We occasionally offer events as sort of a community outreach, hoping to get to know people who would not normally come to church for a regular service. We hope that by offering a less “churchy” event, they will be more comfortable checking us out and getting to know us as a church. This fall we had a pumpkin carving event. It really wasn’t very fancy, because it sort of got cobbled together last minute. We really need to do better planning!
Steps to hosting a successful pumpkin carving:
1. Invite people — Facebook invites, word of mouth, fliers, church bulletin, etc. Explicitly spell out what they need to bring–carving tools, a spoon, knife, their own pumpkin, a snack?
2. Enlist help — setup crew, cleanup crew, someone to man the little kids’ table, host, pumpkin buyer/collector, supplies gatherer, activities director for when kids are done carving, snacks coordinator, photographer.
3. Print a few carving templates which you can find free online.
4. Buy a variety of sizes and types of pumpkin. We got medium and large carving pumpkins, as well as small ones in a variety of colors for the kids to decorate. They can be found on sale, especially right before Halloween. Make sure you have a vehicle big enough to haul all of them!
5. Take ample time to set up so that you’re not harried as people are arriving. Cover your tables with newspaper and tape it right down the middle so the whole thing stays put on the table. Place some pumpkins out on the tables so people can get started right away. Designate one or more kid’s tables. This is for the little ones who can’t carve, but would enjoy painting or drawing on the pumpkins. Acrylic craft paint and Sharpie markers work well. A snack table is optional, but adds a nice touch. Consider serving apple cider and asking key people to bring a snack. Cider can be kept warm in a crock-pot. Don’t forget the cups, napkins, plates, cutlery, drink ladle, and rags to clean up any spills.
6. The host should welcome everyone and set some ground rules. No flinging spoonfuls of pumpkin guts, what ages can handle knives, what to do with the guts, are you saving seeds, how the little kids can use the paint and markers, where the snacks are, how to handle clean up, what the kids can do when they’re done carving.
7. Make sure to take lots of photos–of people carving, the pumpkins, and a group shot of the kids with the pumpkins.
8. It’s best to handle cleanup as you go, otherwise it’s a huge job at the end. Keep a couple of buckets of soapy water and rags on hand, a broom to sweep up all the gunk, and a trash can big enough to handle all the detritus. At the end of the event several people can work together to complete this task in a hurry. It’s really not fair to strap just a couple of people with the cleanup job.
9. Alternative activities for the kids once they’re done carving are a must. Keep them occupied or risk destruction! Pumpkin bowling was a huge hit for us and kept the kids occupied for an hour! We used the plastic pins that you can get at Wal-mart, and chose a small ball-shaped pumpkin for the kids to knock them down. It’s amazing how much they enjoyed that–just because they were throwing a pumpkin instead of a plastic ball. You could also offer outdoor games, a simple craft project, a fall-themed video, or whatever else you can think of.
I hope our experience helps you run your own pumpkin carving a little more smoothly. We did come away from it with a few lessons learned, which I’ve shared with you. Remember to have fun and take the time to connect with your guests! Happy carving!