God has placed you in your neighborhood with your neighbors for this time. You may not be staying there for a long time, or you may have settled your roots. It doesn’t really matter. God has you there today for a reason. Time to make the best of it and work to be the best neighbor you can be!
In His sovereignty, God has given you the gift of unbelievers living close by (this is true of most of us anyway). The call is clear and you have a mission-field surrounding your house. But how do we reach them? We are called to be good neighbors, to care for the people around us, to love with the love we have been given, & to be different.
How do we do this?
The Problem in a List
The purpose of this post is to give a few practical ideas that can be a launching point for your own creativity. I read recently a thought I have been attributing to Gloria Furman although I haven’t been able to find it recently and am not completely sure I am correct that she was the original author of the idea. Anyway, the premise was that we spend a tremendous amount of time looking for the most practical ideas and very little time in prayer about those ideas. We scour Pinterest looking for something for every situation but leave little room for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and through our personal creativity.
Sometime I’ll write a post about how that has practically played out in my life but for today, I do see the benefit in a list of ideas. Just remember that this is only meant to be a starting point. God has not put me in your neighborhood – He has YOU there for a reason with your gifting & tendencies and He will work through that as you pray and seek His will. Thus we start with…. Prayer!
This is the roll your eyes, quickly scroll past bullet point which is why I put it first. It’s almost as if we Christians just assume this point but I don’t think this is right. We need to pray. We need to seek God’s direction in our neighborhoods and cities, trusting that it is His sovereignty that has placed us in our homes with our neighbors around us. We must seek to honor Christ in our daily interactions and pray for wisdom to be a blessing to those around us. We also ought to pray for our neighbors’ souls and physical needs.
Hang Out in the Front Yard
In many areas, like my neighborhood, attached garages have nearly eliminated the need for interaction with neighbors. We simply pull into our garage, close the door, and head inside. While I absolutely LOVE my garage in the frigid winters of snow country, I also see how they block interaction with the people around me. There is beauty in sitting on the front porch sipping tea on summer evenings, parking in the driveway or on the road so there are a few seconds a neighbor can catch you if they want to talk, landscaping a garden or walkway in the front, allowing your children to play (supervised of course!) where others can see and interact. So many conversations are started simply because we are in proximity to people.
Lend Tools, Etc.
We don’t own many tools but that has proven to be an open door with our neighbors. We tend to only buy a tool if we absolutely need it which has led my husband to attempt cutting down our shrubs in the front yard with a hand saw or using a step ladder to clean gutters. Our neighbors have been great about seeing our need and stopping over with much more effective tools (like chain saws and ladders). This has been a perfect opportunity to be on the receiving end of generosity and start a conversation. It would also be just as effective to be the one giving the tool I presume. It actually gives two opportunities for conversation, one when the tool is given, and another when it is returned.
Hand Out Treats
This is one we did in our neighborhood around the time we moved in. I am hoping to do it again this year. We handed out Christmas cookies with invitations to our church and gospel tracts. It was very simple, our children LOVED it, & it started relationships with the neighbors we had never met. They learned what we wanted them to learn – that we were on their side. Since then one neighbor has visited our church, one keeps us updated on the events that need prayer in our neighborhood, and one came over to ask for prayer specifically and has become a sweet friend. It really is a good starting point and very simple.
Country Living has a whole post with different cute ideas for this! I especially like this one!
This is also an adorable idea from Vanessa at Tried and True Blog!
Bring Welcome Gifts
Welcome people to your neighborhood. In our area this seems to be a special blessing because Binghamton is not known for its friendliness but I think it would be a warm surprise just about anywhere.
I love this idea from For Rent! Its a creative way to welcome when you don’t know whether there are food allergies or preferences to be aware of.
Host a Backyard Barbeque
This is a goal of mine in the coming years. Pass out invites and open the front door. You can have everyone bring a dish to pass to make it less expensive if you would like and it sometimes makes people feel better to bring something. Turn on a sprinkler for the kids, make some simple centerpieces, and set up some seating. Pinterest is loaded with great ideas for this!
Another idea I heard of recently was hosting a ladies’ neighborhood tea. This is a great way to get other believers involved in the prep work as well and a perfect opportunity for discipleship.
Throw a Block Party
A friend of mine did this for our old neighborhood and it was great! They called the city & figured out what was necessary to follow regulations, passed out invites to everyone, and made a Facebook page for the event. Everyone brought a dish to pass. My friend had great ideas like filling a kiddie pool with corn (which the kids LOVED), setting up a small backyard playset, and calling the fire department to bring down a truck & show the kids how it worked. People in the neighborhood volunteered to bring their grills and yard games and it all happened in a small neighborhood common area. What a great idea!
I love this checklist from TipsOGraphic!
Yard Clean Up
You probably have someone on your street that struggles to do their own yard work. It may be obvious because the space looks bad or it could be the result of a recent physical problem or even that they need to go out of town for a few weeks. Whatever the case may be, it is surely a blessing if you are able-bodied or have teenagers to reach out and take care of such a practical need for a neighbor.
Invite a Neighbor to Dinner
This is a great way to get to know people! My sister rocks this! Invite one or two of your closest neighbors over for a meal. Make something simple that allow you to spend time talking more than in the kitchen.
One of my favorite ideas for this is a taco bar like this one from Building Our Story. It is easy, self explanatory, and doesn’t take a whole lot of time when guests are at the house. Plus almost everyone likes something available.
I’m not going to lie, this is one I wasn’t planning to include. My dear husband mentioned it and I kind of disregarded the suggestion until he explained. He said that it instantly gives a negative feeling when you see someone in your neighborhood and don’t wave. It is like automatically closing the door rather than simply showing there is some level of friendliness. I have to agree. Especially because I am usually the one to wave and when it isn’t reciprocated I feel closed off. If I feel like that then certainly others must. My husband will even mention things about a neighbor like “Oh yeah, he’s a nice guy, always waves to me when he sees me.” I think that’s a very simple way to start being neighborly today if you aren’t already.
Drop Off a Meal for Someone in Difficulty
As I mentioned earlier, we have one neighbor who tell us every time someone is struggling in our neighborhood. This is a tremendous blessing because often we wouldn’t know it otherwise. This has given us the opportunity to stop over with dinner for a neighbor who needs encouragement and a quick chat. It is always welcomed and appreciated and it instantly forms a bond of friendship.
Offer to watch a neighbor’s children. Our neighborhood has very few children in it so most of the children I watch are from our church or are friends we know in the area. However, this is a perfect way to be neighborly and welcoming. Most of the time watching children doesn’t take a whole lot of prep and is a simple but very effective way to be a blessing to parents in your area.
Host a playdate
Being a mom can be very lonely business. We spend a great deal of time with our children instead of with other adults. We are caught in an endless cycle of laundry, diapers, & dishes. We crave humanity and have no idea how to find it. We end up on social media pretending everything is good all the time. Hosting a playdate is a great way to find other moms in your situation and open doors to them. Some of my best friends were made in the first few years of motherhood when I was so lonely and they were willing to be a blessing to me.
If you really want it to be organized and aren’t sure how to start The Dating Divas have some great ideas!
Organize a Bible Study
Often attending church can seem intimidating at first, especially for the unchurched. It is far easier to go to the home of a friend. If you have been building relationships within your neighborhood already and seeking out opportunities, this could be the perfect thing to invite your neighbors to. Don’t hide the fact that it’s a Bible study but let them know that any and all questions are invited and it will be informal. You never know how God might use your willingness. Don’t feel like you need all the answers, write down questions you can’t answer and research them/bring them to your Pastor & elders to help.
If starting a Bible study seems totally overwhelming to you or you aren’t sure where to start, a great starting point would be with a book study of What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert.
I also highly suggest you check out the free resources available through Risen Motherhood on Bible study.
15. Be Ok with Inconvenience
This could be a whole post on its own, probably a whole book. We get so caught up in tight schedules (I’m the queen here!) and to-do lists that any sort of inconvenience is seen as a horrible interruption. Instead of seeing the need right in front of us we see the problem it causes for us. We don’t want to babysit those kids because they would get on our nerves far too much. We don’t want to give that neighbor a ride because we are too busy today and they will probably need more help after. We are afraid of inconvenience like it is a sickness. We ought to think of these opportunities as chances to serve and love the people God placed in our path today. I’m trying to tell myself this all the time! People are more important.
Get Out There
As we said in the beginning of this post, please don’t think of these ideas as the only ones out there! You are creative and God will use that creativity in your context! What ideas have worked in your neighborhood? How are you reaching out and seeking to be a good neighbor? What stands in your way?
For more discussion on neighborhood hospitality check out …