Forming Faith Blog


Trunk-or-Treat is about providing a fun, safe activity for kids and families, but it can also be an easy way to serve your community and build relationships.

Two costumed adults in front of a decorated vehicle trunk.
Photo of Cindy and Jerry Paulson

It’s that time of year when churches fill parking lots with decorated cars and stock their trunks with candy corn and lollipops. Trunk-or-Treat is about providing a fun, safe activity for kids and families in your community. It also can be a great outreach initiative.

Be Prepared

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the event, but make sure you’re prepared with more than just treats!

  • Think safety first! Have volunteers set up early and close off access to the area where children will be walking at least 15 minutes before your event begins.
  • Make sure you have plenty of volunteers available to not only hand out treats and help with the grunt work of the event but also to engage with the families and answer any questions from parents.
  • Have some non-food treats available for trunks to have on hand such as glow sticks, stickers, or small toys. You can also have a teal pumpkin or sign for each car that has non-food treats. This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions. More information on the Teal Pumpkin Project.
  • Consider interactive trunks where there is not only something to get but something to do, like a bean bag toss or puzzles to solve.
  • Create an area for adults to gather by setting up an area with coffee and hot water with packs of cocoa, cider, or tea bags. Consider asking an outgoing council member to staff this area to answer questions and facilitate conversation among the adults. Why not give parents and caregivers a hand with lunch or dinner and the sugar-high by serving hotdogs, bags of chips, and carrot sticks along with your hot cocoa, coffee, and lemonade?
  • Don’t forget to have a Plan B in case of inclement weather!
  • You’ll find many more planning helps online, including this article from Real Simple.
More Than Just Fun

So, you’ve got the kids, cars, and treats ready to go—but how do you make sure this amounts to more than just fun and overwhelming amounts of sugar? Connect people to other organizations in your community!

  • Do you have a scout den or troop that meets at your building? Invite them to host a fire around a portable fire pit and serve s’mores.
  • Contact your local fire and police departments to see if they might have a firetruck or police car available to stop by your event. (Be aware that they could be called away on short notice so should be stationed in an area where they can leave on a moment’s notice without compromising Trunk-or-Treaters’ safety.)
  • Consider collecting non-perishable food donations for your local food shelf or pantry or personal care items for those experiencing housing insecurity.
  • Is there an animal rescue organization in your neighborhood? Contact them to see what their needs are, you might even set up a station to braid dog or cat toys!
  • Are there advocacy groups in your community that you support or are in line with your church’s mission and values? Ask them if they would like to participate.
Easy Advertising

Don’t forget to take advantage of the fact that hundreds of people from your local community will be coming into your parking lot!

  • Advertise another upcoming event for kids and families so they’ll come back for more fun.
  • Family photos can often be a compelling reason to ask folks for their contact info. Set up a backdrop with hay bales and corn stalks where a professional photographer can take a free family photo. Collect an email address so you can send folks their photo. Caution: before posting pictures online, make sure you have consent from parents—and watch out for license plates. Your social media activity could backfire if you don’t respect people’s privacy.
What’s Next?

Trunk-or-Treat is over, now what?

  • Write thank-you notes to those who participated. Yes, it is an old-fashioned practice but still builds goodwill and brings a smile to the recipients’ faces.
  • Which of the organizations that participated would YOU like to learn more about? Invite a representative for coffee.
  • Did one of the organizations spark conversation in your congregation? Plan an event for people to learn more about the organization and how they can get involved.
  • Don’t forget to write a summary of the event: what went well, what didn’t, and new ideas for next year.

Be creative, there are so many more things you might think of that would be great ideas for your situation, neighborhood, and community. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Happy Trunk-or-Treat!


About the Writer

Cindy Paulson is a seasoned Christian Educator, currently serving as Director of Faith Formation at a church in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. Her favorite group to work with is middle schoolers, if you can reach them, you can reach anyone!

Cindy’s passion for easy-to-use, theologically solid, and engaging curricula makes being Lead Editor at Spirit & Truth Publishing more fun than work.

This blog post is part of a monthly series of practical advice for faith formation leaders by faith formation and education professionals. Summaries of these posts are sent in a monthly email to email subscribers. Subscribe today!

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