What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Halloween Outreach Report

It's Thursday and I'm still recovering from Monday's Halloween candy distribution (not to mention other events of the week). We handed out 300 big sized candy bars each with its own fancy label inviting folks to church. I yearn to write something of deep meaning and spiritual significance, but confess that I'm really dragging today.

I am posting the sticker since...well...since I'm proud that we actually had something that looked reasonably decent. Of course, I imagine that some folks will say "but it doesn't say anything about Jesus or God or sin or grace or..." Yes, you're right. The message is purely that church is fun. And, quite honestly, I think that's a pretty radical message. As a kid who grew up in church, I know first hand that most often church (and especially church in the Reformed tradition) is not particularly fun.

But, church can (and should be) a joyful celebration of God's sovereignty and grace. That's a bit more than one can put on a small sticker. So we'll start with "fun" and when folks visit - well, they'll discover that church has a lot more to offer than just good donuts.

Which brings me to today's dictum (in honor of my grandfather):

As you travel on through life, no matter what your goal
keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole.

It's that way in church. So often we get sidetracked looking air that we forget that our mission is to share the good news of God's grace with others - and by any means necessary. If passing out 300 calories of chocolate per kid helps us to be able to share the gospel, well...then by all means let's do it.

I'm not quite sure if getting exercised about politics is the donut or the hole. So instead of adding to the cacophony of opinions about Justice Alito's appointment, I'll close now and go home to get some sleep.


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Jarred said...

I'm glad to hear your Halloween project went so well. Hopefully, you'll keep everyone posted on anything that comes from it in the future.

At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's disturbing. An innocent child goes marching around the neighborhood in a quest for candy - nothing more, nothing less. And s/he gets a proselytizing Snickers bar instead? "Hey, Mommy, let's go to this place. It's 'tons of fun for kids!'" "Uh, sorry, Johnny, but we're Jewish / Catholic / agnostic / [insert another belief system here]." How would you like your child to come home with an invitation to a mosque? Why can't you just let a holiday for kids be exactly that? I know you love Jesus. Can you just shut up about it for 5 seconds and give my kid some friggin' Skittles.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Ann said...

Actually, the mosque up the street hands out the Skittles. We stick with Snickers.

At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever. Save the indoctrination for the willing and, while you're at it, for those old and savvy enough to adopt their own world view.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Marey said...

Does not sound like indoctrination to me - just a friendly gesture to the kids in the neighborhood. Seems to me a church/parsonage would be a safe place for kids to go trick or treating.

Nice reply Ann. Kindness to a child is never wrong. If it means a gain for the Church, that is only a plus - icing on the cake.

Our church is going to have a Sint Nicholas celebration for our kids and the kids in our neighborhood in early December. I am looking forward to it.



At 8:17 AM, Blogger Bad Alice said...

I agree that it's a great idea. No one seems to mind if the "indoctrination" comes from the used car dealership or someone else selling a material product.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Jarred said...

So has the "grand indoctrination conspiracy" (sorry, I just find the anon's reaction amusing) shown any signs of paying off? Come on, I want follow up stories! Pretty please?

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous peripateticpolarbear said...

What bad alice said. It's swag, not indoctrination.

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know nothing I could say here would stop your practice of attempting to lure unsuspecting children to your church. I know everyone here sees it as beneficial to the child. Just be cognizant of the fact that I (and many others like me) do not share your opinion. Don't be surprised if I share my opinion about your practices with you when you hand one those Snickers bars to my kid.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Ann said...

Dear Anonymous,

It's not like I'm force feeding your kid a Snickers bar. If he or she wants one, have him or her come and get it. If not, fine.

And you're welcome to come by and share your opinion any time. We're just south of the Greenpoint Ave. G train station.

In fact, just for making the trip here from Idaho I'll give your kid two Snickers bars and provide directions to the mosque with the Skittles.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Ann said...

Hi Jarred,

No grand stories of packed out worship services. But that's not really the point of the whole thing. It's more about demonstrating generosity.

But, with regard to church marketing ideas...I think that a lot of times churches expect big results from quick efforts. It needs to be an ongoing effort with three foci:
1. Traditional advertising and marketing - eg. handing out candy bars, putting up signs, sending post cards, etc. Typically these have the lowest yield, but are a necessary factor in demonstrating that your church is really around for the long-haul.

2. Community events that invite folks in - eg. concerts, parties, prayer vigils. These allow folks to get over the threshold and experience the community of the congregation.

3. Public relations with coverage in local news sources about what's happening in the life of the congregation. This year we've had stories about hosting Vanessa from N.O., about a winter concert we hosted and about the congregation in general.

All three of these contribute to people
a) learning that the church exists.
b) getting a feel for the type of congregation that worships together.
c) discovering how the congregation lives out its calling in mission.

It's a long process to continue to get the word out, but over the course of months and years people begin to hear that there's a church, then they begin to know the church, then they are able to come should they be interested.

As for the notion of indocterination - I'm a big inviter when it comes to church. I'll offer anyone an invitation, and that's how I see my job. If people don't want to come, that's fine with me. If people just want to grab some candy and spit, that's fine too. I just want people to know that there's a church that's alive and active and folks are welcome to visit if they want.

All the best,

P.S. I do have one quick observation about the candy. We haven't had a single Halloween incident since passing out the candy. Given that several businesses got egged this year, I'm thankful that I didn't spend Tuesday morning cleaning up egg or toilet paper or whatever else.

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Ann said...

Idaho, Illinois wherever you may be. I'm reasonably confident it isn't Long Island City since no one in our area has complained.

Speaking of which, if you so obviously live so far away from me, why do you care so much? Do you have anything better to do?

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Jarred said...

Okay, anon, I feel a strong desire to speak up here. (My apologies t Ann for pontificating in her personal space.) You know, I'm not a Christian. In fact, I am among the people that a good friend of mine refers to as the "dechurched." I could offer a number of reasons why I personally take issue Christian theology and the actions and attitudes of certain Christian individuals. (But again, I won't do this out of respect for Ann.)

Having stated the above so that you know where I'm coming from, I would like to state that your comments have struck me as reactionary and way over the top. Contrary to what you seem to think, not all churches are out to warp the minds of everyone that enters their sanctuary and control their every thought and action. (In fact, I suspect that few indeed are like that at all.) And there is a huge difference between a church handing out a piece of candy with a friendly invitation of "check us out" and the truly troublesome religious groups that really are preying on people's doubts and fears in order to manipulate them.

Now, if you wish to refuse a candy bar on your child's behalf simply because it came with an open-ended inviation, that is your choice. If you want to leave your child with the impression that it's okay to berate and verbally abuse someone for making such an invitation, that is your choice as well. But I offer the following for your consideration: Your apparent reactionary hatred of all things "Christian" is merely another form of "bondage" to the religion. After all, it's still controlling your life and the way you behave, just in a negative way.

Again, my apologies to Ann for getting up on my "soapbox" in her personal space. However, I thought it appropriate to make sure a different non-Christian perspective was adequately represented.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Jarred said...


I think my love of hyperbole and exaggerated animation left you with the wrong impression. I wasn't really looking or "grand" stories so much as the little anecdotes. I thought you might have a tale of meeting someone after this past Sunday's service that mentioned they learned about your church while sorting through their childs "Halloween haul." Or perhaps a moment of amused silence during the sermon as a child asks her now-embarassed mother, "Is it time for the donuts yet?" in one of those whispers-that-seem-to-carry-through-the-whole-sanctuary that only children can seem to manage.

Though I must admit, I enjoyed your insights into the outreach process all the same.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Ann said...

Hi Jarred,
Well, there were some cute short stories that happened...like the Muslim mother who remembered that we had handed out candy bars last year and made a speical trip over with her kids (this actually happened I'm not making it up for Anon's sake).

There was one mother whose kid went to one of the neighborhood Catholic churches. She wanted her daughter to experience a worship service that was more child-focused and so they were going to come by one week per month.

And then there were my congregants who stopped by so that the parents could pick up big candy bars. They were lots of fun, especially the one dressed up as the sausage lady. She had purchased a bunch of kilbasey from the store around the corner.

Should there be any other stories, I'll make sure to let you know!

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't hate all things Christian. I admit, however, that I often come off that way. I don't care if a church gives out candy on Halloween, just skip the indoctrination. Be a good community citizen, fine. We all know your church is there. If we are inclined to attend, we will.

Your "bondage" comment is food for thought. Maybe you're right.


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