Ian Carmichael is a publishing consultant for Matthias Media and author of the publishing company’s first Halloween-themed tract. The ACR caught up with Ian to hear about some of the opportunities we can take advantage of at this time of year.
1. Ian, Christians have all kinds of responses towards Halloween. What have your feelings been towards it and have they changed?
Our family has always been in the ‘ambivalent about Halloween’ group. We’ve never decorated our house or signalled that we welcomed trick-or-treaters coming to our door. But nor have we been particularly opposed to it. I know some Christians see all sorts of dark and sinister aspects to the way Halloween is expressed today and to its origins. But from what I know, Halloween has come from and developed in a pretty mixed and messy way. I guess there could be some nasty aspects to it, but at least around our suburb, it seems to largely be a community-based dress-up festival that now has some significant positives in terms of people meeting and mingling with the neighbours around them and enjoying some fun.
2. What prompted you to write a Halloween tract? Why now?
Well, producing evangelistic resources has always been a top priority for Matthias Media, and I’m always trying to think of opportunities to engage people with the gospel in written form. For example, lately I’ve been thinking about a tract that a bride and groom could give out at their wedding. (I haven’t got around to working on that idea yet!)
A few years ago, when I saw the way our local community was gathering on the streets for Halloween, and yet our local church plant had no discernible presence, I decided it was worth trying to show people that we love our community and want to be part of it. So we set up a stand outside the church offering people a drink and of course some treats. But we also had some flyers about the kids’ church program, youth group and so on. But we didn’t have anything for them to take away and read that connected with Halloween from a Christian perspective. So that’s when I started thinking about writing something.
3. Were there any particular challenges you faced as you wrote?
Definitely. With all these sorts of opportunities, you don’t want to give people something that seems unrelated to the event, so that there’s a real crunching of the gears when we offer it. So, I wouldn’t necessarily hand out our “Who will be king?” gospel tract which is written for kids. It just has no connection to Halloween, and so there’s no obvious line you can say as you give it to people. Whether I say it or not, I want to be able to have a reason that makes sense, like “Halloween is an odd thing isn’t it?! Lots of pretend stuff. But here are some ways it reflects real life.”
Also, you’ve got to be aware of the sensitivities with both little kids and their parents. We’re not aiming to hit kids between the eyes with a full-on gospel message, which will almost certainly antagonise their parents. And it’s also tricky writing something that will be meaningful for little kids, and bigger kids, as well as the adults accompanying them.
4. How do you envisage people using this tract?
I think mainly giving it out to each kid in a bag of lollies or other treats. If you can put it in a bag, it’s more likely to make it home with them and be read, and less likely to get thrown on the ground outside your house. And I also want to encourage Christians to be known as particularly generous in what they give away—so get creative in what other treats you put in the bags. If churches have a Halloween event, which I think more and more are doing, they can hand them out in a similar way.
5. What are some of the best ways Christians can take advantage of Halloween?
Firstly, I think everyone needs to weigh up how they feel about it. If you have a conscientious objection, don’t feel pressured by me or by anyone to do something you don’t feel is right. And we also need to be aware of the consciences of the Christians around us too (1 Cor 8).
But if you’re able to see ways you can participate in Halloween, do so with a smile and a sense of fun. If your church is well-situated in terms of trick-or-treaters passing by, have a stall and invite people—if they are enjoying the sense of community—to come and visit their local community church. But if you suspect you’re likely to not see them again until next year at Halloween, that’s the time I’d be trying to give them something to take home and read.
And remember to pray that God opens up gospel opportunities!
Find out more or order your copies of It’s Halloween here.