This weekend I was teaching CRM’s Spark Course to students from the University of Houston. I shared various examples of what students were doing at the University of Texas to live on mission in their dorms, colleges, and clubs. I also shared several personal stories about what I was doing in my neighborhood.
One of the “practices” of a Spark Group leader is to be Present in the community. We encourage Spark Group leaders to try to spend ten hours a week or more with the friends in their people group. While teaching this lesson one of the students asked, “How do you spend that much time with neighbors?”
First I admitted that most weeks I do not get that much time with neighbors. Then I listed a few things that I intentionally do in order to get time with neighbors and build relationships with the people who live around me. Here are at least five things that I try to do.
Meet New Neighbors Immediately
One thing I always do is meet new neighbors immediately. If someone new moves in on my street I make it a point to go over and introduce myself, usually with some sort of housewarming gift in hand. This is something that has to happen soon after they move in because it is awkward to do so after too much time passes!
Talk With Everyone You See
I really make a point to never miss an opportunity for a conversation, even if it is only for a minute. If I am walking the dog, working outside, leaving the house, or coming home from work and see someone in the street or in their yard, I always start a conversation. This may sound creepy, but sometimes I even look for when folks are out and about so that I can slip outside to join their conversation, join them on a walk, help them do some yard work, etc.
Spend As Much Time Outside As Possible
The more time I spend outside, the more chance I have to see a neighbor. I do yard work, walk the dog, and even do work or sit with my wife, Brenda, on the front porch in order to see more people. Thankfully I live in a neighborhood where there are coffee shops, convenience stores, and restaurants in walking distance so I have the opportunity to walk around the hood too.
My neighborhood has a small neighborhood association and many opportunities to serve. While I am not an officer in the association, I do step up when there are opportunities to serve. I distribute our newsletters, help with neighborhood beautification projects, head up the neighborhood watch on my block, and more. I look for opportunities to serve whenever possible, especially if the serving is alongside other neighbors affording me the opportunity to meet new people.
Create Social Events
This, of course, is most important. Get together with people and get them together with each other! Have people over. Host parties. Watch sporting events. Go on double dates. Have a progressive dinner. Start a fantasy football league. Have a cookout or a block party. These are all things Brenda and I have done in our neighborhood and it has resulted in dozens of new relationships, creating real community in our neighborhood.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.