Saturday, November 03, 2007

What to do when ministry meets competition

It's an interesting question. For a number of years, Lakebay has held a Trunk-or-Treat every Halloween. People line up their cars in the parking lot and give out candy (and chili this year) to the kids (and adults) who come by. Inside the church we have games and activities and lots more candy and cupcakes and cookies and (this year) Krispy Kreme donuts. Out here on the Key Peninsula this sort of thing works especially well, since there aren't a lot of neighborhoods where kids can go trick-or-treating house to house. Most parents aren't comfortable with letting their kids wander down long driveways to dark houses hidden back in the woods, so they all come by the church and do their candy-gettin' there.

I hear that for many years this was one of the most successful community outreaches we did. Hundreds of kids and their parents, a full parking lot and fellowship hall.

Now others are getting into the act. The elementary school held their own trunk-or-treat. Another church up the street did a harvest festival with games, activities, and candy. Another group held a similar event at the Civic Center. And our attendance was down significantly from previous years.

Now, let me be clear. The main focus is creating safe spaces for children to enjoy themselves, so multiple opportunities for fun and candy is a good thing. We don't own the corner on Halloween parties, nor should we. We rejoice when other churches rise up and offer events in the name of the Kingdom of God, and we are glad our community is making the effort to give kids healthy and fun activities.

The question is, what do we do now? Those that came to our outreach had a great time; a lot of candy was given away; I saw many people enjoying the activities and conversations. But, again, many chose to head over to the school's event rather than ours. And that is a trend that will probably continue. We're doing the same amount of work, but getting significantly reduced results.

As I see it, here are the options:
- cancel our event next year, and join in with the school's event as a way to be involved in our community. Perhaps it would be a good thing to show our support of the school, and to serve the greater community by partnering with the school system. On the other hand, last year at least two girls prayed to accept the Lord at our trunk-or-treat. Should we partner with the school, a more direct witness would be lost.
- maintain ours next year, and just accept the reality that it will be smaller. We may touch fewer people, but we can make it obvious Who we are serving as we serve the community
- cancel ours and stay home with our families

It is an interesting conundrum. One of the guiding questions when seeking to serve your community is "what needs are there that we can meet in the name of Christ?" Then you form your ministries around those needs. But what do you do when suddenly everybody else is jumping in to meet the same needs? Do you find something new? Or carry on? Or join with them?

Please - don't hear me complaining that others are jumping into the Halloween fray. I'm glad to see so many who care and who are doing something about it. I'm just wondering what our place will be in the years to come. In Turlock, we were the only church who ran a Fall Festival (Halloween party) for a couple of years, and we had a great turnout. Then one year something like four more churches held them (including some of the much bigger churches who could throw parties we could only dream of) and our attendance dropped significantly. So the next year we threw a Fall Party out on a farm and just enjoyed each other's company.

I think the feeling in Lakebay is that we continue on with our own trunk-or-treat, but the landscape is changing. It will be interesting to see how it all develops.

In the meantime, here's a picture or two, just to show the loving atmosphere we've developed at this event.


MilePost13 said...

I think joining the local school is a great idea. I do agree that you need to refocus your energy. Make sure you check out how our ToT went this year!

White Rabbit said...

i'd say that particular need is being met, so it's probably time to look for needs that aren't being met. What about archery for kids mixed with a bit of gospel (Jesus hits the mark we miss)?

i think it's a great opportunity to brain storm. Every ministry should be started with the understanding that it undergoes constant evaluation, and when it is no longer needed or as effective, then it is time for the birth of something new.

i'm glad to hear that you are doing something community oriented!