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One of the things I didn’t realize until I moved to Utah — and became a mom — is that churches are often big players in community Halloween events. They help organize costume contests, serve as the starting point of Halloween parades and host trunk-or-treat gatherings, including the one I’m planning to attend with my son.
In past years, I’ve assumed this Halloween programming was mostly separate from churches’ religious mission. I figured that houses of worship wanted to be good neighbors and help keep kids safe.
But after reading a new survey on Halloween from Lifeway Research, I’ve realized that many pastors see the holiday as an important evangelism opportunity. They often want church families to invite other families to the church’s Halloween events and pass out faith-related brochures to trick-or-treaters.
“Few pastors simply ignore the fact that so many Americans participate in Halloween celebrations,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, in a statement. “Most pastors focus on the social nature of these celebrations, encouraging their congregations to engage with others outside their church.”
Here’s an overview of the survey’s findings:
- 71% of Protestant pastors said they encourage church members to invite friends and neighbors to Halloween-related church events.
- 58% said church members should seek out relationships with neighbors who trick-or-treat.
- 34% of Protestant pastors want church families to hand out “gospel tracts” to trick-or-treaters.
- Just 13% encourage church members to “avoid Halloween completely.” (I wrote about some religious families who avoid Halloween in 2017.) Pastors older than 65 are the most likely to discourage Halloween celebrations, Lifeway Research found.
Fresh off the press
Here are two other stories on religion and business from my colleague Suzanne Bates:
Place of the week: Mindekirken
Mindekirken, also known as the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, is a house of worship in Minneapolis that’s celebrating its 100th birthday this year. As part of its festivities, it recently hosted an unbelievably fancy guest: the queen of Norway!
“Queen Sonja of Norway praised Mindekirken congregation for having maintained worship in Norwegian for all 100 years that the church has existed in Minneapolis,” The Associated Press reported.
The church was founded in 1922 to serve Norwegian immigrants in the area, the article noted. Leaders continued to hold services in Norwegian long after other immigrant churches in the area had switched to English.
“The group said, ‘We’ll talk American English every day, but we need our hearts’ language when we praise God,” said the Rev. Gunnar Kristiansen during the queen’s recent visit, according to The Associated Press.
Today, services — and social events like coffee hours — are offered in English and Norwegian.
What I’m reading ...
Two faith leaders in New York have secured a temporary restraining order against a new firearms policy that aims to prevent gun owners from carrying them into “sensitive” places, including houses of worship, according to Reuters. The judge cited a recent Supreme Court ruling overturning a separate New York gun law to explain his decision.
My friend Bob Smietana at Religion News Service published a fascinating dispatch from Branson, Missouri, last week, which explores how the popular tourist destination provides “spiritual renewal and rest from the troubles of modern life” for conservative, religious visitors.
Deseret News reporter Sam Benson recently spoke with a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about how to confront the rising tide of antisemitism.
Odds and ends
I was thrilled to learn last week that I took home a prize in this year’s Religion News Association reporting contest. I got third place in the “Excellence in Religion News Analysis” category. Here are the three stories I included in my entry: