So, you’re wondering how your church can safely conduct Trunk or Treat this year? You’re not alone!
Over the past few years, Trunk or Treat events have become one of the largest outreach efforts on the church calendar. Church members enthusiastically decorate their vehicles, dress up in costumes, and pass out candy and gospel tracts to little princesses and superheroes. For many churches, they have more unchurched people on their church property during their Trunk or Treat event than any other time during the year.
While the pandemic caused most churches to cancel Vacation Bible School this summer, most of those same churches are determined to avoid cancelling Trunk or Treat this fall, if they can develop a plan for how to conduct the event in a safe manner. If your church is looking for safe and creative ways to conduct Trunk or Treat during the pandemic, here are 7 options to consider. For each option below, I have included a brief description as well as a discussion of the pros and cons.
Option #1: Drive-Thru
How it works: As I have browsed social media, this already seems to be a popular alternative. With this option, church members still decorate their vehicles. However, instead of having children and their parents walk to each trunk to receive their goodies, they simply drive through to see each of the trunks. Then, after driving through the parking lot, each child receives a pre-packed bag of treats from a designated vehicle. For those churches that have conducted drive-in services during the pandemic, a pre-recorded gospel presentation from the pastor can be broadcast on a loop using a short-range radio transmitter.
Pros: The primary advantage of a drive-thru event is that it allows for safe social distancing. Each church member is kept safe because they remain in close proximity only to other members of their family. Guests are kept safe because they remain in their cars. In the current pandemic, safety is extremely important, and a drive-thru service is a great option for that reason. This option also gets the gospel out through the pre-recorded gospel presentation over the radio.
Cons: If your Trunk or Treat event does not take place on the designated night for trick-or-treating in your local community, it may not be as fun if kids choose not to dress up in their costumes. Also, depending on the size and layout of your church parking lot, a drive-thru option could cause significant traffic problems.
If you can overcome these challenges, a drive-thru Trunk or Treat may be a good option for your church.
Option #2: Same as Usual, With Modifications
How it works: Your church could also choose to conduct Trunk or Treat as usual, with only a few safety modifications. For example, if your parking lot is large enough, you could park the decorated vehicles further apart to promote social distancing. Another modification could be to reduce the number of trunks included in your event this year so that they can park further apart.
If you usually have a large turnout, you’ll also want to take measures to prevent a severe congestion of people. For example, if you have one or more vehicles that conduct games before a child is given a treat, it can cause a massive backup. In a normal year, this wouldn’t be a problem as it allows for church members of other trunks to talk with the guests who are waiting in line. But this is not a normal year, and large lines of people who are unable to socially distance is a major problem. Therefore, it’s probably best to avoid playing games at individual trunks this year.
Pros: In a season when most things aren’t normal, this option provides a sense of normalcy to both children who attend each year as well as your church members. Also, kids are able to dress up in their costumes, which is always a fun and memorable experience for a child. And because people are walking around on your church property, there’s a greater potential to strike up gospel conversations as well.
Cons: On the other hand, because there are people walking around on your church property, it may be difficult to practice safe social distancing. In addition, you may require your church members to wear masks, but it will be nearly impossible to require your guests to wear masks as well – other than the costume variety!
Option #3: Schedule a Neighborhood Parade
How it works: This option allows the church to take the treats to the streets. The church schedules a date to decorate their vehicles and drive around the neighborhood to toss candy to children, just like in a parade. Children are encouraged to wear their costumes and stand in their front yard. When the parade passes, they will receive lots of candy, just for them.
Pros: This is another option that promotes social distancing, while allowing children to dress up and watch a parade. This option also gets the church off the church property and into the community.
Cons: Because church members will be in moving cars, there will be very little opportunity for gospel conversations. In addition, this option requires heavy promotion in the community in order for families to know that a parade will be passing by.
Option #4: Walk the Neighborhood
How it works: This is similar to the parade option. The major difference is that instead of cars, church members walk around neighborhoods, passing out candy to any kids who are outside, anxiously awaiting their arrival.
Pros: Again, this gets the church out into the community, and it is a fun experience for the kids in the neighborhood. Unlike the parade option, this option does provide the opportunity for gospel conversations.
Cons: While it should be possible to maintain a safe social distance, there may be times when that may not be the case. This option also requires a great deal of promotion so that the community anticipates your arrival.
Option #5: Multiple Nights
How it works: If you choose to conduct Trunk or Treat as usual with appropriate safety modifications (Option #2), you may also want to conduct the event on multiple nights to reduce crowd sizes. In your promotion to the community, you can ask children with last names beginning with A-L to attend on one night, while children with last names beginning with M-Z on another night. While some may not follow that recommendation, enough will likely do so in order to reduce your crowd sizes for both nights.
Pros: Smaller crowds allows for more social distancing. As with many other options, kids will enjoy dressing up in their costumes, and there is also a greater opportunity for gospel conversations.
Cons: If you increase the number of nights, you will also increase the necessary coordination, and possibly the number of volunteers. However, the good news is that some volunteers may be willing to serve multiple nights. Also, there’s no guarantee that crowd sizes would be smaller. Some families might visit both nights for double the candy!
Option #6: Alternate Site
How it works: If your church parking lot is not large enough to maintain proper social distancing, you could explore the option of conducting the event in another location. Perhaps a local school or business would allow you to use their parking lot for a few hours.
Pros: This would allow a church to conduct a Trunk or Treat event who would not have been able to do so otherwise. It also gets the church out into the community and will provide opportunities for gospel conversations.
Cons: Whenever you are on someone else’s property, you want to make sure that you take care of it. If you were to trash the place, it could be devastating to the church’s reputation in the community.
Option #7: Alternative Event
How it works: Instead of conducting a Trunk or Treat event, your church could choose to conduct a different type of outreach event altogether. For example, you may choose to conduct an outdoor movie night in which folks could practice social distancing, while also allowing church members to mingle with guests and hopefully strike up gospel conversations.
Pros: Because there are so many different outreach options, it’s unclear what the advantage of this option would be, other than providing a safe environment.
Cons: The disadvantage is that most other outreach events will not bring your church in contact with as many unchurched people.
Advice for All Options
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s imperative that you take special care to distribute the treats safely. Here are a few considerations to ensure that you do so. First, you could require all church members who have a trunk to use gloves as they distribute candy. Furthermore, you could ask them to pack the candy in small bags at home (using gloves) prior to the event. If you choose the Drive-Thru option when each child receives one large bag of candy at the end, plan a packing party at the church a week or two before the event. Church members could all be provided gloves and enjoy a time a fellowship as they pack the bags of candy. In addition, you may choose to require all volunteers to wear a mask during the event.
Every church context is different. Some of the options listed above may not be possible for your church. On the other hand, your church may be able to combine several of these options into your Trunk or Treat plans. Whatever option you choose, make sure that you make every effort to conduct a safe and enjoyable Trunk or Treat.
One Final Option
As this post comes to a close, there is one option I have not yet mentioned. Your church could choose to do nothing. That’s the easiest option, and sadly, many churches will take that route. But, given the fact that so many people need the hope of Jesus in these difficult days, I pray that your church will get creative and reach out with the good news of the gospel. Stay safe, but stay on mission!