or-treater didn’t share my aching sense of anonymity. Our house and street felt a little blank to us, but they were familiar to her. We were strangers, yet she’d played in our basement and ridden her bike on our sidewalk. I was a bit startled by her declaration, but introduced my boys and asked for her name. “Libby” was one of several neighbors we met that night.

Although Christians may disagree in good conscience on whether (or how) to celebrate Halloween, I’m sure we would all agree that opportunities to show Christian hospitality are becoming rare as our lives become increasingly busy. Halloween has its pitfalls, but it is also full of potential. This is the one night of the year when doors are open, both figuratively and literally. Leaving the light on invites your littlest neighbors to scamper across the lawn and greet you.

In The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield says we cannot use strong words if we have weak connections, and we cannot rush the kind of bridge building required to turn neighbors into friends. How can we preach the Kingdom of Heaven if we do not know our earthly neighbor’s names?

In ‘light’ of this (pun intended), here are a four Halloween hospitality ideas to jump-start relationships in your neighborhood:

-        Give before you get: Have your kids help hand out candy for a few minutes before they go out and collect it. If parents supervising small children are out on the sidewalk, offer them hot cocoa or cider in to-go cups, and introduce yourself.

-        Host a Soup Supper: If weeknight trick-or-treating is making your neighbors feel rushed, let them know you’ll have a light supper waiting after hours, and they are welcome to drop in.

-        Target the ‘lights off’ zones: Consider the childless adults on your street or in your building. What does Halloween look like for them? Offer to assist an elderly neighbor hand out treats. Invite a single friend (maybe a single parent) to join the fun in your neighborhood.

-        Offer invites to alternative events: If your church hosts an event as an alternative to Halloween, use this as a reason to pass out treats with an attached invitation ahead of time. When you get home, draw a quick chart of your block and record the names and one detail of each person you’ve just met.

Finally, don’t be stingy with the Snickers!  

Further Reading:

Tim Challies, “Trick or Retreat?” blog post

Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes With a House Key

Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring

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