Monday, October 29, 2012

    Should You Take Your Youth to a "Hell House?"

    In recognition that Halloween is almost upon us, I'd like to share one of our more popular posts from a few years back entitled "Top 10 Reasons to Host a Christian Hell House:"

    Hosting a Christian Hell House is all the rage right now with youth ministries across the country so I thought I'd share the top ten reasons you should consider hosting one yourself:

    1) It's the perfect way to scare people into joining your church and youth group!

    2) Can you think of a better vehicle this time of year for spreading Jesus' message of judgment and condemnation?

    3) By hosting your own scary event in your church,  you can show teens that. . .

    Ok. Who am I kidding? I can't come up with ten good reasons for hosting a Hell House. Heck, I can't even come up with three good reasons. More to the point, I could suggest a hundred reasons why this approach to evangelism is harmful not only to Christian youth but to the whole Christian cause of sharing the love of God through Jesus Christ. But don't take my word for it. See below just a smattering of comments from YouTube about the above trailer for a documentary depicting one church's year-round efforts to create their own "Hell House:"

    "These people are the epitome of all that is corrupt, dark and hopeless about the church and its bastardized beliefs"

    "Christianity is indeed all about fear."

    "Ah, the age old technique of terrifying people into submission. It's worked so well over the years and has resulted in so many people finding the kind of peace you can only get by brushing everything under the carpet."

    "ok let me just say im not an atheist, and i discriminate when it comes to personal beliefs. but dont they know that people shouldnt be scared into believing that there is a god? for them to "convert" they should go in willingly, because they feel its right and not out of pressure. this is just sad and disgraceful."

    Is this really the sort of reaction that we believe will open people's hearts to the Christian faith? To paraphrase one of the YouTube commenters, wouldn't it be better to host a "Happy House" where we portray Jesus' teachings about forgiveness, love, charity, peace, and justice? I realize those sorts of things aren't as sexy as screaming demons, bloody deaths, and violent shootings, but was Jesus' ultimate message about love or about a violent damnation that some think awaits the non-believer?

    And just as a final footnote -- I find it ironic/funny/sad that the cost of salvation is a cool $10 for those who want to attend the hell house of the church in the video clip above. All Jesus asked of Zacchaeus was a sandwich.

    UPDATE: To read the viewpoint of a someone who has actually been through a number of these hell houses, check out youth worker Jason Huffman's post here


    xblairx said...

    so i have a question...

    i am doing a haunted house for my youth at my church this year. but NOTHING like this in my opinion. it's not about scaring them into salvation, it's mostly just meant to be a fun way to connect and do something cool for them. the kids love it. there is no gospel message or fear mongering involved. just some gross decorations and room set ups, along with people jumping out from behind corners and creepy music. also a fog machine! and we certainly don't charge anyone!

    anyway, i hear your point on this. i don't think what hell house is doing is good at all. is what i'm doing any different? in trying to have some fun with the kids on their level, is using fear, even if it's not fear pushing for salvation, ever an okay thing?

    just curious on your thoughts.

    Brian Kirk said...

    I do think there is a world of difference between doing something for Halloween that is purely meant as fellowship and using Halloween as a method of scaring people into belief. Whether or not using fear, even if just for fun, is every okay is something I think each person would need to discern for her or his particular group. I don't personally have a problem with it, particularly if it is just meant for fun. Thanks for posing this question.

    James Hauptman said...

    This is quite frightening..frightening that churches some leaders would use these tactics to bring people to Jesus. Great post and thoughts!