United Methodists Prepare for the 'Power of Pumpkin'

Mark Lambert
September 05, 2023

They are colorful and nutritious – indispensable for fall décor, homemade bread, pie, and lattes – and even recreational, suitable for competitive catapult chunking.

And when arranged with hay bales and decorations on a lawn or church parking lot, pumpkins have the power to bring people together.

“Sometimes in a church service, it can feel stuffy and formal. In a pumpkin patch, it’s more relaxed,” said Kristen Davis, lay leader at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Shreveport, which has hosted an annual pumpkin patch sale since 1991. “The pumpkin patch gives us a chance to talk with people about St. Luke’s and the missions we support.”

Last year, St. Luke’s realized it needed more volunteer help for its event, so they asked nearby Broadmoor United Methodist Church if they would form a pumpkin patch partnership. Now, both congregations are running the pumpkin patch during October, with all proceeds going to local mission projects.

The partnership between the two churches has led to other ventures, including a joint Christmas music event.

“It’s been a really enriching experience,” said Rev. Megan Twyman, associate pastor at Broadmoor. With all the talk of disaffiliation, this is a great way to show we’re connected. It’s a joy to be in Shreveport and to have a church so close we can fellowship with. It’s inspired a lot of good collaborations.”

United Methodists are famous for transforming their church grounds into patches of purchasable pumpkins to fund missions, and there will be plenty of pumpkins popping up all over the state this October. The pumpkin patches also give church members a chance to meet other people in the community, and sometimes, it gives them a chance to meet each other.

“What we like about it is that we have three services, and not everyone knows everybody,” said Kathy Hughes of First United Methodist Church in Slidell, which started its pumpkin patch in 2001. “The pumpkin patch is a great opportunity for our members to come out and volunteer for our church and meet the members they don’t know.”

Like most of the pumpkin patch churches, FUMC Slidell is supplied by a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico. The pumpkins are packed into 18-wheelers and sent to Louisiana in late September or early October.

It takes a lot of people to unload and arrange about 2,500 pumpkins, and the churches often use outside groups to help. Jefferson United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge gets volunteers from Parkview Baptist School; FUMC Slidell has used groups ranging from Boy Scouts to trustees from the local jail.

The pumpkins must be unloaded quickly – usually, the pumpkin sale starts that day. “The green grass turns orange pretty quick,” said Davis of St. Luke’s.

Most churches have a designated picture spot, which often proves irresistible for families with young children. The FUMC Slidell pumpkin patch has a theme – Wizard of Oz, Peanuts, or a swamp scene – that sticks in the memory of those who visit.

“We get a lot of people who come through who say, ‘My kids grew up taking pictures at your pumpkin patch,’” Hughes said. “That’s really how we’re known, here. When you say, ‘the pumpkin patch church,’ everyone knows exactly where we are.”
It's another good way to share the love of Jesus, even if it’s in a pumpkin patch!
Rev. Leslie Stephens

Prices range from less than $1.00 for tiny pumpkins to more than $30 for the giant ones. But just as important as the money that is raised is the relationships that are built and the opportunities to touch people’s lives.

“There’s a lot of joy you see in people who normally wouldn’t come in our parking lot,” Rev. Leslie Stephens of Jefferson UMC said. “There’s an opportunity for evangelism – not hard evangelism, but, like with the trunk or treat we do with the pumpkin patch. That’s a lot of fun, and it’s another good way to share the love of Jesus, even if it’s in a pumpkin patch.”

Hughes of Slidell FUMC believes we can all learn a little from the pumpkin.

“We hand out a sheet of paper to people, and at the bottom, we have a saying: We are like a pumpkin. God scoops out all the yucky stuff on the inside, puts a light inside us, and puts on a happy face.”
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