Harvest festivals can make excellent fundraisers or outreach ministries while creating a fun, safe environment for friends and family to celebrate the fall season. Here are some ways to plan for your church’s fall harvest festival this October.

Get Creative with the Location

These events can be as big or as small as you’d like, and don’t need to be confined to church grounds. In some cases, churches partner with local park and recreation agencies, holding their harvest festival as a community service event. This facilitates inviting local heroes, such as police officers and firefighters to attend, perhaps incorporating safety into the event with bike safety or fire safety activities.

Entertainment and Activities

Harvest festivals can include activities like hay rides, pumpkin patches, pumpkin decorating or painting. It’s also fun to offer non-scary costume contests with categories for prizes, face painting and carnival games with candy, treats and toys as prizes. Entertainment options sure to draw crowds are balloon artists, bounce houses and pony rides.

You don’t need elaborate carnival games to have fun. Many favorite games and relays can be tweaked to add “a touch of fall,” such as The Scarecrow Team Game. The following is a variation of the game as posted on the Ministry-to-Children website:

Recruit two adult volunteers to be the scarecrows and divide the participants into two teams.  With scarecrow clothing items collected ahead of time, including hats, flannel shirts, bandannas, overalls, big boots, straw and some face paint, participants will race relay-style to dress their “scarecrow.” With participants in a line, each will take a single clothing item for the scarecrow to put on, or a handful of straw to stuff into a shirt or tuck under a hat, or apply a bit of face paint. 

After a good laugh at the end of the race (in which everyone is a winner), briefly discuss Ephesians 4:16, suggests Ministry-to-Children, drawing parallels between the Bible verse and the scarecrow activity. The parallels outlined by Ministry-to-Children can be discussed as part of a lesson that includes working together as a team, encouraging one another and doing your part on God’s team to share His love.

Offer Healthy Candy Alternatives

Instead of trick-or-treating, kids can collect candy at each game or station at the carnival. Many parents appreciate healthy alternatives to candy, and Clemson University Cooperative Extension suggests simple healthy, non-candy, and even non-food treats like cereal bars, animal crackers or goldfish, sugar free gum and single-serve bags of microwave popcorn. 

Non-food ideas, Clemson suggests include glow sticks, miniature games and puzzles, stickers, pencil toppers, crayons or markers, coloring books, rub-on tattoos, or toys that promote activity such as balls, jump ropes and Frisbees.

Throw a ‘Trunk-or-Treat’ Party

If you prefer to keep your event focused on family or youth ministries within your church congregation, you can invite everyone to participate in a “trunk-or-treat,” with families meeting in the church parking lot after a service to pass out candy or other treats from the trunk of their cars. This can be done “tailgate” style, with everyone bringing an item for a potluck dinner or incorporating a church cookout into the mix. 

Show an Outdoor Movie

Want to hold the event in the evening? If the weather cooperates, try showing a movie outdoors with everyone bringing lawn chairs and blankets. Hold an intermission for passing out and sharing treats or pass out goodie bags at the beginning of the event.

There are plenty of ways to get creative with your church’s harvest festival this month! Just remember, diversity breeds creativity, so get your congregation together to pitch in ideas for games, entertainment and party ideas and then have everyone pitch in to make your celebration a reality.

What are some of the reservations many Christians have when it comes to Halloween? Here is one documentary that explores  a number of inhibitions some believers have when it comes to celebrating the Fall holiday — it’s called Halloween? Trick or Treat?

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