Inspired by the concept, in my previous neighborhood, my wife and I decided to invest in a seating area – not in the back yard, but in the front yard. It became a place where I’d go to sit in the morning or evening to have a cup of coffee, read a book, etc. Because it was in the front yard, neighbors would say hi and come and have a seat. Many wonderful conversation happened there, and in a small way, I think we enriched the sense of community in our neighborhood by contributing that space. I’ve done something similar where I live now … putting a simple bench out front that says, “Feel free to stop by and chat.”
This article from Mustard Seed Associates does a wonderful job of helping you imagine how your front yard can become a place of hospitality, connection, friendliness, and grace.
It’s a simple thing, but simple things add up, you know?
One of the ways we are seeking to connect with our neighbours is through lawn mowing. My twelve year old son has a small mowing business. He calls himself “The Neighbourhood Mower.” So, every spring he goes around the neighbourhood with his business flyer, offering to mow people’s grass. Not too many take him up on his offer, but regardless, it allows us to connect with our neighbours in a practical way. I go with him on his rounds, and strike up a conversation about things other than mowing. And then usually those conversations continue and are deepened if that neighbour becomes a client. Building relationships with neighbours isn’t the only reason we mow grass. My son appreciates the money, and I appreciate the work experience it is giving him. But one of the blessed results of this sort of small business activity is the opportunity to form relationships with your neighbours. How are you serving your neighbours?
- Neighbourhood Life participant
In the next couple weeks our city will experience “5 day club” in which neighbourhoods become central to gathering children and their families for backyard teaching and fun. Trained leaders join the host family in ones neighbourhood to help this along smoothly.
What is a 5-Day Club?
5-Day Club is an exciting, fun-filled hour held each day for five consecutive days. It includes:
- dynamic Bible lessons
- creative learning activities
- inspiring missionary story
- meaningful songs
- life-changing Scripture memory.
Who can attend?
5-Day Club is open to all boys and girls between the ages of five and twelve, regardless of religious background. You are welcome to attend the club with your child.
Who teaches a 5-Day Club?
Christians who are concerned for the spiritual well-being of your child teach the club. These teachers have received specialized training from CEF®.
Is there a cost?
There is no charge for your child to attend. An optional missionary offering will be taken each day.
See more at: http://cefcanada.org/5-day-clubs.html
Today I had the privilege of preaching at the combined church service for Lacombe Days. I chose I Peter 1 as a way to understand how we are, “chosen, scattered and strangers” (v.1).
I referenced John McKnight, who spoke in Edmonton last month on how we should live out of our abundance. He shared six neighbourhood necessities:
- Safety/Security – If we know the names of our those who live in our neighbourhood and simply spend more time outside instead of inside, we add more safety than doubling the police force.
- Help – the one who belongs and lives life among neighbours will live 5 years longer than its equal who does not.
- Environment/Food – If ever a neighbourhood would have an understanding of their ecological impact, they would do more than any program. For example, reducing waste.
- Enterprise -Most all businesses start in a local setting, enhancing the opportunities of our neighbours. for example, the boy who starts to fix bicycles across the street.
- Children -The most important asset. Everyone agrees, it takes a village to raise a child….not an institution.
- Care – Institutions can only make ‘caring’ a word. Institutions are held together by money whereas community is held together by care.
Recently I made the rounds in our neighbourhood with one of my neighbours. He and I (and our families) take the lead on organizing the annual blockparty on our avenue. Handing out invitations is a great opportunity to connect with our neighbours, so I always appreciate this annual tour. Except for one stop. One of our neighbours is, shall we say, a bit on the grumpier side, so I confess my reluctance to knock on their door. But it must be done, as we want all of our neighbours to feel that they belong. So, we took a deep breath as we approached their house. To our surprise, we were warmly received. I’ve had a number of conversations with this neighbour, but this is the first pleasant one. We walked away wondering what had just happened. In the end, we thanked God for a positive encounter with this neighbour. Sometimes I tend to write people off, thinking they will never change. But every once in a while God surprises me. I’m glad this time the surprise came in the context of our neighbourhood. I look forward to our fifth annual block party.
Submitted by a Neighbourhood Life participant.
This particular block party features a number of great stories. A few people who live on the street share their love for old restored vehicles which they feature in car shows from time to time. Broken relationships are evident, but this street is well connected with each other in healthy relationships. A middle aged man goes out of his way to take care of the widow down the road, and they watch out for each others’ places as they walk their dogs. There is a desire to preserve the neighbourhood which is referred to as the “cabin district.” The older houses that have been bulldozed over have created a unified front to keep others from being destroyed. But the more interesting story came from an up and coming carnival, converting each front yard into one of the carnival games. Every game would give points towards each household, ending with a collection of points, determining one household as the reigning champ on the block.
I want to live here!
This past week the City of Lacombe sent myself, along with two others, to a conference hosted by the Tamarack Institute in Edmonton. Among us were many city officials from all over Alberta, looking to understand the role of neighbourhoods in deepening community. A few hundred of us listened to the best practices and insights throughout Canada. The sharing was encouraging, as most of it focused on the power of neighbourhoods. Some cities have made great strides and others came to learn. The town of Delburne shared their outdoor wall photo murals of residents as a way to demonstrate belonging. The City of Red Deer hired on a part time staff member for their new program, “Great Neighbours!” St. Albert led the way with an infrastructure that helped produce 102 block parties across the city this year alone, with the majority visited by the mayor on his bike. And Wetaskawin featured their local hero, a teacher from the Spatinow neighbourhood who began real change with the purchase of a toaster. At one point in the conference, 10 groups laid out tool-sharing stations, of which Good Neighbour Coffee was one (see below).
Tools are an important part of deepening community since neighbours can be unsure how to deepen community in their neighbourhood. Another tool featured was a developed block party kit that would help anyone begin deepening community in their neighbourhood. Everyone soaked it all up!
The bottom line is that the people who are running our towns and cities in Alberta, and the rest of Canada, believe that ‘loving your neighbour’ is the way of the future. Amid the many city leaders, I heard remnants of Jesus and church and various references to the Scriptures. I could not resist adding the fact that Jesus has some great insights for deepening community, and that he was the first to summarize the Scriptures leading with love of God and love of neighbours. It makes sense, and it also is backed by data from a 2003 Harvard study, that concluded that loving your neighbour at the local level reduces heart disease, reduces crime, and creates longevity in life. Institutions and organizations create service, but it is people who love and care.
Thanks, City of Lacombe, for sending me!
If you have a story to add regarding your neighbourhood, please add to the fun:
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Outside, after the church service, a lady approached me to talk about the announcement I made earlier regarding Neighbourhood Life. She said she never came to this church before, but was glad she did, and wanted to talk more about neighbouring. As a result, we discussed the “steps to start” (which can be found on the menu bar above), and soon she was sharing her insights on the power of neighbouring. She had just moved in, and already she noted an interesting gesture that came with the purchase of her home; the seller included two names and numbers, with permission, of great people in the neighbourhood.
A second lady, with whom I connected through the first, shared similar interests for her neighbourhood. She had lived in her neighbourhood for some time now and was concearned about the evidence of brokenness and its contribution to her street. She did add that she loved to garden and so she grew flowers in the front for her neighbours. I told her that the front yard has so much to offer when we look to love our neighbours. This is where we used to sit on the porch, where we could BBQ, read our book, drink our tea. She responded with her own story – She proceeded to invite neighbours to help themselves to her flowers one day. Many left the front yard with beautiful cut flowers for their home. And when she recognized some neighbours who did not come…she brought a bouquet to them herself. A day well spent loving neighbours!
It never ceases to amaze me how others add to the tool kit for neighbouring….now lawn signs that match the invitations and name tags and…our travelling trailer BBQ! What’s next?