Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reformation Day

For the last 10 years or so I have assisted a friend of mine, Elaine, in pulling together a Reformation Day Celebration at our church. She's been planning it for 20 years now, and when I started helping I was in my mid/early-teens. Since then I've grown up, gotten married, and changed churches three times!! Yet every year around early September we get together and start planning what THIS year's Reformation party will be like.

Every year is fun and different, and in honor of the upcoming holiday I thought I'd write out a FAQ guide to Reformation Day.

What is the history of Reformation Day?

Reformation Day began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther hung his 95 Thesis on the Wittenburg church door. These 95 Thesis objected to some unscriptural practices of the church at the time, in particular the sell of indulgences (by which a family could purchase for their deceased loved one "time off" of their stay in purgatory). While the actual 95 thesis were never responded to officially, they were a sort of wake up call to the church at the time and are considered the catalyst for the following reformation of the church.

What is the focus of a Reformation Day Celebration?
In our church we focus primarily on the children. Our primary goal is to glorify Christ while teaching the children in our church (and any visitors who happen to come!) the importance of this holiday. We want everyone--especially the children--to walk away from the celebration having both had fun and learned something new.

How is Reformation Day celebrated?
There are many ways to celebrate Reformation day! Since our primary focus is on the children, we focus on fun games, skits, prizes  and other things that are fun and keep their attention. The primary ingredient common to everything we do is that it all purposefully directs back to the focus of the celebration.

Is Reformation Day just another alternative to Halloween? Afterall, it IS on October 31...
Absolutely not. Our church does not celebrate Reformation Day as an alternative to Haloween (similar to other churchs "fall festivals"). Reformation Day is a holiday in it's own right, and in some countries (such as Slovenia and Chili) is actually a civic or national holiday. While most churches don't give Reformation Day much notice, it is one of the most pivotal events in church history. It is also one of the few holidays on our calendar that are uniquely Christian. If Luther had posted his 95 Thesis on another day we would celebrate Reformation Day on THAT day instead.

HOWEVER, although Haloween didn't exist then in the way it does now, there is a possibility that it wasn't entirely coincidence that Martin Luther chose that particular day to post his 95 Thesis. To quote from Wikipedia:
The fact that Reformation Day coincides with Halloween may not be mere coincidence. Halloween, being the Eve of All Saints' Day might have been an entirely appropriate day for Luther to post his 95 Theses against indulgences since the castle church would be open on All Saints' Day specifically for people to view a large collection of relics. The viewing of these relics was said to promise a reduction in time in purgatory similar to that of the purchase of an indulgence.
Note: For information on why we do not celebrate haloween, please refer to this lesson from my father in law, our associate pastor.

What specific games do you use for Reformation Day?
We've used quite a few games over the years!! To take a sampling from last year, we played:

 "Trash the Indulgences" (a relay style game in which the kids learned what indulgences were and why it was wrong for the church to sell them), "

Nail the Theses (a nail the tail on the donkey type game, where the kids learned what the 95 thesis were and why they were important), 

 "Lasso Luther" (just as the name implies, in which the kids learned that Luther's commitment to God's word resulted in him being excommunicated and becoming an outlaw)

"Blind Faith" (in which the kids learned that like Luther, even if we are ridiculed we must listen to God's voice alone. 

Other games we have included are: Life of Luther Maze (with objects that were pivotal in Luthers life), Coffer toss, Bible Translators Clue, beanbag toss, and a variety of others. 

Are there other specific things you do to celebrate?
Of course! The last few years we've encouraged costumes in line with the theme, particularly if the children come as a character from the Reformation and can tell a bit about the person they are representing.

We often do a "German" themed potluck meal, which means lots of sauerkraut and sausage!

There is always a play or skit of some sort. Sometimes we re-use skits, but most years we make up new ones. Usually the skits draw heavily on audience participation.

Prizes--of course! The prizes change every year, but there are ALWAYS prizes, and most of the children are able to earn at least one.


If you have any other questions please feel free to ask!! :-)


  1. I appreciate your ideas about your Reformation Celebration. This will be my 4th year putting together a Reformation Celebration for our church and I'm looking for new ideas. We have done the skit in Doorpost's Reformation book that they sell and a lot of the same games you listed. Would you mind sharing more of how you do your celebration? I'm torn between using what we've always done and changing it up. I'm a busy mom to 11 (9 at home) so I don't have a lot of time to be creative (although I love to do that!)
    Thank you!