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Halloween offers a great opportunity for us to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships in our neighborhoods. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and its roots, the culture we are sent to reach is going to celebrate Halloween. We all have in front of us a wide open door for engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity.
Here are a few ideas to help you walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us.
BE HOSPITABLE - Don’t just give out candy!
1. Give out the best Candy. Please, don’t give out tracts or toothbrushes or pennies. Kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Think of the Parents. Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread for the parents who are bringing their kids around the block.
3. Be Present. Don’t hide out all night. Come to the door, or hang out on the porch, or even set up in the front yard. If someone stops to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.
4. Be Encouraging. Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building up others with your words.
5. Throw a Party. If you are ready for more, you could even have a pre-Trick or Treat party. Provide a simple dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out to trick or treat with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot.
6. Learn the Stories. If you are out Trick or Treating with the kids or staying back with the other parents, ask questions and get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later.
GO TO THEIR PLACE - Join what is happening elsewhere.
7. Attend the Party. If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then serve by helping to clean up.
8. Join the Community. If your community has a fun event, you can join in, but just be sure to invite some neighbors to go with you.
BE PRAYERFUL - Ask for the Spirit to lead, guide and work.
9. Pay Attention. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.
10. Stay Dependent. Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you. And ask the Spirit to open doors for new relationships and spiritual conversations.
- Adapted from material originally presented by Jeff Vandersteldt on the VergeNetwork.org.
It’s true that when Jesus commands us to love our neighbor in Luke 10, He defines neighbor as “anyone near you who needs you.” But you and I pass a whole lot of “anyones” every single day and many of them have needs. Since we can’t meet all their needs, most of us meet none of their needs. Especially when the people around us don’t seem to have obvious needs like the unconscious guy laying by the side of the road in the Good Samaritan story. Dave Runyon, says it this way, “When we aim for everything, we hit nothing.”
If we’re not careful, we turn Jesus’ command into a philosophy that sounds good, but that we have absolutely zero intention (or ability) of actually obeying… the exact opposite of the attitude Jesus was arguing for in telling the Good Samaritan story.
Maybe we need a baby step. Enter the Block Map.
We learned about this from Dave Runyon (if you’re interested in neighboring, his book “The Art of Neighboring” is the absolute best place we know of to start).
It’s awfully hard to love someone if you don’t know their name, so begin there. Think about the 8 actual neighbors who live closest to you and make it your goal to write down all their names on your block map. That may mean an awkward “Hey, we’ve been living here 12 years and haven’t ever met” conversation, but that’s okay. If you think about it, a situation like that is awkward whether you name it or not!
As you go along, you can add relevant information about their family, occupations, hometowns, or hobbies that may help you keep from asking the same small-talk questions over and over. Post the map somewhere obvious so you see it and remember who you can pray for and who you need to meet.
Most people, when they start, can only name every person in one or two of the eight neighboring houses. The first time we did this as a church around 5 years ago less than 1% of our congregation could name 4 of the 8. Today, after quizzing ourselves and challenging ourselves every few months, a significant majority of us know the names of all the people living near us.
That doesn’t mean we’re anywhere close to being perfect at loving our neighbors, but at least now if one of the people who actually live near us needs us, we’ll be able to call them by their first name. And when we read Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, our neighbor has a name and a face.