Trunk or Treat Planning Guide

Hey there!

I’m so glad that you’re thinking about planning a Trunk OR Treat! Holding a Trunk OR Treat for your community can be a tremendous blessing to both your church and the community around it. I know it was for us!

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive “How to Plan” for you to use when planning your Trunk OR Treat. I’ll wrap up with some fun tips, tricks, dos, and don’ts. I hope you’ll find my experience helpful as you prepare for a candy-filled outreach event.

 

In Christ,

 

Jonathan Veliquette (Fellow Children’s Pastor)

 

 

Step By Step How To:

 

1. Nail Down the Purpose (4-5 weeks until event)

 

First things first! You will need to think through this question, “What is the purpose of my event?” Is your purpose to simply provide a fun and safe outlet for kids in your community to enjoy on Halloween? Great! Or do you want to be more specific and target a need in your community?

 

The purpose of our Trunk or Treat in 2020 was to love and care for our community by providing a fun and safe COVID-19 cautious place where they can trick or treat for Halloween. We were facing a unique need in the world around us. We heard parents start asking the question, is it safe to walk around neighborhoods and accept treats from people we don’t know? So, we wanted to offer a solution to this question and point people to Christ at the same time.

 

2. Plan the Basics (4-5 weeks until event)

Your purpose will direct your whole event. A lot of people skip over step one, but my philosophy is to always start with the purpose. Filter EVERYTHING through the purpose.

Next, you’ll want to plan a few basics. Think through these questions: (I like to get in front of a whiteboard and write down the answers)

  • What day and time would work best for your target audience? - We chose to hold ours from 3-5 pm on Halloween because it was a Saturday, so we didn’t have to worry about parents getting home from work and heading out. 3-5 pm allowed families to Trunk OR Treat with us and still walk trick or treat in their neighborhood if they wanted to.
  • Where should you have the cars park? - If your church doesn’t have a large parking lot, is there a park close by that you can reserve?
  • How many people will attend your Trunk OR Treat? -Shoot for the stars here!
  • What “Features” would you like to have? - Do you want to simply have trunks to treat out of? Or do you want more? Things like carnival games, elephant ears, a photo booth, a hay maze, or even a pumpkin launching contest. We decided to keep it simple in 2020 due to the pandemic. We had trunks and a photo booth at the end.
  • How much can we spend on this event? - Not the fun question, but it needs to be answered. We spent about $4,000 on our event and had about 1,000 people come through. Now, most of that cost was candy. We felt that it was best to buy our own due to COVID precautions. In future years though asking for donations of sealed candy bags could be a great cost-saving option. You’ll need to think through what features or “extra activities” you’d like to provide while planning your budget.

 

3. Plan Your Promotion (3-4 weeks until event)

Now that you have some basics down, you can strategize how to tell people about your amazing event coming up. My strategy is to communicate in every way possible. There is no such thing as communicating too much. You do want to make sure you don’t communicate too early or too late. The sweet spot for an event like this is about 3 weeks in advance.

Before we get to the promotion details, I encourage you to think about your needs for the event. This is an event that EVERYONE can get behind, even if people don’t have kids in their life. Do some math and figure out how many pieces of candy you’ll need. An easy equation to determine the amount of candy is to multiply the number of cars you’ll have by 2 (2 pieces of candy per child) and then multiply that by your dream number of attendees (the amount of people that would make you say “WOW that was a huge success!”). Then double that number to make sure you don’t run out! Once you know that, you can have a goal number to reach if people want to donate candy. Think through how you’ll have people sign up to host a trunk. We created an online sign-up where people could sign up to host a trunk or even commit to bringing candy. There are a bunch of online resources out there to make a sign-up like this. 

We are blessed to have a graphics/communications department at our church, so we had them whip up some graphics. If you don’t have access to people with graphic arts skills, no worries! Remember that this is really God’s event that we are planning, He’s got this. With that said, one of my favorite graphic creation websites is called Canva. It’s free and there are a ton of “How to” videos on the internet. You can make your own stellar graphic there.

Here are the ways we used the graphics to promote our Trunk OR Treat. Don’t feel like you must do all of these, but the more the merrier!

 

  • Signs - We had an outdoor sign made for each of our campuses. Go big here! The goal is to have as many people as possible see this. We found that a lot of our attendees saw our sign the day of the event and decided to stop by. You’ll want to make sure the date, time, place, and your website is on them.
  • Print items - We made a TON of handout cards to have all around our church. I recommend having the full graphic on one side and the information on the back. Keep it simple and sweet. I try to answer these questions: who, what, when, where? Encourage your members to give these out to neighbors, friends, co-workers etc.  This is a SUPER easy way for your members to invite unchurched friends to visit your church.
  • Social media - If you don’t have social media for your ministry, that’s ok, promoting for this event is a great time to start one. Post on your social media once or twice a week for the 3 weeks leading up to Trunk OR Treat. Get creative through fun videos or graphics. Remember that you’re mainly communicating to parents with social media.
  • Sunday avenues - We had the “Host” announce it from the stage every weekend leading up to the event. We included a slide and some fun facts for them to use. I encourage you to get wacky here if you can. Have your host wear a costume, throw candy to the crowd, or do something else memorable. Have them encourage your church to invite their neighbor and possibly donate candy. This is a great way people without kids can be a part of the event. Sunday kids’ services are also a great place to promote Trunk OR Treat. If you can get the kids excited, then they’ll encourage mom and dad to get them to the event.
  • Emails - Email all your current volunteers and ask them to support this event by helping the night of, donating candy, and most importantly pray for the event. A second email to all the parents in your ministry to support and attend the event is very important. Challenge them to grab invite cards on Sunday and hand them out to all their neighbors and friends.
  • A few other ideas we didn’t tap into - An ad in the local newspaper, flyers at local restaurants and gyms, a local mailer, or door drop-off.

 

 

4. Plan the Details (3 weeks until event)

Ok, so you’ve got your purpose, the basics, and promotion down. It’s time to get into the question, how can we pull this off? I had to keep reminding myself that this was God’s event and that He had it handled. It can seem like a lot, but our God can handle it easily.

When it gets time to plan out the details of a large event like this, I like to go back to the whiteboard. I’ll divide the board up into categories and start listing things that need to be done. Here are some categories I would focus on and some things to do to tackle them.

 

Volunteers

a. I made myself an excel spreadsheet with colored sections for each area I had volunteers in. My volunteer jobs were Trunk host, Setup, Teardown, Greeter, Safety team/supply runner, and Photo Booth team.
b. Communicate with each group of volunteers. Make sure they know when they’ll need to be at the event site, what they’ll need to bring, and when they will be done. Tip: Consider asking your “non-trunk hosting volunteers” to park farther away. You’ll want to leave plenty of room up close for families to park.
c. Start recruiting leaders to be “Team Leads” if you can. I like to have a volunteer over each area or feature so that I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off the night of the event. Plus, whenever you can hand off ministry to volunteers, it just makes the event better. You’re not doing it alone!

 

Event Setup

a. Take time to map out the trunk area and how the flow of traffic will work. We were forced to think with social distancing in mind for 2020 and decided to make the flow of traffic one way. We treated it like the families were walking through the line in a “Speed Dating” fashion. Once the family ahead of them was done, they could move on to the next car. I made myself an actual map of our parking lot with parking assignments for the Trunk Hosts, which way the traffic would flow, where certain décor would go, and so on.Tip: I used pennant banners in our theme colors to rope off where the families were supposed to walk. They were fun to see and helpful with traffic flow.
b. Décor can be as simple or complex as you’d like, remember that the trunks will be the biggest décor focal point. I looked for easy ways we could make the biggest visual impact. My two biggest hits were a 10ft tall blow-up pumpkin I found online for $80, a bunch of bales of straw, and a large photo booth. Tip: I like to make a master checklist of things that need to be set up the day of. I’ll write it on a large stand-alone whiteboard and allow my setup volunteers to take on assignments without asking me what to do.

 

Signage

a. This one always falls on my back burner although it’s one of the most important tasks. My motto is, “if you think it would be even a little helpful to have a sign, make one!”
b. Here are some of the signs to focus on: welcome signs with directions for the event, directional signs with arrows, a sign at each feature with instructions, “bathroom here” sign, and a goodbye sign inviting them back on Sunday. Tip: pick a fun background or border for your signs. You want the signs to be clear, but don’t be afraid to make them fun also!

 

Features

a. Features are a great way to expand on your event. Make sure that you are filtering all your choices through the event purpose, if you feel like expanding the features would fit the purpose well, then go for it! 
b. We wanted to keep it simple in 2020, so we offered trunks to trick or treat at and a photo booth with a polaroid camera. The simple event was a huge hit, so don’t feel the pressure to have a ton of features. If your purpose calls for more features and your budget allows it, go big!
c. Here are some ideas for features that we threw around: Cotton candy stand, Elephant ears stand, carnival games (balloon pop, ring toss, ball toss, etc.), a straw bale maze, pumpkin launching contest, pie-eating contest, and pumpkin bowling.
d. Another idea is to have a clearly marked tent with volunteers who would be willing to pray for families who need prayer or who want to learn more about the church.  This area could be marked with  “Have questions?” or “Need Prayer?” signs.  Also be sure this tent is equipped with sign up sheets or tablets where people who are interested in getting more info about the church can leave their contact info.

 

5. Where the Trunks Hit the Road: Prepping supplies for the event (1-3 weeks until the event)

a. (3 weeks until the event) This is the perfect time to order any online supplies that you’ll need. You can often find the best deals online, but you must wait for them to arrive. This is also the time when candy often goes on sale. Take advantage and stock up!  As you begin to stockpile supplies, begin to also gather them in designated sections. I divided them up by feature so that I could ask a volunteer to run and grab the supplies and it was clearly labeled which was what. I’m a big believer in checklists, take time to make a master supply list and a master action list. I like to use an online software called “Asana”. You can create and assign tasks to yourself and anyone on your team. It will remind you when they’re due and when they have been accomplished.

b. (2 Weeks until the event) Make sure that the promotion plan is being followed. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. Communication is key! Start looking ahead at the weather. If it starts to look like inclement weather is coming, plan out a backup. Here are a couple of ideas: You could ask your Trunk Hosts to be Booth Hosts and set up tables in a large room at your church, you could set up canopies over each trunk, you could handout cheap umbrellas to each family, etc. If you must use your backup plan, don’t be discouraged, your backup plan might just be God’s intended plan!

c. (1 Week until the event) Send a text or call your volunteers to thank them for signing up and remind them what time to be there. Send one last email to parents to remind them of the event.

d. (Day of the event) Get there early, take time to pray, and have fun! Don’t forget to take a TON of pictures!

 

6. Post Event

a. Plan to give a report on how the event went to the church. We had a short presentation planned to show pictures, give stats, and praise God the Sunday after Trunk OR Treat. What a blessing it was to praise God as a church for all He did. We shared things like 50,000 pieces of candy were given out, 50 trunks were hosted, and 1,000 people attended across 3 campuses. Whatever your report is, have fun and celebrate what God did!

b. Take the info that you gathered above and post it on your social media and send a recap email to parents.

c. Sharing the great things God did through your Trunk OR Treat helps set up momentum for the next year, so hype up the event!

d. Be sure to quickly send a follow up email (probably good to type something in advance) or phone call to those new families who may have left their contact info wanting to know more about your church.

 

TIPS, TRICKS, DOS AND DON’TS

 

  • Do pray for your event on a regular basis. Add it to your time with God to keep it on your mind and give God a chance to bless the event.
  • Do have fun!
  • Tip: Think through a candy alternative for kids with allergies. We provided toys, pencils, and allergy-free candy in teal pumpkin buckets for kids. The Teal Pumpkin is widely known as a place where kids with allergies can come get treats. We bought a bunch of dollar teal buckets from Target so that we’d have one per trunk.
  • Tip: Create a Pinterest board of trunk ideas and send the link out to your volunteers so that they can get fun ideas for their trunk.
  • Tip: Go on Spotify and proof some pre-made kid-friendly spooky playlists. Have a tailgate speaker playing as the event goes on.
  • Trick: Purchase some trunk decoration kits from Michaels. They are about $20 and are a great alternative for volunteers if they don’t feel like they are able to come up with an idea.
  • Trick: Encourage your truckers to think of creative ways to deliver the candy (for example a Monsters Inc. trunk have the kids knock on a free-standing door and the volunteer dressed like Sully opens it to hand them the candy)
  • Don’t be discouraged when you run into challenges, remember that we are working for God Himself. Nothing can stand against God!
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Plan to take a day or two off after this event to rest and be with family.
  • Do feel free to copy anything you’d like to use from the pages that follow as I’ve included some of the templates we used for our event.

 

Notes for The Welcome Team

 

  • Families will arrive and make their way to a designated waiting area.
  • We will be allowing people into the Trunk Or Treat area in a “Haunted Mansion” fashion. Each family will be greeted and give a brief explanation of how the flow of trick or treating works. Each person will have their temperature checked, use hand sanitizer, and be checked for a COVID protectant face mask. (Most halloween masks don’t count. Unless they cover the mouth and nose entirely). We will have adult and kid sized masks on hand. Once the above two are finished, the family will move to the “final waiting” area. Once the family ahead of them has moved onto Trunk #2, they can then enter into the Trunk or Treat area.
  • We want to be sensitive to food allergies as we hand out candy. Each trunk will have a teal colored bucket filled with non-candy items. There will be a sign notifying families of this option as they enter into the Trunk or Treat area. Each trunk will also have a nut-free candy as their main source of hand out.
  • Smile and HAVE FUN!

 Notes for Trunkers

  • Being a trunker, you may need a little extra time to decorate your car. Please feel free to arrive as early as 1:30 to set up. 
  • When you arrive, please check in at the big blow-up pumpkin to receive your parking spot number. 
  • Each car will receive a teal colored bucket full of non-candy items. We will be instructing families to ask for “The Teal Bucket” if they would like their kids to only receive non-candy items. 
  • We would like to be sensitive to nut allergies, so if you brought your own candy that contains nuts, please ask each family if they can have nuts before giving them candy containing nuts. We would prefer you use nut-free candy. We will have plenty on hand to give out :-) 
  • While visiting with families is a must, please keep them moving along so that families aren’t waiting too long to make their way through. 
  • We will have gloves on hand so that you can hand each person candy, but you are also welcome to use any creative method of candy delivery you choose, as long as it follows COVID safety standards.  
  • Please make sure to let Jonathan know: How many cars you or your family will be doing, what your theme is, and if you have a parking request. 
  • Have fun!!!

If you want a printable version of this guide, click here: Trunk or Treat Planning Guide 

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