No other day on the calendar is more divisive for Christians than October 31. A LifeWay Research survey conducted in 2015 revealed what most Christians already know from experience: What you do about Halloween is not one-size-fits-all.
While 75 percent of nonreligious Americans say the day is "all in good fun," only 54 percent of Christians agree. The remainder — nearly half of those surveyed — have serious reservations about whether Christians should celebrate the holiday.
That may be of little comfort to those who are still trying to reconcile their own questions about what to do with the day and how to deal with friends on the other side of the Halloween fence.
As a women's ministry leader and mentor to young moms, I know the struggle is real. Many, like Lauren, were raised in conservative Christian homes where their parents were against the celebration in any form. Others, like Amy, grew up with no holds barred and she says, "[I] experienced everything from apple bobbing to haunted houses." Now these women are making decisions for their own young families, while striving to live lives honoring to God.
They, along with many others, are wrestling with questions such as:
Is Halloween just innocent fun?
Is the holiday off-limits because it has obvious pagan influence?
Is Halloween a unique opportunity to reach neighbors?
In light of their faith and values, what factors should parents consider as they make this decision for their families?
Dr. Todd Cartmell, child psychologist and author of several parenting books, including 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, says how you make your decision is as important as what decision you make. "Being consistent with your values is important at all ages as it shows your kids that you are trying to obey God in all areas of your life."
He explains that these kinds of decisions have lasting consequences. "Significant contradictions between what we say and do sow seeds of confusion in our kids. While they may not verbalize it at young ages, they will notice them and be able to reflect upon them when older."
While it might not seem like a big deal when your kids are 4, inconsistencies add up over the years. "As they hit their teen years, they will reflect on their family experience as having been generally consistent with or inconsistent with professed faith," Dr. Cartmell says.
With every decision, parents build a foundation of trust with their children. When kids grow up with reasonable and consistent application of faith principles, Dr. Cartmell explains, it gives more credibility to parents in those critical teen years when important issues come up.
Our decisions about Halloween should jive with the decisions we make every other day of the year. If we forbid dressing up as an evil villain because it violates our understanding of Ephesians 5:11, which says, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them," then that principle should carry over into what we allow our kids to watch and read throughout the year.
Likewise, if we value the importance of hospitality 364 days a year, we will need to be clear with our children why we do not extend it to our neighbors on October 31. Living a life of consistency that is in sync with the principles we declare, or the things we abstain from, may prove to be far more consequential than which side of the Halloween fence we end up on.
Embrace Your Freedom
As we make decisions about Halloween that reflect our family's faith and values, Dr. Cartmell points out that we should also be mindful of the freedom we have in Christ. "While we don't have to make a big issue of, or even agree with, the way others may celebrate a certain day or occasion, we can decide the way that is right and fun for our family. The Bible tells us to serve and honor God in all that we do. Celebration and entertainment are included in that."
Add the scriptural truth that " ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up" (1 Corinthians 10:23), and a family has a firm starting place for making decisions about how they will approach October 31. You may want to consider what aspects of Halloween would be profitable for your family and what aspects would not edify God as you seek to honor Him.
Young mom Lauren and her husband embrace neighborhood trick-or-treating on Halloween for two reasons. "We feel like Halloween, along with many other holidays, presents the opportunity to better explain the Gospel to our children," Lauren says. "We tell our kids people are going to give out free candy! They just hand it out and all we have to do is accept it … just like the grace of Jesus."
In addition to using the experience as an object lesson, Lauren and her husband also see it as an opportunity to be light to others. "As followers of Christ, we are children of the light, and we want to step up and reclaim it for His glory by being involved."
Lori's family, also embracing their freedom, chooses to limit their family participation to only church harvest activities. She explains that her family was building on the principle Ephesians 5, "not wanting our kids exposed to unnecessary darkness and sinful activity." For them, the decision is consistent with other choices they've made and boundaries they've set for their family.
Other families, like Nicole's, find not participating in Halloween at all reflects their faith values best. "Sometimes we are called to sacrifice things to reflect the purity of Christ," she explains. "For our family, this is a small but important sacrifice."
These families, though all making different decisions on Halloween, are all choosing practices consistent with the biblical values they emphasize to their children all the other days of the year. They offer three different expressions of 1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Communicate Your Values
Once you have made your decision about how to celebrate or not celebrate Halloween, Dr. Cartmell explains that communicating "why" to your children is vital. "Giving a simple explanation for your decision helps your kids see part of your thought process — one that seeks to honor God in your daily decisions. This is also a great real-life lesson for the type of thinking and thoughtful decision-making that you want them to learn to do.
Inviting your children to observe how you have thoughtfully made your choices on an issue the Bible isn't extremely clear about can help them realize that godly individuals — including other families — must decide for themselves what God wants them to do. This can also give your kids peace of mind if they have friends whose families approach Halloween differently. "Bring the focus back to your family and your responsibility to do your best to honor God in all you say and do," Dr. Cartmell adds.
In the end, October 31 is only one day in a year of days, of which each one counts. The principles of God's Word don't change based on seasons or holidays. How we make decisions for our families every day, in all areas of life, should reflect who we are — and Whose we are — in a way that our kids can understand and embrace.
Kim Wier is a women's ministry speaker and a talk radio host. She is the co-author of Redeeming Halloween.