By Lindsay Peyton

Churches in the Texas Annual Conference are decking out their cars with decor for Trunk-or-Treat celebrations. Several congregations are transforming their parking lots for the fall festivity, where costumed children visit decorated parked vehicles for candy, instead of going door-to-door.

Trunk or Treat started at St. Paul UMC Port Arthur years ago. Youth leader Jennifer Gunner explained that after the pandemic, the event restarted to lower attendance. “We realized we weren’t getting a good turnout at the church,” she said.

After a couple of hours passed at the event in 2021, organizers decided to head to a nearby housing project. “We said, ‘Let’s pack this up and drive over,’” Gunner recalled. “We set up in their parking lot. We had hot dogs, candy, glow-in-the-dark toys, school supplies and themed bags.”

Members stayed until dark. “We passed out everything we had,” Gunner said.

The church worked with the apartment manager to repeat the event the following year. “And even more kids came out,” Gunner said. “We had plenty of candy, and we had a costume contest.”

This year, construction at the complex is forcing Trunk or Treat to return to St. Paul’s campus, 821 Freeman Ave from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. Now that residents know about the event, Gunner hopes they will walk around the corner to attend.

“The kids enjoy it, and it’s safe. They get to see adults dressed up in crazy costumes,” Gunner laughed. “We all have a good time. This is just a part of our outreach. We want them to know that we’re still here, serving the community.”

She added that hosting fun, joyful events can be an ideal way to introduce others to God’s grace. “Show people the beauty of Jesus through your behavior,” she said. “It is so much easier to go to people with your arms reached out instead of your arms folded.”

At Dickinson FUMC, 200 FM 517 Rd West, Trunk or Treat will be held the Sunday before Halloween, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct 29. Kathy Edge, Children’s Ministry Director, said this will be the second year to host the event.

“We had at least 20 vehicles last year,” she said. “It was really successful. And in between the cars, we have different games that the kids can play to win candy.”

Edge said that the pumpkin patch will still be open, providing plenty of photo opportunities for families.

The evening provides a way for the congregation to connect with the community, Edge explained. “It’s a great way for us all to have fellowship,” she said. “And a great time is had by all.”

At Goodrich UMC, Trunk-or-treating started when Pastor John Moyle and his wife Tracey joined the congregation.

“They didn’t do anything, and we had three boys in the high school at the time,” Tracey, who heads the youth ministry, recalled.

They decided to start a new tradition in 2015. “It took off right away,” Tracey said. “And it has just grown every year. We all look forward to it.”

In addition to decorated cars, the church hosts a bike raffle. Both trick-or-treaters and volunteers attend from the community. “Goodrich is between Shepherd and Livingston, and we get people from both areas,” Tracey said. “Pretty much everybody comes.”

This year’s Trunk or Treat at the church, 1229 TX-393 Loop in Goodrich, is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

At Beaumont’s Trinity UMC, 3430 Harrison Ave, Trunk or Treat is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The event will be complete with bounce houses, activities, refreshments and a fire truck.

Children’s Ministry Director Erica Ray said that between 300 and 400 children typically attend. “It’s everyone from the whole community,” she explained. “The more that come, the happier we are. The whole purpose is to help people get familiar with the church.”

It’s also an opportunity for fellowship, Ray added. The volunteers look forward to decorating their trunks each year and handing out candy.

“They get to laugh a lot,” Ray said. “They have fun.”

Guests vote for the best decorated trunk – and fill out a card with their name and email address. “Then, we can follow-up and invite them to another event or to come to church,” Ray said.

At Stewart Memorial UMC in Buffalo, Texas, Trunk or Treat is 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The church is located at 315 S. Fairfield St.

Guests ferry from the Trunk or Treat at Stewart Memorial to the nearby First Baptist Church, which hosts a pumpkin patch. A hay shuttle brings families back and forth.

Carolyn Ferguson, chair of the church’s counseling ministry, organizes the Trunk or Treat, which she said has been running for 15 years.

At first, she explained, the two churches had separate events. “We didn’t initially work together, but it just evolved over time,” she said.

Now the entire community looks forward to fall fun that stretches over two church campuses. Ferguson said that 300 to 400 children usually attend.

“It’s a lot of fun to see all the families come together, with all different generations,” she said.

Ferguson sees Trunk or Treat as a great introduction to the warmth of Stewart Memorial. “They can see we’re a loving and caring church,” she said. “It’s just a way to reach out and touch a few lives – who might end up coming to our church.”