Footballs are flying through the air. The NHL season has started. The NBA season has started. College football is already mid-season. College Basketball is about to start. Next week, the World Series will start. Whether you like sports or not, all these things are signs of Fall on the American calendar. So, in honor of the Fall, here are 8 ideas for loving your neighbor and to stimulate you to love and good deeds.
- Fall clean up: Find the oldest, neediest, or maybe the couple with the youngest children and figure out a way to help with all the Fall things that need to get done. Go help them do it. (Things like pulling weeds, and seeding lawns and tilling the ground for Winter gardens, and racking leaves, and trimming bushes, maybe helping with taking decorations down or putting them up. etc., are all great times to talk and love on your neighbors and see where God might take your prayer-saturated interaction.)
- Fall coaching opportunities: There is no soccer or basketball program that couldn’t use more help. These are great opportunities to serve, enjoy a sport, get some exercise yourself, invest in the character building of the next generation, and relate to parents and kids from your community. Maybe this Fall is your year to get out and get involved. Pray and ask God what He wants you to fit into your schedule. Note well, I didn’t write, “See what fits into your schedule.” What God wants you to do might not fit easily. Pray and seek His will above your own.
- Plant your garden with the neighbors in mind. Think of Winter plants that produce more than you need. I have never even had collard greens. But a lot of my neighbors love them. I’m not a big turnip fan, but a number of my newest friends are. I like cabbage in coleslaw and sour-kraut but a lot of my neighbors have other recipes that work for them. So this Fall, I am planting a Winter garden so I have opportunities to bless my neighbors with gifts of home-grown food through this season. Try it.
- Speaking of gardens, help your neighbor
plant his/hers. Older neighbors might need help preparing the soil. Inexperienced neighbors may need your advice. New neighbors might need to know where to go to get the things they need. Have a shared space between houses? Think about approaching your neighbor about putting in a raised garden bed for vegetables or flowers. If they aren’t interested at least you had a conversation which God may use in some other way in the future.
- Remember Christmas Season: Don’t just think of Christmas even Christmas Weekend, but think of how you might use the whole Christmas season. Maybe your pastor is doing a month long series to offer your community a new glimpse of the glory of the gospel. Invite them. If your own church doesn’t have any special services on Christmas Eve or, like we did at our church, the Eve of Christmas Eve (23rd), find a church that does and take your friends or invite your friends to attend them with you. Concerts: some churches will be doing the Messiah or some other Christmas related music. Find one, invite your neighbors. Some churches will have children’s programs. Use them well. Invite your friends and neighbors. If your neighbors love your children there is a good chance they will try to attend that special event at the church that they happen to be a part of.
- Fall is the time to plan community involvement for the Spring and Summer. Volunteering at the Library, summer block parties, neighborhood BBQ invites, Fourth of July parties, Memorial Day, Labor Day—all of these are opportunities to engage with neighbors. There is no impact without contact. Today I went to vote and my voting place was a Parks and Recreation center. I asked about programs in the community of our church building. How to get involved? What programs are there? Who is the contact person? Are volunteers welcome? If I wanted to start a corn-hole tournament, to get people in our community together to meet one another, what would you suggest? Sometimes a question is a great way to find a door that is wide open that you didn’t even know about. These times, bathed in prayer, might be the beginning of one of your neighbors switching camps and joining the fellowship of the redeemed.
- Put a rake outside that is always available. Watch your neighbors schedule. 5-10 minutes before they usually get home, go outside, grab your rake and make yourself busy near their driveway. Say hi, stop raking and engage them with some banter. “Great day huh?” “Welcome home neighbor.” “How are the kids?” “How’s the job going?” If you are getting to know your neighbor, the appropriate intro will come from your knowledge of their life and struggles, their hopes and frustrations. One of my next door neighbors is presently struggling with children going off to college. Some of you know this. The joy and excitement is often accompanied with anxiety and loneliness. The house is quieter and sometimes that’s great. Other times it’s depressing. Ask about them. Pray for them. Tell them you are praying for them. But don’t say you will pray unless you really care and are putting in the effort in prayer for them. Don’t be fake. Love people.
- Find out what your neighbors enjoy and join him/her. I know this has limits but there are lots of opportunities here. Do they like baseball? Invite them to watch the World Series with you. Do they like to fish? Ask them to show you one of their favorite spots. Do they like Westerns? Invite their family over for a movie-night. Track the fortunes of their favorite college or alma mater. Engage with them over how their school has been in the news. It’s colder or will be soon. Soups will be on everyone’s dinner table more often. Why not arrange a neighborhood soup night of some kind? You get the idea. Be interested in them and what makes them tick. It’s all about building a reservoir of shared experiences so you are ready when the conversation turns. Pray that it does. Here’s a link to how to approach a new neighbor moving into town.
If you want to make disciples, you have to put yourself in the position to meet someone who needs Jesus. One mission, one way—making disciples in love.
A Winter story.
I went to a neighbor’s house to drop off a simple Christmas bag of candies to one of our neighbors a couple of years ago. Hadn’t planned on it, but these words came out of my mouth as I handed the bag to my neighbor, “How are you doing?”
Pretty simple. Natural. Only four words.
My neighbor closed the door behind him, stepped out on to his porch, and said, “Not too well actually; _____________ moved out last Friday.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. . . .”
What ensued was a 10-minute conversation where I was able to share my desire to be a friend and to help in any way that I could and to assure my neighbor of my prayers for them. Since then, four other conversations and a new awareness of his situation and schedule that have made it possible to be a blessing and support to him and his family. This summer, I provided tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and zucchini and assorted other offerings from our garden. One of those times, I was able to give him a DVD of The Chosen, a multi-episode and multi-season retelling of the life of Christ. Sometime soon, we will have a conversation about it. We are praying that way and looking for the opportunity that God will give.
The point is, take the initiative. Every season of the year has new opportunities. Make sure this Fall/Winter is one that finds you faithful with whatever opportunities God gives you.
Finally, some principles:
- Use your home.
- Use your smile.
- Use your stuff.
- Use your voice.