I have been been faithful in many aspects of missional living but loving my neighbors is one area where I have struggled. There are many reasons for that but one is that I’m an introvert and talking to new people can be hard.
We recently moved to Texas and into a twelve-unit apartment complex. From the beginning, I knew that such a small “community” was the perfect environment for working toward real community.
This move halfway across the country has been hands down one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life and I’m no stranger to hard things. But every once in a while when I’m engaging with my neighbors I see a glimpse of life as it could be. Life lived in community. And I wonder if God could has planted me in this place for such a time as this.
One of those glimpses came on the Fourth of July when we hosted a community cookout. One long term tenant said “there has never been an event like this before.” Our neighbors in the house nextdoor have lived next to our building for 20 years and have never known any of the residents until now. Our cookout was simple and affordable. There were no Pinterest-worthy decorations or elaborate menus. But everyone who attended remarked how much they enjoyed it. Before the night was over we had been in each other’s home and started brainstorming future events. Phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged and something began shifting in our little complex.
If you dream of knowing your neighbors and living in Biblical community, you don’t have to start with a big event. You probably shouldn’t. Instead, start small with the simple tips below.
5 Practical Tips for Learning to Love your Neighbors:
1. Smile and say “Hi”. I know this seems so simple it’s almost ridiculous but I have lived in several places where people avoid eye contact all together. Be countercultural. Jesus was an initiator. Even us introverts can muster a simple “hello”, and that greeting can sometimes lead to more conversation.
2. Go slow and linger. We try to make time to stop and chat when we see a neighbor outside. This isn’t always possible but most of us rush through life with no real reason. We also use our apartment’s common area. This is a great place to connect with people passing by. If you live in a house you can have the same opportunity in your front yard.
3. Show you care. Our first act to engage our neighbors at large was to leave chocolate chip cookies on their door with a note. There wasn’t an agenda other than moving toward community and relationships rather than away from it. What are some easy and practical ways you can show your neighbors you care and want to be in relationship with them?
4. Share meals. Throughout human history the table has served as the great equalizer. When we look at Jesus’ life in the Gospels we see how essential meals were to His ministry. People open up at the table. There is space for real conversation. Most importantly, there is a positive shift in relationships when we share a table and invite people into our homes.
5. Pray for your neighbors. Pray that God would help you to see them the way He sees them. Pray that they would be willing to share their stories with you and that you would listen well to their hurts and needs. Finally, pray that God would give you opportunities to share the Gospel with them.
What practical ways do you engage your neighbors? Or what has stopped you from getting to know your neighbors? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Want more practical tips for loving your neighbors? See How to Engage Your Neighbors: Making Connections in Your Front Yard.
Joy is Florida girl currently living in Houston, TX, with her husband, Jason, and drool covered Bassett Hound, Sam. She has a degree in Church Leadership and a passion for church planting born from years of experience. She teaches women how to intersect their faith and life through intentional missional living at joybrudolph.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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