Big Orange Party
Visitors to the campus of Morningside Assembly of God in Sioux City, Iowa, will be greeted with lots and lots of orange the night of Oct. 26.
For the past two years, the church of more than 600 regular attendees has been reaching out to the community through a family-friendly fall-themed event called the Big Orange Party.
Held each year on the Wednesday before Halloween, the free block party-style event is attracting a growing number of area families to the church’s campus. From its first to its second year, attendance more than doubled, growing from 400 to 900, welcoming hundreds of people who don’t regularly attend services.
“It’s a ‘front door’ event,” says Josh Nelson, Morningside’s young adults pastor and one of the staff members who helped conceive the idea in 2014. “We welcome the community, saying, ‘Church is fun; it’s fun to be a part of the body of Christ.’ That’s really the message we want to send that night.”
Throughout the evening, activities on the church’s campus feature a variety of games, including inflatables, “wipeout”-style obstacle games, and pumpkin bowling. The church also gives away around a dozen prizes, including gift cards, televisions, and Xboxes.
Food at the party is also largely orange-themed, with fare in past years including orange soda floats and orange hot dog buns. In addition, the Big Orange Party includes a “best-dressed in orange” contest. Morningside’s children’s pastor Charity Silvis says several people go all-out for it.
“One kid came dressed up as a box of Cheetos,” she says. “Another decorated a box like she was wearing a Cuties carton around her waist. She had mandarin oranges, so she was a Cutie. People get really creative.”
Silvis says the party enables the church to encourage outreach in the fall season without directly celebrating Halloween.
“It is the one time in the year that people are actually expecting you to engage as neighbors and to knock on each other’s doors,” Silvis says. “So how can we engage the neighborhood in the most prevalent time of the year when we’re actually expected to be neighbors?”
All who attend the Big Orange Party receive information about Morningside’s services, as well as its Christmas celebration service in December.
Senior Pastor Johnny Helton says while the church sees only a small fraction of the party attendees return for a service, the event sends a message that Morningside AG cares for the city.
“If a church doesn’t do things like this to reach out to its community, then it kind of becomes white noise,” Helton says. “This gets them to see who we are and that we’re not all straight-laced church people.”
Sponsoring the event takes more than 100 volunteers. Silvis says this year the church is expecting around 1,000 attendees. Next year, the church will have even more indoor space for the event thanks to a project that will add another wing for a youth center, sanctuary, and classrooms, she says.