Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He replied with the story of the Good Samaritan which highlighted, essentially, “Anyone God puts in your path whose needs you are able to meet.” Renewal congregations want to know who God is putting in their path and whose needs they are able to meet. A good way to begin getting to know those neighbors is to create a GOOD NEIGHBOR team whose mandate is to discover and report on the question, “Who is our neighbor?” This team should begin their journey of discovery by making several important visits.
Here Are Visits a Good Neighbor Team Should Make:
Visit the Statistics
Someone has pointed out that statistics are people wrapped up in numbers. There are many statistical sources to get a picture of the people who live in a church’s neighborhood. First among them is a MissionInsite report available through Vibrant Congregations
Visit the Children
Key to knowing the neighborhood is understanding the challenges neighborhood children and youth are facing. Send someone to visit the principals of the local schools and, if available, the director of the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club or other similar organizations.
Visit the Care Providers
Every community has care providing organizations that meet the daily needs of those facing unique challenges. Send someone to visit a local free mental health provider, the non-profits providing food and housing and, if available, the City Mission.
Visit the Minority Communities
Every community has some richness of ethnic diversity. Eat at authentic local ethnic restaurants and get to know the owners and clientele. Attend ethnic community gatherings. Connect with leaders of organizations and churches that serve the minority communities.
Visit Governmental Leaders
Every neighborhood has local leaders who set policies and implement programs that serve the local community. They maybe commissioners, supervisors, trustees or representatives but they know a ton about the neighborhood. Add to that list local law enforcement providers.
Visit the Pastors
Most communities have multiple churches representing a variety of denominations who are actively serving the neighborhood. Visit those pastors and/or key outreach staff to see what they know, what they are observing, what they are doing and what gaps they see unfilled.
Visit the Neighbors
There’s no better way to get to know your neighbors than to meet your neighbors. Host outdoor community gatherings, patronize local coffee shops and businesses, organize neighborhood prayer walks, or build a community play area and host activities. With a little creativity, delightful bridges to neighbors and the neighborhood can be built.
Additional Data Points
Besides the above-named visits, Good Neighbor teams should ask “what are we observing?” A walk to the local Walgreens can paint a good picture of the neighborhood. Other observational points include yard signs, dilapidated housing, new construction, help wanted signs, etc.
There are many other ways to get to know our neighbors and neighborhood. Church leaders should read their local newspaper or neighborhood magazines which are filled with neighbor information. Congregants can join the neighborhood Facebook page to see what is happening in real time. The Community Foundation’s annual report has a ton of information. The Chamber of Commerce can help identify marketplace challenges and opportunities. The local historic society can help retell the story of how the community came to be and where it has faced significant challenges. Together this information can help churches ask and answer the question, “Who is my neighbor and what neighborhood needs are we able to meet?”