Americans will spend an estimated $8.4 billion celebrating Halloween this year, an average of $82.93 per shopper, making it the eighth biggest holiday for U.S. retailers. Businessmen aren’t the only ones who see Halloween as profitable, however. Many pastors see the holiday as an opportunity to expand Christ’s Kingdom.
Protestant clergy in the United States recently responded to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research. Pastors answered the question: “What do you encourage your church members to do at Halloween?”
Most saw the day as a chance for outreach. More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they recommended inviting friends to a church event like a fall festival. Fifty-two percent said church members should try to build relationships with their neighbors who come to trick-or-treat. Another 26 percent advised handing out tracts to trick-or-treaters.
Only a small minority told their congregants to “avoid Halloween completely” (8 percent) or failed to make any of these recommendations (12 percent). Pastors 65 years old and over were the most “skeptical” of Halloween, 13 percent of whom recommended skipping it.
“This is a time when your neighbors literally come to your doorstep,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said. “Pastors don’t want their church members to waste that chance to make a connection or invite someone to church.”
McConnell pointed out that Halloween offers “more interaction among neighbors across America than any other day,” and that it was “only natural that pastors encourage their congregations to invest in these relationships.”
In 2015, LifeWay surveyed attitudes regarding Halloween. Christians who attend church more regularly tend to be more “skeptical” of the holiday. Only 44 percent of regular churchgoers agreed that Halloween is “all in good fun,” whereas 82 percent of occasional churchgoers said the same. However, only 28 percent of self-identified Evangelicals indicated that they skipped participating altogether, in comparison to 21 percent of American in general.
Despite these reservations, most Christians still decide “to embrace the fun side of Halloween—dressing up in costumes, handing out candy or carving pumpkins—while avoiding its darker elements,” according to LifeWay. Indeed, 22 percent of Evangelicals said they made a conscious effort to avoid the “pagan elements” of the holiday, compared to 14 percent of Americans at large.