INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — We’re all pretty good at applying Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor” (Mark 12:31) to people we go to church with, people we enjoy being around, people our kids spend time around.
But how much do we actually apply it to our literal neighbors?
Often we get caught up in going out to do ministry that we miss the people we pass by every day on our own street. Here are a few fresh ideas for creating those opportunities:
— Know them. Make a grid with nine boxes and put your family name in the center box to represent your home. Now, fill in the spaces around your box with the names of your neighbors (next door, in front and behind, etc.). Don’t know their names? Be intentional to find out and get to know them. Then take time to pray for them by name every week.
— Serve them. Help them carry in a large item when you see they’ve come home with something new and need a hand. Surprise them by mowing their lawn, edging, shoveling snow from their driveway, clearing ice off their car, buying a hanging plant for their porch.
— Pay attention. Do they have a new baby? A family member pass away? A child graduating? Be aware of the unusual seasons of life and take a gift or offer assistance in times of challenge and of celebration.
— Be a safe place. Do they have small children? Get to know the family enough that their kids would feel safe coming to your house in an emergency or if they accidentally get locked out.
— Invite them. It’s easy to forget to invite the people we see every day into our church family. Invite them to your small group, Sunday worship service or special event happening in your church.
— Befriend them. The best way to get to know your neighbors is to do something with them. Throw a neighborhood cookout in your front or back yard and invite all the neighbors to come hang out. Invite everyone with a “bring a side item to share and we’ll provide the meat” invitation card.
— Use holiday fever. Throw a Christmas open house. A New Year’s day lunch. A Halloween or harvest party. An Easter egg hunt. A National Pancake Day celebration. Choose your day to celebrate and use a holiday to bring people together.
Whatever you do, make it your goal to know your neighbors so you have the ability to love them as yourself, just like Jesus commands.