The layout of a neighborhood can foster or inhibit interaction. Two neighbors share ways they’ve built relationships where they live.
After an Easter egg hunt hosted by Seth and Christine Leininger in Troy, Michigan, one neighbor said, “We have lived here for 14 years and have never done anything with any of our neighbors. Now, you have to keep inviting us over!” These neighbors returned for a Memorial Day weekend grill party.
Hosting neighborhood events is a first step in building relationships, but the vision of Nav Neighbors ministry is much deeper, as explained by Bob Adgate, Nav Neighbors staff:
“Jesus began the ultimate neighborhood renewal movement of bringing new life to broken and fragmented people and places. And we get to join our Lord in His life-giving neighborhood renewal venture. How does Christ’s renewal take place in our world today? One of the key ways is through us as we plant ourselves and band together with other believers in our neighborhoods and communities. We become a faithful presence right where we live.”
The layout of a neighborhood can foster or inhibit interaction. Seth and Christine live on a busy street, just outside a subdivision, so they don’t actually have any next-door neighbors. They decided that they would be intentional about connecting with people on an adjacent street and define that as their neighborhood. They also have three young children. Their oldest attends the public elementary school down the street, providing many opportunities for connection.
On the other hand, Lee and Mary Twombly live in a neighborhood in Ypsilanti, just east of Ann Arbor, with no fences in the back yards, which is ideal for connecting with neighbors. When they moved in, they intentionally built a large deck on the back of their house as a place to gather. Often parents will sit on the Twombly’s deck while the children play in the interconnected yards.
Heart of the Ministry
Even with the advantage of great neighborhood design, Lee hones in on the core of Nav Neighbors:
“Geography just sets the stage. Neighborhood ministry is not about the right tool. I need to have the heart of Jesus for people. I ask questions, listen to people, and let the Holy Spirit work. I am praying for my neighbors to be curious about Jesus, and for us to have a breakthrough in relationships, so that some will want to read the Bible with us, to discover Jesus for themselves.”
Lee’s listening spirit has opened doors with men in the neighborhood to share deeper questions. One night after a movie, one neighbor, John, started asking questions about the future. John’s wife is interested in the end times, and this has caused John to have lots of questions about spiritual topics. John opened up about his questions and confusion with Lee.
Recently, a new family moved in across the street from Lee and Mary. The Twomblys invited them over for dessert on the deck and some backyard neighbors wandered over to meet them. In the course of conversation, Mary invited the women to read the Bible with her and they jumped at it. The evening ended with hugs all around!
Getting Past Busy Schedules
The busyness of contemporary life can impede neighborhood connections. Seth and Christine find that families in their neighborhood are so busy with activities it is hard to even find a time for another family to join them for dinner.
Lee and Mary noticed that on Sunday mornings people are often home. So, sometimes they choose to forego their own Sunday morning church so they can have neighbors over for brunch. Lee will read and talk about a short story from the Bible after brunch. This flexibility provides meaningful ways to connect.
As the Leiningers and the Twomblys live out their daily lives with their neighbors, they are bringing hope and renewal one conversation and one relationship at a time.
For more visit navneighbors.org