Festival 31: Back in a big way
    October 23 2014 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

    There’s big, and then there’s Calvary Baptist big.
    The lengths to which the Winston-Salem congregation has gone to plan for its upcoming Festival 31 Halloween alternative are impressive, to say the least. Try this on for size – a community mailer went out to no less than 45,000 homes in the area, and church members distributed approximately 10,000 invitations at the recently concluded Dixie Classic Fair.
    That’s not all. Local Christian radio station WBFJ will not only publicize everything that is taking place leading up to the Oct. 31 celebration, but it will also broadcast live on location. Candy will be distributed Trunk or Treat style, to go along with 12 inflatables and free hot dog dinner.
    It will be Calvary’s first Halloween event since 2007, and they’re planning for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 people to attend.
    “We had close to 2,000 at the event we had in 2007,” said Kelli Benfield, Calvary’s director of communications. “We were initially planning on 2,000, but we just want to make sure that we have enough for 3,000. We’re asking all of our members who plan on attending to go ahead and register, so that when folks from the community come, they’re not having to wait in this big, long line. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our guests.”
    Festival 31 is not so much a reaction to Christian criticism of Halloween as it is a way to further connect with the church’s community.
    “It’s not because we have issues with Halloween at all,” Benfield said. “We’re trying to provide a safe and friendly event for families in our community, as a way to just network with our community, to say, ‘Hey, we want to connect you with us in an approachable way.’”
    There can be no doubt that Festival 31 will be fun, but organizers are working to cultivate its ministry possibilities. Still more volunteers will be on hand to pass out copies of The Story, which according to the book’s website is “an abridged, chronological Bible that reads like a novel.”
    “We’ll be evangelistic,” Benfield said. “Our volunteers will be trained on how to share The Story, just because it’s a neat tool. We’ll have people who (help guests) become familiar with Calvary, to know that we are a family friendly place, we’re here for them and we care about their salvation and where they are in their walk with the Lord. We want to make sure we provide an easy door to walk through, that they can find Jesus.”
    Although Calvary has not had any official church-wide Halloween-themed events since 2007, it has dedicated a tremendous amount of financial resources to ensuring the success of Festival 31 this year. Massive mailings, thousands upon thousands of invitations and copies of a best-selling book don’t come cheaply.
    “It’s a big expense,” Benfield admitted. “At a time when we were pulling back budgets, it just seemed like (the Halloween alternative) was the thing to pull out of our budget. But right now, we just say, ‘Hey, let’s try it again.’ It’s a completely free event, so we’re picking up a lot of expense.”
    The hope is for Calvary to connect the dots between Festival 31, Christmas, Easter and regular church attendance.
    “At Christmas time, a lot of people are looking for a place to go to church,” Benfield said. “Easter, a lot of people are looking for a place to go to church. We’ve tried to be intentional the last couple of years to invite people to come to Christmas at Calvary during the Christmas season, but we kind of advertise that we don’t want you to just come to our Christmas musical.
    “We have plenty more things going on, like great messages. So one of the things we’re doing at the end of Festival 31, on your way out the door, you’ll get an invitation to come back and visit us at Christmas. At Christmas, we’ll be intentional about inviting them back at Easter, also.”
    Pre-registration is available on the church’s website for those wishing to bypass the lines waiting to sign in the day of the event. Visit http://www.calvarynow.com/festival31 for more information.

    10/23/2014 12:35:58 PM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Calvary Baptist, Festival 31, Halloween

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