Gooey caramel scents melt into the crisp fall evening air. Sounds of laughter and popping corn bounce about as wildly as the children in the inflatable castles. Pumpkins, hay and autumn-colored leaves adorn surfaces high and low. The warmth of hot chocolate and spiced coffee greets chilled fingers and smiling lips.
Such a scene will be common at many Foursquare churches this month as communities across the country gather to celebrate the fall harvest season with festivals, parties, outreach events and fairs. While games and treats abound at these events, the focus is bringing community members together for a time of fellowship, merriment and, most important, experiencing the love of Christ.
“Because people matter to God, our church culture is to serve outside our walls and go into the community,” explains Malisa Paz, director of children’s ministry at Lompoc Foursquare Church in Lompoc, Calif. “That’s why we’ve been doing our Harvest Block Party for 25 years.”
In a town of just 43,000 people, Lompoc Foursquare Church sees as many as 4,000 individuals attend the party each year. More than 100 volunteers help create the event, using their gifts to express God’s love to local families in tangible ways. The church closes off its parking lots and the street in front, filling it with games, music, bounce houses, food and more.
“We want this to be a safe environment for families where they can get free entertainment and learn a bit about what we offer as a church,” Malisa says. “It’s an alternative to Halloween where we just get to love on people—and it’s all for God’s glory.”
Across the country in Pembroke, N.H., Grace Capital (Pembroke Foursquare Church) is looking forward to how a big change last year will play out at this year’s Family Fun Fair. For 15 years, the church hosted the fair on their campus, but last year, they took it out into the community.
“We recognized this ministry needed a change,” says Sherri Therrien, children’s pastor. “We wanted it to be more of an outreach opportunity, so we rented a community center in nearby Concord to get us out among the people instead of asking them to come to us.”
With the success of last year’s fair, Grace Capital is going off campus again this year, specifically pursuing people in a nearby Nepalese refugee community and lower-income areas of town.
Iglesia Cristiana Remanso De Paz (Warner Robins Hispanic Foursquare Church) in Warner Robins, Ga., also focuses its fall event on reaching out to youth, but with the goal of addressing the hardships they face in today’s culture. Each year, Youth Under Holy Fire brings in up to 600 people from the local Hispanic community and beyond, 60 to 70 percent of whom choose to walk with Christ as a result.
“We know our children face many challenges at school and at home, and they think there is nothing else out there for them,” says Yolanda Ramirez, lead pastor. “This event is a chance for us to discuss those pressures with them at a time of year when wearing certain costumes and attending wild parties can be hard to resist.”
During two days, Iglesia Cristiana and its guest churches host singing and worship, skits, dance performances and more. For Yolanda, seeing the kids worshiping God is profoundly powerful year after year.
“It’s a lot of work to put this together,” she says, “but when the moment comes that the children are crying out praise to God, you say, ‘Wow, this is what we work for.’ “
In South Chicago Heights, Ill., Cornerstone Christian Center (Chicago Heights Foursquare Church) uses its Family Harvest Celebration to show the community that loving Jesus is fun.
“Our church is in a low-income area of a predominantly Hispanic and African American community,” says LaTanya Santiago, children’s ministry administrator. “We want to provide a safe environment where kids can have fun and where families can experience the love of God, sparking an interest and desire to participate in a local church. Our ultimate goal is to reach, teach and keep children for Jesus.”
The church’s youth also support the event, with the dance ministry and rap team performing to entertain guests and show how praising God can be exciting and energizing. LaTanya says she is consistently amazed by how this event touches those who don’t know God but also those within the church.
Though they take various approaches and serve different communities, the goal of these Foursquare churches is the same: to host an event that brings neighborhoods together for a safe, fun celebration of God’s abundant blessings and to give people a glimpse of Jesus.
Connecting with people and offering an exciting alternative to other Halloween activities puts the emphasis on building relationships, fostering strong communities and supporting children, thereby glorifying God and advancing His kingdom—one fall festival at a time.