How many of us know our neighbors? Or even have had a conversation with them besides the first introduction and exchanging waves from our driveways? There are many of us in this situation. I think it has to do a lot with our busy lifestyles and that with increased mobility we can choose our “communities” instead of our communities choosing us. I’m not saying this is negative. It’s just the culture into which we have been placed. But if you believe that God calls you to live connected to your neighbors, the question just simply then becomes, “What are we going to do?”
As Christians, one way we can be a blessing to our communities, is to be part of building community. If you feel disconnected from your neighbors, I would bet all your other neighbors are feeling the same way. Scripture tells us that we are all created for connection and relationships. Putting time and energy into helping building community in your neighborhood is addressing a universal felt need.
Helping build community in your neighborhood can be done in a variety of ways and with a varying amount of effort. One important thing you have going for you is that you are a member of the neighborhood; this makes you an automatic insider.
Do you know what the least important part is? The least important part is how well it’s done. Basically the message is the Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” because the focus in this situation is on building relationships not a program. You don’t even have to wonder if you are going to share about the Christian faith or pass out flyers for your church at whatever you decide to do. At something like this, your job is just to be the presence of Christ to your neighborhood. We are not the ones who decide what must happen before we arrive. Our agenda is to be responsive to ways we see that God is already at work. Being community for the sake of community is enough. It is having the thought, “I would have done this even if I didn’t have a Christian conversation or invite someone to church with me.” God is all about community and connection for all of humanity.
So, “I Just Did Something” last month. I hosted a “Wine and Appetizer Gathering” on Saturday, July 19th from 3-5pm in my front yard and told everyone to bring a bottle of wine or soft drink and an appetizer to share. I created a simple flyer and sent it out to the emails I had for my neighborhood. I also printed out about 30 flyers and spent two afternoons going around my block, with my five year old son Asher, handing them out to the people I talked with. Regardless if they could make it or not, I got a positive response from everyone.
The day of the event, I wasn’t even sure who was going to come. I had just received only one RSVP from a family. I knew my family was going to be there – that was 6, and then Tom Cramer was planning to come. I thought if no one else came, that was enough to be a party in itself. But after we put out the tables, people started arriving at 3 PM. We had about 20 people including kids. We ended up having more than enough appetizers. Plus, two families brought me flowers to say thank you. A couple people commented that they had lived in the neighborhood since the 70’s and had never been invited to a neighborhood gathering. For most of us not knowing each other, the conversation flowed and guests stayed talking until 6:30pm.
Now it’s “Your Turn to Do Something.” What is one small way you can you build community in your neighborhood? How can you bless your neighbors?
This is one part in a series of three articles. For my second article I’m going to share about NextDoor, a website that could be a tool to use to promote community in your neighborhood. Then, for my third article, how I’m going about how I’m planning to start a house church in my backyard.