To say my wife has her hands full would be an understatement. Beginning in 2003, we had four kids in a six year time span. Clearly, we are not the brightest couple in the world. Also as a pastor, there always seems to be one more thing we are expected to show up to or be a part of. Throw in all the kids’ sports commitments and other random after-school activities, I could go on, but you get the point … our life is hectic, just like yours. As a result, spending significant time with the people who live around us just wasn’t a big priority.
That all changed when the mayor of my city showed up to a gathering of pastors and told us the best thing we could do for our city would be to start a neighboring movement. Our mayor basically challenged a bunch of professional Christians to actually do what the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It was a bit embarrassing to say the least. It was also the start of something very significant for our family and many of the people in my community.
What would it mean if we actually love our neighbors? You know, the people who live right next door to us.
For much of my life, I found a way to re-define the meaning of the word “neighbor.” As a result, I wasn’t intentional about spending time with the people who lived closest to me.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “The definition of neighboring is actually far bigger than knowing and loving our literal neighbors.” That is 100% correct. However, that doesn’t make the person who sleeps 30 feet away from you any less of a neighbor. And in reality, many of us live like it does.
The problem is when we aim to love everyone, we often end up loving no one. That is why there is great power in drawing a circle around the places we live, and then moving out in our neighboring efforts from there.
I have noticed moms with young kids have an advantage when it comes to being great neighbors. Kids are the best connectors in most neighborhoods. They are often fearless when it comes to meeting new people and they tend to be magnets for people of all ages. Join with your children to build connections in your neighborhood.
Here are a couple of things you can do that will make a big difference as you get to know the people around you:
1. Learn, retain, and use your neighbor’s names.
The best way to do this is to write them down on a piece of paper and put it up on your refrigerator. After all, it is hard to love someone when you don’t know their name.
2. Make the move to your front yard.
I know your backyard serves as a perfect cage for your kids. However, great things happen when we simply choose to hang out in our front yards instead. If you live in an apartment or condo, make a commitment to spend time in the shared spaces.
3.Say “no” to one or two things you are currently doing.
This frees you to spend more time in your neighborhood. If you are like me, you will discover this is a better and healthier way to live.
When it comes to neighboring, it is the small things that make a big difference. Be brave and re-introduce yourself to that person across the street who’s name you forgot. Then follow the bread crumbs as they appear.
Dave Runyon serves as the executive director of CityUnite. He spends most of his time helping churches in the Denver area work together to serve the city. He is the co-author of . Dave and his wife, Lauren, have four kids … and they do not plan on having anymore.