Whether Christians or pastors appreciate the holiday or not, Halloween will be celebrated by most Americans. A National Retail Federation survey published in September found that 69 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween in 2016.
A recent LifeWay Research study found that while a small minority of pastors still prefer to avoid Halloween altogether, most pastors encourage their church members to attend and invite friends to a church-hosted event.
The study, which was released on Tuesday, found that about two-thirds (67 percent) of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors said they encourage congregants to invite their friends and neighbors to a church-hosted alternative to Halloween such as a ‘fall festival.’
More than half of the survey respondents said they encourage congregants to “build relationships with neighbors who trick-or-treat” (52 percent), and more than a quarter encouraged church members to give gospel tracts to those who trick-or-treat (26 percent).
A minority of respondents said they encourage church members to avoid the holiday completely (8 percent).
The study found some differences along denominational lines. Holiness pastors were most likely to encourage church members to invite people to a church-hosted event (82 percent), followed by Baptist pastors (77 percent), Pentecostal pastors (75 percent), and Methodist pastors (73 percent).
Meanwhile, Baptist pastors were most likely to encourage members to give gospel tracts to trick-or-treaters (47 percent), while smaller proportions of evangelical (32 percent) and mainline (15 percent) pastors were likely to do the same.
“With so many people celebrating Halloween, this one day has more interaction among neighbors across America than any other day,” said Scott McConnell, the executive director of LifeWay Research.
“People actually want to see each other at their doors. So it’s only natural that pastors encourage their congregations to invest in these relationships.”