Submitted by Sue Prins, Providence Church, Holland, MI
Category: Adult Discipleship
As a church, we are becoming more serious about equipping people for mission. We want to help inspire our people to get to know their actual neighbors, to form solid friendships, to serve them whenever possible, to pray for their neighbors, and to look for opportunities to have meaningful spiritual conversations.
One way we’ve tried to get people to engage in their own neighborhoods is by providing picnic tables for their front yards. Inspired by the book “The Turquoise Table” by Kristin Schell, we cast the vision for loving our neighbors. In the book, the author painted a picnic table turquoise, placed it in her front yard, and committed to spending time there as a way to meet and connect with her neighbors,
We purchased wood picnic table kits from a local home improvement store, and a hardworking team of volunteers assembled them and painted them turquoise. We offered the turquoise tables below cost to members of our congregation who would commit to placing them in a visible spot in their yard, and spending time there in an effort to engage with their neighbors. Seventeen families accepted the challenge!
We also placed a turquoise picnic table in our lobby with a large box of table setting supplies sitting next to it. If someone interacted with a neighbor, they took an item out of the box and set it on the table. We started with an empty table, and by the end of the summer it was completely set for six imaginary people, with placemats, plates, cups, napkins, silverware, serving dishes, etc. Each item on the table represented a meaningful interaction with a neighbor.
We placed another turquoise table on our church property, near the sidewalk, and asked members of the congregation to bring the surplus from their gardens for the neighbors around our church. Flowers and veggies were regularly shared at this table, and we let the neighbors surrounding the church know that they were welcome to take home the summer bounty as a free gift.
Lastly, we had a drawing for the members that made an intentional connection with a neighbor. At the end of the summer we drew a name and gave that person all the fun items on the table! Then we donated the table to Benjamin’s Hope for use at their campus.