Monday, March 3, 2014

Stepping Out Into Community

by Lauren Mann

You know the old illustration of a good neighbor is running next door for a cup of sugar or an egg when you have run out.  That is the kind of neighborhood community I desire!  Sharing baking ingredients and lawn tools, really knowing each other and our families, being dependable to ask a favor or turn to in a hard time.  That sounds a lot like what we desire in the church, doesn’t it?  When my husband, Brian, and I moved to Raleigh from Illinois 4.5 years ago we didn’t know anyone.  I was looking to form relationships and thought my neighbors were a good place to start.  I asked neighbors as I met them if there was any kind of block party where people got together.  They told me there wasn’t and they were ashamed to admit that they didn’t even know everyone on our 16 house cul-de-sac.  That didn’t discourage me because I know people just need someone to take initiative and they can be quick to follow.  So I organized a block party.  It didn’t take much - I set a date and time, created a flyer with the information, telling odd numbered houses to bring a side dish and even numbered houses to bring a dessert, while everyone would bring their own main course and beverages.  I delivered the flyers personally knocking on each door and met each neighbor as I explained the party.  We all pitched in to bring tables and chairs and ate outside in our cul-de-sac.  The response was incredible!  The majority of the houses on our street were represented and everyone was delighted to have the opportunity to connect with their neighbors.  I have organized 2-3 of these block parties each year and we look forward to them every time.

Last fall I decided it would be fun to have a more regular, monthly gathering for at least the women.  And this time I decided to open it up to our whole 100+ house neighborhood (well realistically, the people I know and have email addresses for).  We do a monthly Game Night the second Monday of the month.  It is a low key time to enjoy some snacks and beverages at someone’s house, play a game that makes us connect (like Pictionary or Fishbowl), laugh and enjoy each other’s company.  It really has not taken much to organize, while the response has been fantastic.  People just need someone to initiate…

The first part of our church’s vision statement says seek after people outside the church, which is an active posture.  I think too often church people can spend all of their time with their family and friends who are all inside the church.  While I think it is important to have relationships within the church, we also need to have relationships outside the church.  Too often, I think we have more of an attitude that people outside the church can seek the church and then we will be welcoming, which is more of a passive stance.  What if we really sought to get to know the people around us who are not in the church?  Not with the goal to get them to church, but with the goal of truly getting to know them, know their background, know their family, know their concerns, know their joys and know what they think about God, the spiritual side of life and the church.

I am incredibly blessed by the relationships I have with my neighbors!  In any given week I can borrow several things from different neighbors.   But those relationships don’t end with borrowing things, I’m also blessed to share the highs and lows, the questions, concerns and joys of life with my neighbors, and also consider them true friends.

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