Judgement House and Hell House: Youth Evangelism “Halloween” Outreach Ideas

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Many evangelical churches offer a Halloween alternative.  Instead of scaring children with skeletons and ghosts and goblins, children can walk through church-sponsored  “Judgment Houses” or “Hell Houses” where the message is essentially, “are you going to make the right choice or end up in hell?”

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photo credit: geinography via photopin cc

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For the past month or so, I have seen signs all over my city for the “Judgement House” evangelism outreach at a local church.

Here is the description at the church’s website: 

 . . . . No other tool is more effective at presenting people with an opportunity to choose a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Over more than 20 years, Judgement House has established a remarkable track-record as the most effective evangelistic tool for reaching those who are wary of attending a traditional church service or outreach event. Since its inception in 1983 an estimated 3.9 million people have attended a Judgement House presentation with 390,000 of those choosing a saving and personal relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time.

How do the powers that be who accumulated the data know how many had a conversion? What about follow-up? Where are those people now? Are they still maintaining a relationship with Jesus based on fear? Were these young people discipled?  Why not?

Here is a video trailer I found of a Judgement House:

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And a Hell House video:

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Have you ever wondered what to do with your youth group at Halloween? Worry no more! Let us introduce to you. . . “JUDGEMENT HOUSE,” a Christian alternative to Halloween and the notorious haunted house. 

This is a FREE PRESENTATION by _______ Church. Hurry, because space is limited. Youth groups are particularly encouraged to attend the first week-end so they can bring back unsaved friends the second week-end.

This next part struck me as odd:

Due to the mature content, no one under the age of 7, including children, toddlers, or infants, will be allowed to go through Judgement House, and no childcare is provided.

What about all of the verses in the Bible about little children coming to Jesus? Were they scared into a “saving and personal relationship?”

In addition to Judgement Houses, some churches offer Hell Houses.

The Judgement House organizers are quick to point out there are distinct differences between the two:

Judgement House does not deal with socially controversial issues and instead chooses to focus the entire presentation and in fact every scene, even Hell, on presenting people with the opportunity to choose a saving and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hell House on the other hand, deals very graphically with highly controversial social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, date rape and suicide. The guides for a Hell House presentation are demons who want to convince the audience that there is a penalty for these sinful social behaviors. Hell House is very controversial, not only to most churches but to the general public as well. Hell House is headed by Keenan Roberts, Pastor of Destiny Church of the Assemblies of God, in Broomfield, CO. (Information about Hell House comes from their website as well as their readily available literature.)  (Source)

After looking over the Judgment House website, perhaps the scripts aren’t as strong and relevant to teens as the themes with Hell House, but in each Judgement House room, you will find a real-life scene depicted in which people are facing agonizing choices and circumstances.  Here’s an example:

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You can take a look at other scripts here.

So, what do you think?  Is this the right way to present a gospel message?  Does this remind you of similar street evangelism methods?  Does this work?  Do you know of anyone impacted by this ministry work?

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27 comments on “Judgement House and Hell House: Youth Evangelism “Halloween” Outreach Ideas

  1. Isn’t this because the western ‘church’ has no idea of what Kingdom is? We have substituted the primacy of relationship for a business model christian club – get them to sign up for membership and then sit back and pat ourselves on the back. (God forbid we should actually get involved in the messiness of real lives!) The tragedy is that we now have nothing better than ‘the world’ has to offer, yet we add to this the burdens of guilt and performance.

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  2. It always struck me as a Bait & Switch. Lure Heathens(TM) in under the pretext of a Halloween Haunted House then scare ’em into the Kingdom with a Heavy Duty Hellfire/Damnation Gospel Dramatization. As if participating in a local secular festival has NO redeeming value unless you turn it into Saving Souls(TM).

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  3. Many evangelical churches offer a Halloween alternative.

    P.S. And yet another example of “Just like Pop Culture Fill-in-the-Blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” Yet another consolation/booby prize for being Too Godly to participate in the real pop culture thing like everyone else.

    If you can describe something as “Just like Fill-in-the-Blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”, that is NOT a good sign.

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  4. I still prefer what we grew up with – Harvest Festivals – everyone dress up, play carnival games, and eat too many sweets. No religion, just good ol’ fashioned community interaction.

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  5. I have been involved over the years with the Judgement House version of what I have called “Christian” Haunted Houses in the area north of Birmingham, AL.

    The verse that continues to reverberate in my head is from Jude 22 – 23: “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (NKJV)

    The ESV Jude 23 version says “Save others by snatching them out of the fire;”

    I strongly believe God uses multiple ways of getting our attention.

    I have personally seen many buses from many local churches bring hundreds and hundreds of lost young people in hopes that they would see the light.

    Over the years hundreds have been saved as a direct result of scaring the hell out of them.

    The Judgement House version has been produced by smaller churches that wouldn’t necessarily be considered ‘megachurch’ size, i.e. approximately 400 on an average Sunday morning.

    I truly believe that the Judgement House version can and has saved lost people by snatching them out of the fires of hell.

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  6. I went to one of these type theatrical performances at a Portland church a few years ago. It was one slick piece of choreography and production; a “Satan” figure, and his demons, would appear from a trap door on the stage floor and pull screaming people down to “hell.” It was really loud. Satan’s “music” was something like KORN or Ozzie, and the angels in the play appeared with music that was something like Hillsong. My big thought was: 1. Hell (as I understand it) is so much worse than depicted in this, and 2. Jesus is so much better than as depicted in the production, and 3. I have an idea why I never liked Ozzie or KORN music, and why I don’t listen to Hillsong, either.
    Nothing is as powerful as one soul reaching out with truth and love to another soul.

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  7. Any religious methodology that uses fear is wrong. While I am not a Christian, I do know the motive for following Jesus should be love, worship, and the kingdom of God. Personally, I think hell houses are emotionally and mentally abusive, no different than preachers, in their sermons, using fearful threats of hell, death, and judgment to get people to get saved.

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  8. Years ago I heard someone say that those who make a decision to become a Christian through fear don’t keep to it after the fear subsides.

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  9. “Over the years hundreds have been saved as a direct result of scaring the hell out of them.”

    While I respect Bent But Not Broken’s opinion, I have come to question whether a “decision for Christ” manipulated by fear can even be real. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44a, ESV). The Father draws. He draws with Love. The sort of fear promoted by Judgement House events is the sort of fear that is a tool of Satan, and it is evil. God is not the author of evil; He does not drive us into His kingdom with fear.

    Bruce, who describes himself as not a Christian, gets it right: “I do know the motive for following Jesus should be love, worship, and the kingdom of God.” When I essentially made Bruce’s point, to a Southern Baptist preacher, that his annual Judgement House event was emotionally and mentally abusive, and that young people should be won with love, not fear, I was angrily told to quit attending the adult Sunday School class at this preacher’s S.B. Church. Whether or not this preacher is counted amongst the redeemed, I do not know. I do know that Bruce, a non-believer, is much closer to the heart of God than this fear mongering preacher.

    Note to Headless Unicorn Guy, if you are reading: My use of “S.B.” above is NOT in reference to the Sackville-Baggins’, the usage of “S.-B.” at LOTR Vol. I, pp 68, 104, and 273 (Kindle pagination) notwithstanding.

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  10. Years ago I heard someone say that those who make a decision to become a Christian through fear don’t keep to it after the fear subsides.

    Which is probably why so many preachers keep ramping up and reinforcing the fear.

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  11. I have to tell you, right after we moved here when I was check out the local churches, I saw this Judgement House featured on the church’s website. It was because of the Judgement House that I could never go to that church. I never ever considered it an option just because of it. If that is where their heart is – – fear-inducing to coerce someone to make a decision for Christ – – I want nothing to do with it.

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  12. Hannah – – I like your Hawaii pic 🙂

    Those Harvest Festivals were fun, weren’t they? I miss those. Although, I don’t miss cramming and sewing costumes 🙂

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  13. Sensible, intelligent parents tell their children there is NO SUCH thing as Hell – it’s sad that we have to tell adults that, too.

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  14. Starting your ‘christian’ life on the basis of fear, rather than faith.

    Ouch!

    Having witnessed the message of faith in the Grace of God gradually morph into fear of His judgement in our church, and the crippling effect this has on one’s own relationship with God (if allowed), I cannot view this as anything other than spiritual abuse.

    The Truth is that ‘We love, because He first loved us’.

    It’s experiencing that Love that causes you to overflow in generous-hearted love to others.

    How can fear possibly generate love?

    This message may produce converts, but not saints.
    And the converts it produces will go on to inflict the same abuse on others.

    We reap only what we sow.

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  15. Of course, the Bible messes up our whole approach to the issue, and in places seems to suggest that God isn’t very concerned about our motivations for fleeing to Him for salvation…

    “Flee from the wrath to come…” (Jesus)
    “It’s better to lose an eye than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…” (Jesus)
    “The cords of death encompassed me And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!” ” (David)
    “…do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (You know who…)

    Seems to me that people get into lifeboats in a variety of ways, but they all get in for one reason: to avoid the consequences of not being in the lifeboat. I mainly struggle with the content of what is called gospel at these “Hell Houses.” They seem to suggest that a change of behavior is required for a person to be “really” forgiven and accepted by God, which is a horrific violation of grace, to me. They often present people with more dramatic and tragic problems (prostitutes, drug dealers,partiers, etc) as the ones who most need the gospel, as if the gospel was some sort of moral shower we take to clean ourselves up…

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  16. Ken is right. It would be folly to pretend that there are no consequences associated with the choices we make. Still, I would suggest that there is a great difference between the warnings set forth in Scripture and the sensationalized fear mongering that is the foundation of the Judgement House and other Hell house type programs (and probably the great majority of so-called evangelism).

    A preacher may be able to manipulate decisions with fear, including shaming and guilt tripping. However, if a person is only responding to fear, the decision will not mature into a lasting allegiance to our Loving Lord.

    If a human relationship is based on fear, the natural reaction will be avoidance. For example, if a woman is corrosively threatened and actively abused by her husband or boyfriend, she may comply with his demands for a season. However, there will be no emotional intimacy, and she will ultimately flee. On the other hand, if a human relationship is based on love, the person who is loved will be attracted to the one by whom they are loved.

    Why would it be any different as between God and humans?

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  17. Under the category of serendipitous spell checker wisdom:

    In my previous comment I intended to refer to a woman being coercively threatened, not corrosively threatened. Still, maybe almost 6 of one, a half dozen of another. . .

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  18. This message may produce converts, but not saints.
    And the converts it produces will go on to inflict the same abuse on others.

    Sadly, I have found this to be true, Chris. If you got “saved” this method, then it becomes the right method to get others “saved.”

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  19. You would think that growing up in the midwest, I would have been familiar with Hell Houses or Judgment houses. But, I never knew of any. When I was a kid the local Jaycees would put on a haunted house. I can remember trying to run out of some of those because I was so scared!

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  20. “No other tool is more effective at presenting people with an opportunity to choose a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    That’s a pretty bold claim!

    Given the emphasis on choice in a Judgment House / Hell House, I wonder if they are ever done by Reformed churches (those with that dreaded C-word theology) …

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  21. Pingback: Christians and Halloween: What’s a Christian to do? | Spiritual Sounding Board

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