Trunk or treat: Churches invite their communities outside for costumes, candy, fun

Trunk or treat: Churches invite their communities outside for costumes, candy, fun

Hold on to your hubcap for this attendance record. Like many Holston churches, members at Tyner United Methodist multipurposed their automobiles for Halloween. They decorated their car trunks and offered candy to kids willing to circulate the church parking lot in costume.

Over the past 10 years, the most Tyner had ever entertained for "Trunk or Treat" night was a none-too-shabby 500, says the Rev. Charlie Harrison, senior pastor for the Chattanooga church.

But on Wednesday, Oct. 30, Tyner more than doubled its own record attendance with 1,200 people.

How did they do it?

"We are more involved in the community over the last three years," Harrison said. "We work with Tyner Academy High School and Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School. So we are being known about our care for children and youth."

It also helped that Tyner was the only church in the area to offer a free hot-dog meal, Harrison said.

"Couldn't stir them with a stick," said Lou Harrison of the packed parking lot, "but it was loads of fun."

Other Holston churches reported their ghoul counts and fun factors, too.

Auburn UMC in Riner, Va., welcomed 122 at their trunk or treat event on Oct. 27. The Rev. Scott Wilks reports the congregation "broadened their scope" by inviting participation from scout troops.

"We had to sell the idea to some of our members who see [Halloween] as a secular holiday rooted in a dark past," Wilks said. "I simply explained that we are showing children that the church is a safe place with lots of welcoming people. As fishers of kids, candy makes a pretty good bait."

About 325 sweet-eaters attended the Oct. 31 trunk or treat hosted by First UMC of Bluefield, Va., according to the Rev. Brad Scott.

"It's successful partly because the church taps into many community resources," Scott said. "We hold it at the farmer's market in the downtown area, and in addition to the trunks, we have a meal at the church."

About three weeks before Halloween, the town of Bluefield has a parade, Scott added. "The kids throw out candy with invitations to this event."

Like other churches, Salem UMC of Blountville, Tenn., also offered free food -- in this case, pizza -- to entice participants.

"We did reach several parents and first-time guests," said the Rev. Will Shewey. With the added bonus of cotton candy, face painting, pumpkin decorations, a cake walk and pudding-eating contest, Salem welcomed 107 at their Oct. 23 event.

Other churches also reported their attendances in response to The Call's request on Facebook.

About 550 came out to Shady Grove UMC in Dandridge, Tenn., reported Ellen McCormick. "The kids especially liked the bounce houses."

Sherry Smith wrote that 62 attended the trunk or treat hosted by Pleasant Hill UMC in Sevierville, Tenn.

First UMC of Rich Creek, Va., entertained 150, the Rev. Doug Hyndrich said.

First United Methodist Church of Maryville, Tenn., logged in "well over a thousand" for a fall festival which included a parking lot full of trunk-or-treaters, reported Clayton Hensley.