Last spring through the sermon series, The Art of Neighboring, our congregation was introduced to the concept of “Neighboring.” Neighboring is when we make an intentional effort to build relationships with our literal neighbors. We learned that most Americans don’t know the names of, let alone details about, their neighbors.
As Christians, we too often think that loving our neighbor is metaphorical, and we think we can fulfill that obligation by donating to Loudoun Hunger Relief or Backpack Buddies or Salvation Army or Operation Christmas Child. When we think our neighbor is someone far away, not in our every day life, we miss the opportunity to engage with God.
God desires that we will learn to love our literal neighbors—yes, the ones right outside our door!
If you don’t know the families that live around you, there is no better time than the holidays to get started on this holy task. Below are some tips and suggestions on how to start neighboring—engaging meaningfully and building relationships with those right outside your door.
Happy Holidays Package
Make some holiday treats, create an ornament, put together a hot cocoa kit, or purchase a small gift (like scented hand soap and a holiday hand towel) and take them to your neighbors as a gift. Be sure to include a card with your name and the names of your family members so they get the opportunity to know them too. And don’t just leave the package on their doorstep; be sure to knock and introduce yourself or your family personally. This may take a few tries but it’s important to make that face to face connection.
Maybe you know your neighbors names but you’re having a hard time moving past the friendly hellos in your driveway. You can have the youth decorate their yard in festive Candy Canes for a few days; make sure to let Angela know that you don’t want the surprise to be anonymous! Neighbors with young kids are especially likely to enjoy this treat. It’s a great ice breaker, and it helps our youth raise funds for their summer mission trip.
Host a Holiday Hot Chocolate Bar for the Santa Rides
Every year Santa comes through Leesburg on a fire truck to wave to the kids. Find out which night he’s coming through your neighborhood and invite your neighbors over for some warm beverages, like hot chocolate and apple cider, about 30 minutes before he makes his appearance. It’s a brief way to practice hospitality without having to throw a big party. Give people disposable coffee mugs so they can take their warm beverages with them as they wait for Santa to come by!
Cookie Party at Church
If you think your neighbor might be interested in church but the thought of inviting them to worship makes you, or them, nervous, then consider inviting them to our Cookie Party on December 22nd. It will be a low key way for them to experience our church environment without the pressure of a worship service. Make sure to help them register for the event and accompany them to the event. Our church can be intimidating to new comers; Wesley Hall and Asbury Hall may mean something to you, but for a first time guest our church can be a maze.
Invite them to Christmas Eve
If you have a relationship with your neighbors, you know their names, and feel comfortable with them, then invite them to one of our Christmas Eve services. Don’t just list off the service times; invite them instead to come with you and your family. Tell them which service you attend and what you love about it. Offer to carpool with them to church and sit with them in the service. Ask them if they have any questions. Follow up a few days later to thank them for going with you and to invite them with you the next time you go to church.
I hope you will use some of these ideas to connect with your neighbors. The end goal isn’t to make them members at LUMC, the end goal is for them to see Christ in you. That won’t ever happen if you don’t know them! Go out knowing that Christ goes before you to make a way, the Holy Spirit will empower you, and God will be with you as you do the holy work of loving your neighbors.