Halloween: 6 ways to engage neighbors

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NASHVILLE (BP) -- For some Christians, "Halloween" is a dreaded word that can bring up questions and debate.

But putting aside all the differing opinions, Halloween can offer an opportunity for believers to engage their neighbors who don't know Jesus.

At this point some Christians may be thinking, OK, what gospel tract should they place in every trick-or-treat bag? Gospel tracts have a time and place, but some might want to consider an approach that requires a little more investment. Halloween is a time when believers have the chance to open up their lives to their neighbors, with the hope of open doors for gospel conversations.

Here are a few steps to consider this Halloween:

1. Get involved

If the neighbors are having a party, plan to join them. When the neighborhood sends out an invitation, see it as a great possibility to find a new friend and be a window into the Gospel.

2. Serve

Is there a single mom in the neighborhood who may need help with her children? Are there families who've had sickness and need someone to take their kids trick-or-treating?

As Christians get to know their neighbors and specific needs, they should find creative ways to be a blessing to them during this community-wide holiday.

3. Create hangout space

If the plan is only to open the door and pass out candy, it may be difficult to have a real conversation with people.

Consider ways to encourage neighbors to stop and visit, like getting a fire pit and putting it in the driveway, or offer visitors hot apple cider or hot chocolate -- or even pizza.

Sometimes in neighborhoods, one household may decide to provide the main course and invite everyone to bring a side dish. Then everyone hangs out at that house while bowls of candy are left out on the doorsteps for trick-or-treaters.

Some have also coordinated a block party with music and a bounce house, inviting everyone to join in. The goal is to create an environment where people can have genuine conversations. One never knows what will happen until they try it.

4. Talk and listen

People should fight against the temptation to stand in the corner or only interact with people they already know and are comfortable with.

Instead, be intentional, ask good questions and actively listen. People are often tempted to talk too much. Jesus was great at asking questions and listening to the words behind the words. Being a good listener may open doors to pray for a need, or even an opportunity to share one's own story of faith.

Gospel conversations are the ultimate goal, but on this night don't feel like a failure if the conversation doesn't make it from "creation to Christ." For most people these will be new relationships, and sometimes launching the "God-bomb" into our earliest conversations can shut down future talks with neighbors.

5. Pray

This Halloween, ask God to do something out of the ordinary. One year, my wife and I found ourselves around a fire with a neighbor who began sharing something difficult about their family.

On a dark street, in funny costumes, eating leftover candy, we prayed for this neighbor. Don't force a gospel conversation, but don't avoid an opportunity.

6. Follow up

After Halloween is over, one may want to hide the candy from their kids so they don't bounce off the walls for weeks. But once the holiday has passed, fight against the desire to be done with the neighbors.

Engaging neighbors at Halloween can serve as a launch pad for actually entering into their lives and engaging them on a regular basis. Don't miss an opportunity to be a "light on a hill" for the neighborhood to see on Halloween and all throughout the year.

Justin Tucker is pastor of adult discipleship and missions at Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tenn.
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