For many faith communities, the Fall Harvest Festival is the highlight of the crispy autumn season and a nice prelude into Thanksgiving and Advent. Who doesn’t love sweaters, flannel, bonfires, and s’mores? Well, if you think about it that way, maybe your neighbors would like to get in on the fun and fellowship.
You have enjoyed another fantastic summer of fun and success, renewing friendships, making new friends, and getting to know your neighbors a little better. Now, months into the school year, activities and routines may have pushed some of those initiatives out of mind. If you spent the summer building community goodwill with your VBS and summer Bible camps, why not renew those connections during the fall. Take the opportunity to connect once more with new friends who came to your VBS and are just being introduced to your church.
Begin by getting the word out! Create announcements on your websites as well as posts on your social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Design attractive graphics that spell out the what, when, and where and make clear that the community is invited. Make your posts easily shareable so that your members can personally get in on spreading the word. If you have access to budget funds, create postcards and mail them to households in your vicinity and on your VBS mailing list. Also, design and create posters that can hang in your church hallway as well as local businesses and community bulletin boards. Make sure it is clear that it is a family friendly event and everyone is invited. Send press notices to all the community newspapers and TV news shows that cover community happenings. You never know when one of them will mention your event. Also, don’t forget that a big banner on the front lawn of your church is likely the best advertising you can do.
You may wonder “how can we plan to feed a community of people when we do not know how many may come?” How about inviting a cadre of food trucks to park at your church for the evening. With the long summer days now gone, food truck proprietors will likely be happy for the opportunities to serve hungry patrons. Invite food trucks to park in your parking lot, set up tables and chairs, and create a street festival vibe right at your church.
You can also turn your fall festival into an opportunity to benefit the community. A bake sale can raise money for local shelters who are getting ready for the brutal winter months. You can ask every attendee to bring a canned good that will be collected and donated to a local food bank or used to restock the church pantry in preparations for the coming winter. A little brainstorming and imagination can go a long way in meeting the benevolence needs of your community.
Additionally, you can serve in more seasonally practical ways by inviting kids from your community who may not live in neighborhoods where it is safe to trick-or-treat. Host a trunk-or-treat at your fall festival where instead of kids going door-to-door to get candy, they walk through a parking lot and go trunk-to-trunk. It is an excellent alternative for community kids to the traditional Halloween night outing, and it is fun. Just make sure everyone brings plenty candy!
As with any event, decorations and music can turn any gathering into a happening. Let the creative element of the church take the lead. Of course, don’t forget all the old fall festival standbys—hayrides, s’mores, pumpkin carvings, candied apples, and bonfires. Just make sure you follow all the laws and rules and keep everyone safe. A fun church-hosted, community fall festival can help you strengthen your connection to your neighbors, serve your larger community, and let everyone know what a joy life together can be.