By Bob Smietana – Facts and Trends

Meanwhile, 1 in 4 evangelicals said they skipped Halloween entirely last year.

This Halloween, millions of Americans will carve pumpkins, dress up in costumes, decorate their yards, and gobble down the candy they get while trick-or-treating.

America’s preachers also hope they’ll consider coming to church, according to a new phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from LifeWay Research.

While a minority (not quite 1 in 10) of Protestant pastors tell church members to skip Halloween altogether, two-thirds say they encourage church members to ask their neighbors to a church-related event like a fall fair or trunk-or-treat.

Half tell their church members to befriend those who trick-or-treat at their doors.

Most pastors see Halloween as an opportunity to reach out, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“This is a time when your neighbors literally come to your doorstep,” he says. “Pastors don’t want their church members to waste that chance to make a connection or invite someone to church.”

Halloween has become a major social and retail event in American culture. Seven out of 10 Americans (69%) plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average American consumer will spend about $83 on candy, decorations, and other goodies. That’s up from $74 in 2015.

Most pastors want church members to take part in the season’s activities as well.

Two-thirds (67%) encourage church members to invite friends and neighbors to a fall festival, trunk-or-treat, or judgment house. Pastors at bigger churches (those with 250 or more in attendance) are most likely to ask church members to invite their neighbors (86%) to an event at the church. Those from small churches (50 or fewer in attendance) are least likely …