1. Pumpkin Slingshot
Remember the water balloon slingshot you used for the summer party? Break it out for a new kind of fun. These slingshots are the perfect size to use with small decorative pumpkins and gourds. If you have a big field, you can mark it like a driving range and have a contest for overall flight distance. If you don’t have that kind of space, grab or build some archery-style targets and shoot for accuracy. No matter what you choose, pumpkins flying through the air are sure to be fun to watch and will get the youth excited about an event typically targeted to younger kids.
2. Mess-Free Pumpkin Carving
For a super hands-clean and knife-free experience, buy (for less than a dollar per pumpkin) sets of pumpkin-decorating stickers to beautify the pumpkins. Since the pumpkins are not cut, they will usually last outside for 8 to 12 weeks.
3. Tickets Instead of Cash
One of the trickiest aspects of a fall festival is dealing with money. With many items for sale at different places, you face either the nightmare of keeping multiple people supplied with change or a huge bottleneck at a single checkout location. Solve that by pricing everything in tickets or “Bible Bucks” and then converting money at a separate location. This will also help you deal with the problem of fewer people carrying cash by allowing you to set up a single station to accept credit and debit cards. Either way, you don’t hold up the line of people trying to get their cotton candy!
4. Buy Your Machines
Speaking of cotton candy, consider buying a different concession machine each year and saving the money spent on rentals. Most will pay for themselves the first year. The next year you won’t have to pay to rent the machine. Not only that, you can also have the fun of making cotton candy whenever you have a special event.
5. Mission Station
The church is about mission that transforms the world. Involving your community in this effort is powerful. If you don’t have a ministry that needs help filling backpacks for inmates, sorting canned goods or something similar, find a local organization that could use some extra hands and set up a station for people to work in between cotton candy eating and pumpkin slingshotting. Have all the supplies set out and a volunteer to give instructions. See how many backpacks you can fill or canned goods you can sort! Maybe you can even make it a contest.
6. Sponsor the School Festival
What if you took your fall festival on the road? Many schools have (or would like to have) a special day or event with cotton candy, hot dogs and face paint, similar to the one you normally plan for your church’s parking lot. Consider partnering with the PTA at your neighborhood school and leverage your volunteer resources to put on the whole event from beginning to end—and then give all the proceeds to the school.
—Jeremy Steele, UMCOM.org