Now that you’ve heard some of what transpired in our neighborhood, here are 10 simple steps that will help turn your neighborhood into a caring community.
Step 1: Pray!
It all begins with prayer. I mentioned in the first part of the series that “I am absolutely certain it was God’s hand in all of this” and, therefore, I believe in order for God to be free to use any of us, it helps to have us right with Him.
Back home I had the opportunities to reach out to neighbors who had just moved into our neighborhood from hundreds of miles away. John had even encouraged me to go meet and minister to the wives, but my agenda was already booked. I was way too busy working, ministering, and serving elsewhere to take the time to cross the street and reach out to others in need. Those were my excuses, but I honestly just wasn’t interested.
It wasn’t until the Lord uprooted us and sent us thousands of miles from home that He finally got my attention, and I could clearly see the opportunities I callously dismissed back home. I could then see just how vulnerable and welcoming couples can be when they are trying to adjust to new surroundings. I then had to ask His forgiveness for all those missed opportunities and hope and pray I could make up for them somehow.
I was also walking the floors of my new home wondering what was my purpose for being here. By then I was ready for anything, so when we learned about our neighbors’ situation, I immediately volunteered to provide dinners for them, which leads to the second thing we need to do: look for ways to meet the needs, to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Step 2: Begin to Care.
I think people are more apt to listen to you or even ask you about your faith when they see you living out your faith in front of them and personally ministering to them and their needs.
Begin by prayerfully looking to meet the needs of others. John and I have discovered over the last thirteen years that there are needs behind every door. It’s just a matter of caring enough to seek and find them. What are the needs around you?
Step 3: Team up!
I would also recommend you prayerfully seek another like-minded individual that you can team up with. Moses was given Aaron, Paul had Barnabas and later Silas. Jesus sent out His disciples to minister by twos. It’s better to have a team of at least two, so prayerfully seek another to help you. For us, it was Mark and his wife, though none of us knew all God was up to at the time, we can now look back and see how God had put us together to reach out to this neighborhood. Whom do you know that is like-minded?
Step 4: Use your gifts and talents to minister to others.
I like cooking and entertaining. John is very social. He loves engaging people in conversation. God has blessed each of us with simple gifts that He can use to reach others. It’s just a matter of finding the things you most enjoy doing and using them to benefit others. What are the things you most enjoy doing, and how can they be used to benefit another?
Step 5: Constantly be listening and heeding God’s direction:
Our couples Bible study grew so large (up to 24 at one time) and so fast, and I began to notice that the men dominated the conversation, and it was becoming more and more difficult to get to know the ladies. I also began to sense that some of the marriages might be in trouble, so one day I went before the Lord and asked Him what to do. His answers popped into my head as fast as I could ask the questions! His solution was to host a “Ladies Night” on the alternate Tuesday nights. The idea being the ladies would come for dinner and study every other Tuesday. I looked over at my kitchen table and thought 6- 8 ladies would be perfect, so I invited 12 figuring not everyone would be interested. That first night all twelve came, and the Lord kept adding to our numbers after that!
Step 5: Keep the main thing the main thing.
I went out and bought fancy dinnerware and thought of making dinner an elegant event, but when all twelve came and I knew it would only grow from there, I switched to paper plates! The women were thankful to be together and getting to know one another and His word better. They didn’t care about what they ate dinner on, and the less work for me the better. Keeping it simple will keep you less frazzled.
Step 6: Don’t make judgments; invite everyone and let God determine who’s to come!
There was one woman in our neighborhood that for some reason I had decided just wouldn’t be interested in stepping foot in my home for a Bible study, and so I never thought to invite her, but God’s Spirit kept prodding me that there were others out there that needed an invitation, until finally, just so the prodding would stop, I invited everyone on my street and the next! She was the first to respond to the invitation! The next time we met she tearfully explained how she would walk her dog by my home each Tuesday night and think, “They’re meeting once again and once again I’m not invited.” We both shared a few tears that evening and she was always in attendance after that!
Step 7: Keep your focus on serving and reaching out to others for His sake.
It’s easy at times to stop focusing on serving and begin to just socialize. Socializing isn’t all bad, but it will keep you from growing spiritually and closer to each other if it becomes all you do.
Step 8: Mix it up!
Host events for the whole neighborhood to be involved in and others to strengthen the bonds of your group that is studying and serving together. Here’s some successful examples we’ve tried over the years.
Entire Neighborhood Events:
- Pot Luck Picnics and Pool Parties on Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day.
- Breakfast Potluck and Pool Party on July 4th
- Ladies Water Aerobics in the neighbor’s pool each morning.
- Christmas Cookie Exchange in December (more on this next week)
- Ladies Brunch
Just the Bible Study Groups:
- Thanksgiving Dinner Potluck Weeknight before Thanksgiving
- White Elephant Christmas Party
- Christmas Caroling Party
- Showers and Birthday Parties
- Sporting Events
- Serving together at Nursing Homes, Homeless Shelters, etc. Include the whole family in these events, especially the children.
Step 9: If teaching isn’t your thing, invite couples to a video series or book reviews.
Focus on the Family has a great series called The Truth Project. It is a twelve-week series and great for mixed groups.
The book Calvary Road is one book that was so rich we could take one chapter a week and get into some great discussions over it.
You can also encourage others to step out and teach.
Step 10: Keep your group Non-denominational and open to everyone.
Jesus and His Word was our common denominator, but all of us attended and served in different churches in our community, and that was always fine with us.
There you go! This may not be a completed list, and I may add to it as times goes on, but it’s a start. You all are free to ask me any questions as well. The most important step, I believe, is to just take that first step! Begin to pray and look to meeting the needs. I can promise you the needs will not be hard to find once you begin to look for them. My pastor used to say, “The world is growing gloriously dark out there.” What this world needs most is the Light!
Next week, I’ll be back to explain how to host a Christmas Cookie Exchange in your neighborhood. This is one of the easiest events to host to begin to get to know your neighbors.
‘Til then, sue
Linked to: Women Living Well , Good Morning Girls , Simply Helping Him, Deep Roots at Home , We Are That Family , A Better Mom
Blessings to Jacqueline at Deep Roots at Home for featuring this post!! You will be blessed by visiting her there!!