3 Tips for Discipling Your Kids This Halloween (Michael Stewart)
Halloween seems to be the one holiday in American Christianity that we just don’t know what to do with. We are happy to celebrate cultural or historical holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Day. We love religious holidays like Easter and Christmas. But Halloween… Halloween has quite a mixed history, and so we don’t know how to approach it.
In one sense, it is a religious holiday. After all, it started out as “All Hallow’s Eve,” the night before “All Hallow’s Day,” which was a Christian holiday celebrating the lives of saints. In another sense, and one that is far more obvious to a 21st century American, it’s a cultural holiday.
To most families in America, Halloween is a fun time to eat candy, dress up, and have fun with friends. Yet because some choose to use this holiday to celebrate evil and its effects, it also can be a dark holiday.
With such a complicated mixture of influences, it’s important for each family to use discernment and wisdom in determining if and how to celebrate this holiday. I believe that there are sinful ways to participate in Halloween, just as there are with any holiday.
However, I also believe there are many aspects of this holiday that we have freedom in Christ to participate in. Regardless of how you choose to engage in this holiday, I urge you not to miss out on all the opportunities to disciple your kids that the Halloween season provides.
Because this holiday can be a complicated one to disciple your children through, I have three tips to help you lead well during this season.
1. Every Decision is an Opportunity for Discipleship
Each October, your family is faced with a multitude of decisions regarding Halloween. Will our kids dress up and go trick-or-treating? What should we let our kids dress up as? Should we decorate our house like all the neighbors do every year? Will we let our teenagers go to a Halloween party or a Haunted House with their friends? Is it ok for my preschooler to watch the Curious George Halloween episode, or will it be too scary? Are we ok with pictures of ghosts in our home? Witches? Jack-o-lanterns? And on and on.
Leaning on the Word, prayer and community
Fathers and mothers should answer these questions through consulting the Word of God, through prayer, and through community. The principles of Scripture need to be applied by each family with wisdom and discernment. Because every family, every child, and every ministry context is different, there is no “one size fits all” answer for how to approach the season.
However your family decides to answer all the questions that arise during Halloween, keep in mind that what is most important is how the decision is made. As long as each decision is made with the goal of honoring God and leading your kids to know Him more, then it is a good decision!
Share your reasoning with your children, along with how you are trying to honor God with your decision. In this way, every decision you make this Halloween can be opportunity for you to point them to Jesus.
For example, let’s say that my oldest, who’s now two, decides that she wants to wear a princess costume in a few years. Rather than just saying “yes” or “no,” I need to see that as an opportunity to talk with her about God.
As my wife and I pray about it and discuss it, we might decide that the reason she wants to be a princess is because she’s focused on external beauty. If that is the case, then we would tell her that she can’t be a princess, and explain that Jesus cares more about inner beauty than about external beauty.
On the other hand, we might decide that her request to be a princess is a great opportunity to talk to her about being a daughter of God. In that case, we would tell her yes, and explain to her that every girl who trusts in Jesus is a princess, because she is adopted into God’s family and is a daughter of the King of kings.
So you see, whether we say “yes” or “no” to her request is not as important as seeing it as an opportunity to tell her about Jesus. Seen through this lens, Halloween is simply full of opportunities for great discussion with your children.
2. Do Not Fear
Right now in Austin, Texas, where I live, there are billboards on every major highway advertising an attraction called the “House of Torment.” The advertisements for this “premiere haunted attraction” contain large pictures of characters that are downright frightening. I’m dreading the day that my two little girls notice these pictures while driving around.
The really scary part
To be honest, I’m scared of those billboards. I’m not scared of the pictures themselves – I’m scared of the conversation that I will need to have with my daughters once they see them. Scared that I won’t have the words to comfort them. Scared of saying the wrong thing.
One reason we parents tend to agonize over each little decision regarding Halloween is that we are scared. We’re scared that if we make the wrong decision, that we will scar our kids for life. We’re scared that we’re too strict, or that we’re too lenient. We’re scared because we care for our children so much, and want to make sure that we always do what’s best for them.
In these moments, God has words of comfort for us. When God’s people, Israel, were in fear of the nations around them, He said, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Good news for parenting mistakes
When Jesus was preparing His followers for going out and telling others about Him, he says “…do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).
As we speak to our kids about Christ this season, God has promised to be with us, and Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will give us words to say. And yes, we may make mistakes. After all, there is only one perfect parent, God the Father.
But the good news is that this Father is more wise, more powerful, and more loving than we are, and our kids are in His hands. He will use all of our successes and all of our failures in our parenting to bring His children to Him. We can rest in that promise, and we have no need to fear.
3. We’re All on the Same Team
Every year in the weeks leading up to Halloween, my heart breaks to see Christian parents tear each other down. Because we’re all a little insecure over whether our decisions were right or not, we tend to attack anyone who decided differently from us. Each year I see blog posts, Facebook status updates, and heated discussions full of “friendly fire” from one Christian parent to another. This type of talk is neither useful for building up the body of Christ nor helpful in sharing the good news of Jesus to others. It needs to stop.
I want to remind all of us parents that we all want the same thing. All of us are doing the best we can to lead our children through this life, praying that God will bring them safely home to Him. While other parents may make different decisions regarding Halloween than you have made, what we all need most is not judgment and criticism, but rather prayer, encouragement, and support.
Our enemy would love nothing more than for us to tear each other down during this holiday. Instead, I pray that this season will be filled with love – for our kids, for each other, for our neighbors, and most of all, for the Lord.
Happy Halloween, however you decide to spend it!