In recent years, people in modern society have become less involved with their neighbors. As we become more connected globally, we slowly lose touch with those who live around us. Now the biblical question "Who is my neighbor?" takes on a whole new meaning.
There was a time when families lived in a certain area for generations. Neighbors knew one another and looked out for one another. That still exists in smaller towns and rural areas, but for many of us, our home is far from where our grandparents lived. We buy and sell real estate, barely unpacking our belongings before packing them again. The emotional cost of getting to know neighbors seems too high when we consider that we'll probably have to repeat the process with new neighbors in the not-too-distant future.
Churches can't afford to live that way. We can't live off of virtual relationships; we need to be serving and interacting with the community where we are. Many churches find themselves in neighborhoods in transition, changing ethnically, economically, and even religiously. We can't sit back and wait for our neighbors to come find us; we have to get out and meet them.
While some church members naturally connect with the people around them, others will need help doing so. Here are some ways your congregation can begin to reach out:
- Pray for your neighborhood. And pray in your neighborhood. Prayer walks are an excellent way to begin to connect with your neighbors. Take time to walk the streets of your community in pairs, praying as you go.
- Serve your community. Cooperate with those who are already serving, like schools and community centers. Look for things that your church can do to improve your community; organize work days to clean up vacant lots, repair the homes of the elderly, pick up trash along the roads. Let the community see your good deeds and praise God (Matthew 5:16).
- Conduct a survey of your neighbors. Listen to those who live nearest your church to see what concerns they have. Ask them what services they would like the church to provide. Find out reasons why they or people they know don't attend church. Such surveys can open many doors.
This material comes from a seminar called "Church Inside Out" that is available through Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry. For more information, visit www.heraldoftruth.org/seminars.