neighborhoodThis is an article that I wrote a few years ago that I have been asked to repost here, hope it provides some helpful, simple ways to get to know your neighbors.

A few years ago our family moved to a new part of town to plant a church. We were convinced that God placed us in our new home, on our new street, in our new neighborhood, for the purpose of meeting and getting to know our new neighbors. But how do you begin to build relationships with those whom you have never met? The primary key is that you must be intentional. New relationships seldom happen by chance. Instead you must find ways to “rub shoulders” with your neighbors. While your neighborhood situation may be quite different from the one we experienced here are some simple ways we began building relationships with our neighbors.

1. Pray for Your Neighbors.
Someone has said, “We need to talk to God about people, then talk to people about God.” If you have a neighborhood directory use it to identify the names of each family member in your building, on your street or cul-de-sac. Make a list that will help you pray for each family that you seek to build a relationship with. This list will help you move from simply hoping to connect with some nameless neighbor in the future, to specific action aimed at building a new relationship.

2. Be Outside.
After dinner take a walk in your neighborhood with an eye for meeting people. Play with your kids in the front yard instead of the backyard. Some of the best opportunities for our family to meet our neighbors came from playing baseball and Frisbee in our cul-de-sac. Playing ball in the front yard many times acted as a magnate for kids in the neighborhood and inevitably parents would follow.

3. Organize a Garage Sale.
Have a garage sale at your house and ask your neighbors if they have anything they would like to sell. We found in many cases neighbors not only brought over items to sell, but they would spend time “working” the sale and creating the opportunity to begin some brand new relationships and deepen existing ones.

4. Invite People for Dessert.
One of the best ways to get to know your neighbors is to have them over for dinner. However, we have found that inviting people over for dessert is less work and many times less threatening from their perspective. Dessert is less formal and requires a much smaller time commitment.

5. Have a Cookout.
Everybody loves to eat, and few people will turn down the chance to cookout on the grill and sample others people’s favorite dishes. Some of the best-attended get-togethers that we have hosted have been backyard (or front yard) cookouts. On one occasion we had the chance to have one of the local TV stations do their weather from our backyard. We used the opportunity to have a neighborhood cookout and everyone came to meet the weatherman and to be on TV.

6. Ask for Advice.
Everyone has differing talents and areas of expertise. One way of getting to know our neighbors better is to ask for advice in a person’s area of expertise. Having moved from a condominium where the grounds were always cared for, I had many opportunities to ask the more handy men in our neighborhood for advice. Advice on how to operate the sprinkler system, to over-seeding the lawn, to fixing a frozen air conditioning unit.

7. Join a Community Cause.
Find out if your neighborhood has a Home Owners Association. If so, join in on neighborhood workdays, or find an associational committee on which you can be a part. Find out if there is a neighborhood directory, if not, offer to put one together for those on your street.

8. Have an Open House.
One of our first connecting efforts after moving into our new house was to host a “dessert party.” We hand delivered special invitations to more than 180 homes in our housing addition. We simply invited people to a “come and go” dessert party where we had a dozen different kinds of desserts for people to sample. We also found that most people are very open to attending a party around the Christmas season. Take advantage of special times in the year to invite the neighborhood over for food and fun.

9. Watch for Special Needs.
Be on the lookout for special needs. Offer to baby sit or perhaps pet sit. Help to maintain yard work while neighbors are on vacation. Not long after moving in we noticed one of our neighbors preparing to paint their house. We spent part of the day helping them paint and that evening they had us over for pizza and we had the opportunity to discuss spiritual issues.

10. Start a Home Bible Study/Discussion Group.
The most significant and rewarding step to getting to know your neighbors is to discuss spiritual issues with them. After spending several months taking every opportunity to build relationships with those around us we invited our neighborhood to a new “discussion group” that we started in our home one night a week.

Jesus explicitly told us to love our neighbors and that begins by getting to know them. Recognize that there is a cost to building relationships with people around you. It will complicate your life, it will cost you money, and it will certainly cost you your most valuable resource, time. But I hope we will also recognize that the benefits of investing in the lives of others and of being a part of what God is doing in the world, and your neighborhood, far exceeds any personal inconvenience we might experience in the process.