Joining God in the Neighborhood
Over and over again I find myself in conversations with local church leaders that unfold something like this…
“We just don’t have enough people.”
Then I ask my favorite (often annoying) question, “What can you tell me about your neighborhood and the people who live here?”
Mission involves joining what God is already doing in your neighborhood.
That means you have to get to know your neighbors and what is happening in your neighborhood. The silence I receive isn’t a result of me being a master at dead end conversations. It’s a result of recognizing living a missional life takes intentionality and it takes time.
What is it that inhibits, prevents, or discourages us from knowing our neighbors? If we are honest, our lives are cluttered. So begin. We don’t have to have all of the answers.
Here are a few ideas to get started. There are certainly more. Feel free to share below in the comments.
- Pray for your neighbors on your right and left, across and behind you (or above and below you). Pray before you do anything. Listen for the movement of God.
- Attend a neighborhood event or gathering
- Plan neighborhood events or join one. Invite a few neighbors for a BBQ or swim party at the club house, go together to a local restaurant, invite the kids and parents for a movie on the lawn, grab a gallon of ice cream and some toppings and head to a gathering place, grab chalk and color on the sidewalk, find the baseball bats/mits/balls (or volleyball, or…Pick your sport!), play cards
- Use public spaces in your neighborhood for a picnic, bbq, or holiday-themed gathering
- Spend time in the front yard instead of the backyard
- Do a random act of kindness for your neighbor (bring in their garbage cans, shovel the snow, share rides to school, offer to babysit, write a note of thanks, invite for a meal.
- Look at local demographics. You might notice a great need or emerging trend that can help you identify a place to start with your local congregation.
- Pray for your neighborhood (yes, I know I am repeating myself).
Your post reminds me of the old, “To make a friend, you must be a friend.” Well… you’ve stated it well. I wonder what happened to the idea of neighborhood churches. People used to worship reasonably close to their homes–often in walking distance. Some of that changed with the way our communities created huge housing developments with small shopping centers nd then large shopping areas where the church buildings congregated.
But I wonder if doing that hasn’t created this idea of expecting our attendees to show up from some nebulous place “out there” instead of in our own neighborhood. You’ve got me thinking. I feel a book coming on.
Chautona, This is not a definitive answer to what happened to the neighborhood church. But…many things happened over a few decades: interstates and suburbs are two. Interstates made it easier to travel from one place to the next. Suburbs made it easy to stay within 30 minutes of “your” church. New people move into the neighborhood…and current people fail to notice because they no longer live there. Combine that with technology, changing norms about Sunday activities, and a move to activities over disciple making in the local church, fewer people engaged the local church on their own. Together, these things (and many more) contributed to shifting to a post-Christendom culture. It means we’re now living in an age where the mission field is in our backyards. If a book gets written, I’d love to read it 🙂