Now is the perfect time to encourage church members to demonstrate compassionate care to their neighbors. Good neighbors doing good works will lead to goodwill, which opens the door for good conversations!
I often get asked how to motivate others to embrace the neighboring movement or create a neighboring culture. Here are five steps that I recommend to kickstart the effort.
Step 1: Cast the Vision
In difficult times, people often turn inward. Church leaders need to help members see beyond themselves. Church leaders must cast this vision and set some goals. Then talk about the vision over and over and over. In this case, you must explain the value of neighboring, why Jesus commanded it, and how neighboring can benefit others. Help people carve out time to make a difference with their immediate neighbors.
Step 2: Lead by Example
To activate people in your neighborhood or church to be good neighbors, we must lead by example. Make the time to reach out to your nearest neighbors and begin developing positive relationships. The first step is to learn and use their names. Listen to their stories, ideas, and needs. Connect and grow those neighbor relationships. Then demonstrate what it means to be a good neighbor. Doing this type of relationship work yourself gives you a way to relate to those you encourage to take up neighboring. If you lead by example, you will also have stories to share.
Step 3: Provide Ideas and Resources
To increase your church members’ engagement, you must provide ideas and tools to help them take action. It would help if you shared examples about how to connect with neighbors from your own experience. It is essential to offer ideas and resources that can be implemented easily. This goes beyond the name chart under the “engaged neighbor” tab at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene. These easy ideas could come from an “acts of kindness” list that you share with church members with a goal of one action per month. Perhaps it is an effort to write one personal hand-written note to a neighbor each week. It might be enrolling in the “Becoming an Engaged Neighbor” training provided by University of Missouri Extension. Or you might plan and conduct a front yard Friday event, donuts in the driveway, goodies in the garage, or pancakes on the porch.
Step 4: Pull Together as Needed
As your people connect with their neighbors, new opportunities might arise where your group or neighbors or church can step in and serve in a more significant way. For example, join together to support a neighbor who is a business owner and is struggling. How about encouraging someone who works in health care or law enforcement. Ask your friends or members to share these types of needs through some kind of communication loop, even as simple as email group.
Step 5: Celebrate stories
Don’t forget to invite your church members to share stories of being good neighbors so you can celebrate them. It is always encouraging to hear how others are serving their neighbors. It is also fun to see examples on social media, bulletin boards, and elsewhere. Ultimately the goal is to love your neighbor, not collect social media likes for your effort. But sharing stories and examples can be an encouragement to others and helps to spread the concept of neighboring.
No one person can force others to take up a cause like neighboring and reallocate their time. At the same time, it can be frustrating to watch people resist something like neighboring. But that is just as much a part of the process as those few that will be early adopters of the idea.
The best way to involve others in neighboring is to get them excited about it by word-of-mouth.
In the case of neighboring, it is essential to find a select group of individuals excited about the idea and inspired to act and then lead the charge. Work with them on these five steps and never lose sight of the fact that we are created to love our neighbors.