Trunk or Treat: A Church Halloween Alternative Idea

I had never heard of a Trunk or Treat until I became a children’s minister a year ago. To be honest, I thought the idea was blasphemous to encourage trick or treating. I found out quickly that it was an excellent outreach event to our community.

For those of you who have never heard of this or want to know more, then this article is for you! Trunk or Treat may be a great option for a Fall church party or carnival. It could be just the right family friendly outreach event. Keep reading to learn the basics…. you can also view some trunk or treat decoration ideas on my Pinterest board.

Update 10/31/2011 In some communities, church based Halloween alternatives are becoming more popular than traditional Trick-or-Treating.

More Free Ministry Resources for Halloween

"Do Not Fear" Halloween Coloring Page

Do Not Fear Coloring Page

Fear Not Sunday School Lesson for Halloween

“Fear Not” Bible Lesson

Jesus is not afraid of Halloween

Jesus Is Not Afraid of Halloween

“Faith Overcomes” Lesson

How To Do a Trunk or Treat at Church

First, make sure your church is on board with this. Some churches have Reformation parties, others have autumn events or a Fall Festival. As I said, I had never heard of Trunk or Treat before and can only assume it is a regional phenomenon–at the very least it has yet to hit the St. Louis area where I grew up.

Second, you will want to get enough trunks (cars) to make at least two aisles of cars in your parking lot. This will depend on the size of your parking lot, but I found that 6 or 7 cars in two aisles facing one another makes for a smoother operation. It keeps the children on your premises a bit longer and allows you to speak more with them and their families.

Third, provide hotdogs, chips and sodas. This is an extremeley cost-effective way to keep the families around that much longer to be able to evangelize, invite and minister to them.

Fourth, have some games to play. (See our Fall preschool games for ideas.) They do not need to be big or involved games. The kids just need to be able to win more candy. You can also hand out gospel tracts as part of their winnings. Make sure that everyone wins every time!

Fifth, and finally, rent a bounce house. Inevitably, the church children are going to get bored. This will give them something to do during the festivities. The children from the community will not want to stick around too long because they want to hit as many houses as possible.

Be sure you have enough candy and make certain you have fun while doing this. Have fun and redeem the time for the Lord!

Share Your Trunk or Treat Ideas

If you have experience with this type of event, please leave a comment to share your thoughts. What type of games worked best? What other attractions did you offer? Was your congregation uneasy about connecting the church and Halloween?

Need More Help? Then read about Trunk or Treat on Kidology or read some tips for planning a church trunk or treat on the Memory Cross blog. Children’s Ministry Magazine also blogged about the Fall Festival idea.

Trunk or Treat Decorations

Click above to view these ideas on Pinterest.com

Trunk or Treat Video

Another Trunk or Treat Video


Comments

  1. Jason says

    So, if this is “harmless fun at a ‘Church’”, why am I seeing Jack-O-Lanterns and Ghosts on the trunks?

    We are called to be “Different” and the ‘Light’ and ‘Salt’ of the earth, not cheap copies of Satan’s perversion. :(

    Why did you NOT at least mention “forgo the evil symbols” when decorating the trunks in your article?

  2. Peter says

    Every year we have our daughter dress up in a Halloween costume and take her trick-or-treating. We tell her not to believe in spooks, so there’s no problem.

  3. K Gray says

    That would be great!! Love your idea for being united in Christ and drawing the community.

  4. Jennifer says

    Just me again…thoughts on Trunk or Treat. Granted, I’m not a Christian so I don’t know whether this would work or not. Has anyone ever thought about getting a bunch of local churches together and doing a HUGE Trunk or Treat? You could all be united in Christ and with a large event, you would be more likely to draw in more community members. Just my 2 cents. :)

  5. K Gray says

    That said, this weekend is a great time to teach our kids what God has said about spiritists, mediums, the occult, and seeking guidance from anything or anyone other than Him. And then go to T/T and enjoy. This year we are taking prayer requests – a great way to continue to minister after T/T!

  6. K Gray says

    I feel that Trunk or Treat often functions as a church fellowship. It is fun, informal, imaginative, and everyone laughs a lot. It is a good time for everyone! As for outreach and evangelism? Here are my real questions: Is there more praying than planning? Do we honestly expect people to come to Christ; do we expect and plan for it? Are there people available to counsel or talk to anyone? Do we know or find out anything about the people who come? What is the followup? If a relationship is begun at T/T, how is it continued? Are the tracts in English only; how about Spanish? Do people keep or look at the tracts? How many other T/T’s and festivals are on the same night? How many churches are putting resources into the same activity, same timeslot? Does anyone do a post-T/T review of TT as evangelism and outreach? Do we teach our own kids why we are having T/T, and educate them on Halloween, or do we just tell them that our church is dressing in costume and handing out candy? We need to look at what we do very honestly.

  7. Jennifer says

    Of course it is the parent’s responsibility to remove anything they would not want their child to have, but for me it is more a matter of respect. Religion is so personal to everyone, I find it a bit disrespectful…not in the general handing out of tracts but in the experiences I’ve had, where the people attempt to hide them. Last year, one was folded very small and stuffed into the middle of a bag of tootsie rolls, where I can only suppose, they hoped I would not see it. So, perhaps it’s not the handing out of tracts itself that bothers me-I’ve been giving this some thought over the last few days-it’s the way I’ve experienced it. With people trying to hide them and sneak them. That’s what I find disrespectful. Thank you all for the great input! I always appreciate different points of view, it keeps me grounded. :)

  8. Kristine says

    I am disappointed in the many churches that celebrate halloween. I don’t see anything Godly about this so-called holiday. Why do we have to have an alternative for our children? Why can’t we teach them to not participate at all? I feel having a substitute is only putting a Christian label on something that has nothing to do with pleasing the Lord. There are 51 other weeks of the year we can celebrate the harvest season or dress up. I don’t think we need to do it at the same time as this secular “holiday”.

  9. Lisa says

    Our Church has what we call Light the Night. It is similar to this trunck or treat but we have food, games, entertainment, hayrides, and bounce houses. It is always a great turnout.

  10. says

    @Jennifer – I appreciate your comments and a forum is not the best way to discuss this because how the question comes across may not e the way it was intended. So this really is a “friendly” question for an open discussion though it may not “read” that way. It is one seeking an honest response as I am one who has given out “literature” with candy when children come to my door.

    When a parent allows their child to knock on a door seeking solely to receive something for free, isn’t the parent giving implied consent for their child to receive whatever the person deems appropriate? After that, isn’t it the parent’s responsibility to go through and remove whatever the parent deems inappropriate for their child for whatever reason? whether it be literature, candy that may get caught in braces, too much sugar, or whatever

  11. Jennifer says

    @Nathan-I wasn’t talking about being a church event, I was talking about going Trick or Treating in general.

  12. Nathan Gast says

    I’d also like to comment on several things. First of all, as I mentioned in my comment last year located #13 comment above, you can also get stacks of tracks for 100 for $5 with Halloween themes. (http://www.customtractsource.com/Holiday-Items_c_41.html) Also, last year we gave away two bicycles in a drawing, and this gave us LOTS of contacts for Vacation Bible School and other events. Lastly, I wanted to comment on Jennifer’s statement in comment #30. I do appreciate your comment on tracts…yet at the same time, I would think that it would seem that being at a church event, it might be expected to be handed information about the church and what the church believes. Most churches have a trunk or treat just for a community to get to know a church better. Thanks for the comment though, it did make me think!

  13. Rhonda says

    @ Jennifer. I can truly understand your feelings as a parent but also as a parent we have the responsibility to only take our children to places that would not violate our faith. If you are offended by this gesture, it might be that you can peruse your child’s bag before they get the info just as I am sure you make sure the other “treats” are safe before consumption. As a Christian, I am compelled by my Leader, Jesus Christ, to go into all the world and preach the gospel (good news of Christ) to ALL people. This includes old and young. If you come to my home, or church for treats, then you have chosen to either accept my gifts or at least are aware that my gift may not mesh with your beliefs or wishes. I think that your post was very well written and I can truly appreciate your concern for your children as I am with mine. Your suggestion is a great one and once more, as a Christian, I must do what I need to do with love not offensiveness. Thanks for the heads up on this matter.

  14. Jennifer says

    I stumbled upon this blog by accident while searching for “trunk or treat.” (I had absolutely no idea what it was.) I really wanted to comment on the handing out of tracts. (I’m not trying to be rude, just a different perspective.) While I respect the intention of trying to “save” people, I do take issue with people handing out religious literature to my child without my consent. I understand what you are trying to do but I would never, ever, hand out literature about Islam, Buddhism or atheism to your children if they stopped at my house, especially without your express permission. My family is not Christian and when people hand my son tracts without a thought as to whether or not it is alright with me, it feels as if they are trying to subvert my authority as a parent. A simple, “May I give you and your child some literature?” may make people more open to what you have to say. I hope you all enjoy the holiday, however you may celebrate. :)

  15. Bettina Lehovec says

    I’m writing an article about trunk or treating for the local newspaper. I’m the religion reporter. I’d love to talk to some of you, particularly the people who feel that Halloween is ungodly or connected to paganism. (Of course I know that it is, at its roots.) This is a perspective I haven’t been able to find locally. Anyone game to give me a call? I’d especially like to hear from Terry Delaney, as author of the article. My number is 479-872-5052. I can call you back if you’re worried about charges. Love to hear from you soon! My deadline is Oct. 22.

  16. says

    I truly don’t believe Trunk or Treat or Harvest Festival to be mimicking an ungodly holiday. Halloween as we know it today is very much an American tradition. I believe that God can use any holiday or situation or event to His glory & for His purpose.

    We’ve done T/T for several years. We have a church of about 700 in attendance on Sundays. We consider it a gift to the community to offer a safe alternative to trick or treating. We invite families to come so that there aren’t children alone accepting candy from strangers. And, year after year, thousands come to our T/T.

    We’ve started opening the carnival games & inflatables an hour early for families who have children with special needs. These kids rarely get to enjoy carnivals & fun because of crowds, exposure to germs, etc. This hasn’t brought a lot of people out, but the 30 or so that are there are so appreciative. This has resulted in great outreach for the church.

    Games & prizes (large room for the big kids, separate room for pre-school kids), pre-school puppet show, balloon drop, $.25 concessions, face painting, inflatables, raffle giveaway, trunks in the parking lot, recruiting volunteers, getting donations from local businesses, promoting to the community, live radio remote – all part of our plans again this year. There’s a lot of details involved. Don’t wait to plan & remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself!

  17. sarah says

    How is this an evil day when we live in this world daily and fight satan. First of all it was started by the catholic church! Secondly any way to reach the youth is a good thing if Christ is the center of attention and I really dont think God has a problem with us using candy to catch their attention.

  18. Connie says

    I just stumbled across your site and I am glad to hear all of the great ideas. My church always has Biblical Imagination night. Where kids and adults dress as their favorite person from the Bible and then talk about the study they did about who the person was , what they learned from studying the life of that person and how they came up with their costume. Like did the Bible describe them a certain way and how they incorporated it in their costume. Some people really come up with a whole skit around something their person said or did in the Bible. Then we just play games and fellowship the rest of the evening. I’m looking for ideas for a costume for a 10-month old.

  19. Sheila says

    Good evening everyone. I am the new youth coordinator for my church, and when I say new I MEAN NEW. I wasn’t there for last years Hallelujah Night, so I have a huge task on my hands. I saw the Trunk-or-Treat and think it’s a great idea, we are small and have limited room and yard space so it’ll serve double purposes. I just need some inexpensive ideas to give the members who will participate. The few who have already volunteered want me to provide their themes. PLEASE HELP. Thanks

  20. Mimi says

    The kiddies are going crazy over the silly bands. I found some for
    halloween with scriptures so I am putting 2 silly bands(separate bag) in each candy bag to hand out at church and at home. I found them at a Christian Book Store.

  21. Deb says

    It is a safe place for people to take their kids to trick-or-treat. Most people decorate their trunks with a fall or halloween theme, but nothing scary. If it is cold, and it usually is, they can get inside for a few minutes to warm up with some hot cocoa or cider and popcorn. And its free. The church buys some candy, but most is donated by members. There are several churches in our community that have Trunk-or-Treat and the high school honor society does it in the school parking lot as a way for the students to earn points. It’s just a better way for parents to keep their kids safe than going door-to-door and crossing streets, etc.

  22. Cyndi says

    I have participated in two trunk or treats with my church and I have to say that those children had the best time. It is almost time for another one and I am just trying to get some cool ideas. Does anyone have any suggestions. Please keep it clean for the children. Thanks.

  23. Deb says

    We have had Trunk or Treat for about 10-12 years. We usually have about 20 decorated cars. We serve free refreshments in the fellowship hall. There is some opposition, but most feel the children need a safe place and it is a good outreach tool. We usually have between 750 – 1000 kids come through and our regular church attendance is about 250.

    • Pam says

      Wow !!! That is an amazing turn out. This is the first year for a trunk or treat and I want those kinds of ##’s Do you live in a large community? Why do you think it so sucessful ?

  24. Kimberly Everett says

    We do not have a parking lot…SO, we open our social hall and set up games in there…simple “carnival-like” games…eg: tossing pennies into cups, throw Nerf football through a hanging hula hoop, etc. The kids get candy at each game (I usually have about 7-8)…we have a craft table as well, which is usually all the leftover VBS crafts. We have a parent corner for the adults to “hang out” and have coffee and relax…there are hot dogs, donuts, etc. We have also done a cookie decorating table w/ large sugar cookies, icing, M and Ms, etc.
    We hand out a gospel tract and an invitation to return to worship w/ us w/ all church info on it.
    This has been hugely successful and most families come and stay for at least an hour during the trick or treat time. I make sure there are church members there to mingle and welcome everyone as a way to introduce the church to our visitors. We have had several families come to church and/or send their kids to all our kid-related events.
    We take a picture of each child while they are there and I do a mailing (usually in a picture frame) as a followup about a week later. I keep the demographic info so I can invite them via post card to future events.
    This yr, we are using our leftover High Seas Expedition “stuff” for decorations as well as crafts…please email me if you have any specific questions: bobbyswife4@yahoo.com
    God Bless! Kimberly

  25. Sharon says

    Thankfully, most churches in England recognise that Hallowe’en is a non-Christian festival. A lot of us put on special Christian parties for the children so they don’t miss out on having fun, but it is centred on Jesus, not on Satan and evil. Unfortunately, schools and the rest of society don’t take this view and have been sucked in to Hallowe’en celebrations because the shops are now full of stuff. Ugh!

  26. Christine says

    To be honest, I think trunk or treat is not good in a couple of ways. Aside from mimicking an ungodly holiday in a very parallel way, it is training children to take candy from the cars of strangers! I’m just astonished by this trend of churches doing this!!

  27. April says

    Growing up I lived in a large city where we knew all of our neighbors! Trick or treating was all about candy to us, so we participated. Safety wasn’t an issue and Halloween equalled candy. Since moving out to the country almost 16 years ago, trunk or treat became our option because walking from house to house required wheels and safety has become an issue.

    Our church has a great turn out and we hold our trunk or treat or “fall festival” on Halloween night. We want an alternative for families and kids as opposed to traditional trick or treating. While providing that opportunity, we have over 200 folks each year. The entire church supports this function with every Sunday School class running their own booth. The WMU even run the cupcake walk. We provide hotdogs, punch, cotton candy, etc.

    This year we have a new youth pastor that is finishing seminary and he thinks we are not following the Bible. He believes that by holding this fall festival we are supporting the “evil” of Halloween. I told him to tell one person about Jesus that night and God would win and the devil would lose. Thinking that Halloween is the only day “evil” takes place is about as narrow minded as thinking going to church on Easter and Christmas covers you for the year.

    Just wondering how everyone else deals with negativity towards this successful event.

  28. says

    This will be our third year for Trunk ‘n Treat. We have it the same day and time as our city trick-or-treating. We have had around 18-20 trunks in our parking lot. I have the people decorate their trunks with a Bible story or Christian theme. This helps us keep a Christian focus for the event. I have the kids vote for their favorite trunk. This gets them looking at the trunks and seeing the stories. We then have the families come inside the church for carnival games and more candy!! The memory crosses are a big hit. Kids and adults love to play with them. This year, I will add a craft station and have the kids make salvation bracelets. Adults will be helping and will explain the meaning of the color of each bead as they make them. We have a few hundred people go through and have received thanks from many parents for this alternative to traditional trick-or-treating.

  29. says

    We hold a Trunk or Treat each year on the Saturday prior to Halloween. We offer all activities free to the community and invite our church families to decorate their car/van trunks. We have games, jumpies, and all the other stuff. It is one activity that we do that really reaches out to our community and helps people to see us as friendly neighbors. We have some opposition to the holiday but we have been able to educate those people to understand that this is a safe, family friendly way to present the love and light of Jesus. We always have information about our church available, and give away prizes that tell the Gospel story.

  30. says

    Maybe this will upset the Christian World and some of you, but listen to all of it first. We do Halloween night and guess what we call it Halloween Extravaganza! Yes, people in our church question such a thing. We have SERVED 1800-2000 people the last nine years and some have gotten saved. I ask you how many lost people come to a Hallulejah Ho Down? In our town not many. We have done a blacklight presentation to present the gospel at the beginning for the last nine years too. Yes, we provide a bag of candy, dinner, snowcone, popcorn and cotton candy, games and inflatables, all FREE. I thought after the first year the lost would realize the gospel is first and wait to come late, but we more than pack out our church. No, it’s not for all but it works for our community. I don’t have to do as many flyers now, everyone just knows on Halloween night we are here.

  31. Nathan Gast says

    Hey, just to let you know the American Tract Society (www.atstracts.com) has a great collection of tracts for Halloween. Use rubber bands and wrap tracts around your candy for the treaters. So what your church doesn’t have a party or event, you can still be a witness by turning your porch light on and handing out candy and gospel tracts! Same concept just on the smaller scale. God’s Word calls us to “GO” Matthew 28:19-20 so whether our churches go (which they should) we ourselves need to be following God’s commands as well. Hope you have a great outreach event whether it be in church or in private!

  32. Sis Jamila Filer says

    I first experience the trunk in treat out in Louisiana, I never believed in letting my kids trick or treating and when I moved to the south from California my cousin brought us there. I thought it was the most amazing thing and I loved it!!!!! My kids enjoyed it they have fun jumps games and also food for them to purchase. I am now back in California and I am going to bring it to my Pasto’s attention and see if maybe we can get other churchs’ in the neighborhood involved. If you havent tried ii you must and I promise you it will be a well worth family time!!!!

  33. Betty A. Alexander says

    I would like to say that all of these ideas have really inspired me to win souls for Jesus on Halloween night, we tend to always speak about not participating in this particular holiday, but it is truly an opportunity to witeness for Christ, I used to hand out tracts talking against the holiday, maybe this year I can steer people away from that one, and help them to experience the love of Christ, thank you so very much for your wonderful ideas.

    God Bless every one of you for being the witness that you are and allowing God to use you in so many talented ways.

    Betty A. Alexander

    • says

      Betty, thank you for your humility and willingness to serve Christ. While we would all agree that Halloween in and of itself is an “evil” holiday, we should use it as an opportunity to shout from the rooftops about the light that has come into the world.

      Your comment was very much a blessing to read. Thank you again and God bless.

      • says

        “we all would agree” is a pretty bold statement.
        Terry is not speaking for everyone.

        I, for one, do not think that a holiday – that has been largely co-opted by Hallmark – is any more an “evil” day than a day like Valentine’s Day.

        The church-at-large has a strong history of redeeming cultural holidays and using them to further the Gospel message.

        Halloween shouldn’t be any different.

  34. charles thacker says

    we also have a party(Halleujah Party) on Oct,31 as an alternative to Halloween, We have games ,a cake walk, a costume contest =extra points for biblical charcters -with a prize for all age groups ,we have a big turn out ,
    It is a big event in our area open to all children in our area as an alterative to bring safe,loving,giving to all that come.all businessess and people donate candy and prizes.everyone receives candy and prizes.we love it!!

  35. says

    The cup cake walk is one of favorites at our Trunk or Treat. Play contemporary Christian music as people walk around a large circle drawn in sidewalk chalk on the parking lot. I draw squares with numbers in them around the circle. I have corresponding numbers on pieces of paper. When the music stops I usually draw 2 or 3 slips of paper. If a mom or dad is carrying a young one they all get cup cakes. Have plenty of cup cakes available this is very popular!

    This year we will have folks that speak Spanish on site to hand out tracts and see if there is any interest in starting a Bible study group.

  36. says

    We have a harvest party every year on Oct 31st. We like to offer an alternative for children to keep them off the streets on Halloween nite. I usually have a theme each year. I have done a Cowboy theme with pony rides and other games relating to cowboys. at the end give everyone a large bag of candy. Last year I did a sports theme, they came dressed in their favorite sport or team and each station was a different sport where the coaches did some drills. I had a drawing and gave away 4 bicycles, several different balls, gloves, etc. again a bag of candy as they left.
    This year I believe I will do hotdogs and have a scavenger hunt. changing it up a little. but they will still get the big bag of candy when they leave. about 80 children attend this event yearly!
    Thanks for the ideas!!!

  37. says

    Share Jesus Halloween 2009!
    As a Christian online company, it may surprise you to find out that the months of September and October are the busiest for Memory Cross, even busier than before Easter or Christmas. Why? There are so few Christian resources available for this season of the year. As Christians, we are to take every opportunity to bring Christ into every aspect of our lives.

    The Memory Cross, Free Candy Plan of Salvation card can be used for Fall and Hallelujah Festivals, Trunk-or-Treats, Costume and school Halloween celebrations. When else do kids/people come freely to your door asking for a treat? Our vision was not to shy away but to bring Christ into Trick-or-Treating.

    Think that about the tag-line “What Would Jesus Do?” Would we find Jesus condemning the pagans/gentiles or would we find him in the church parking lots for the Trunk-or-Treats?; in the fellowship halls for the harvest festivals?; on the front porches connecting with children and their parents as they “trick-or-treat?”
    We have testimonials from parents, explaining about how they watched their elementary age children share their faith, for the first time, with this simple little card.

    There are two different designs; choose the one that fits your ministry needs.
    #1) You never know where these Free Candy cards may end up, so Memory Cross has partnered with http://www.NeedHim.com to have a resource for those who have questions about accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, or… I’m a Christian, now what?
    #2) The other version has a blank space instead of the NeedHim information for your church or ministry to put their specific contact information for outreach purposes with an address label or stamp.
    What could be sweeter than free candy?…God’s love of course!

    We knew there would be questions and comments about this “Halloween Plan of Salvation” but again… what could be sweeter than Free Candy?… God’s love! That is the message of this card not Halloween. Halloween is the opportunity for delivering the message of God’s love and how to become a part of His glorious kingdom.

    Tony, if you would like to do Free Candy card give-aways from your web site, let me know

    Prayerfully submitted,
    Sandy Simpson

  38. sherri says

    We also have done trunk or treat in the past and we had a contest for the kids to vote for their favorite trunk. We gave a framed certificate and small gift to the “winner”.

  39. says

    Great ideas!
    Our church hosts a Halloween Festival the Wednesday before each Halloween… because we aren’t on the actual holiday, we have little to no competition and families from the communities come in full force. We advertise it in a million ways… but, my favorite, is telling the kids they get to break their costumes in early. We also like using phrases like – Double the costumes. Double the candy. What’s not to love about Halloween TWICE?!
    Also, by having the party/carnival/festival on a night when we typically have children’s programming on campus, we are able to start with a pretty large volunteer pool to help us run the event.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Terry… and good luck this year!

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