Get Out There in Public Spaces

“The public space is a space God inhabits, and he always shows up there because he’s always there.”

One of the sinister and life-sucking pressures facing most leaders is having to figure out what comes next. After you’ve tried 40 days of this or the latest small-group curriculum on that, a pesky little voice asks, “Now whatcha going to do?”

Fortunately, coming up with your next program doesn’t have to be about finding the latest and greatest. You can be innovative by returning to fundamentals. I’ve found the most profound movements and improvements always happen when we get back to the basics of focusing on people—more specifically, having face-to-face time with folks.

As I write this, I’m hosting a party for the community. The people are all sitting down eating right now, but I’ve been setting up and cleaning up all day. In between the work have been about 10 conversations with people I barely know—and next week four of them are coming over to our home.

The last conversation made me laugh out loud because the woman was so excited that we had renovated a building in our town. While hugging me over and over, she said, “Sir, I don’t care where you came from or what you plan on doing. All I can say is that I’m glad you’re here and you are giving this town a place to be together.”

We hugged some more and when she finally let go of me, I walked away thinking how easy God made it for people to connect with people—as long as we show up.

Jesus can’t wait to introduce us to the people he’s keeping an eye on, but we have to be there.

I’ve written countless small-group materials to help people connect—and I hope those resources have helped—but we are overthinking it if we have to always have a curriculum to get people to hang out with other people.

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The public space is a space God inhabits, and he always shows up there because he’s always there. We worry about “our sheep,” but Jesus says, “I have sheep you know not of.” Jesus can’t wait to introduce us to the people he’s keeping an eye on, but we have to be there.

So instead of searching for something new this next season, consider these easy-to-do, people-oriented options.

1. Move your office to a third space.

No, you don’t have to move desks, file cabinets or books. Just make it a habit to work at a local coffee shop, pub or open space. If you are there enough, you’ll see the same people and eventually conversations will just happen.

2. Move your barbecue from the backyard to the front yard.

The easiest way to connect with people is over food. Even the smell of food will bring cavemen out of their caves. They will literally walk over and start talking to you. When you offer them some food, they will stay and chat even more. It’s not a gimmick, and the people are not projects. They are simply responding the way God made people to respond.

3. Join a social network, club, social service or gym.

Outside of the misery of working out, every one of these places is a ready-made community. If you meet one person, you’ll meet many more people that are connected to them.

4. Don’t do a small group or Bible study every week.

Consider meeting only twice a month, and then invite the believers in your life to go public with you. Do the steps listed in no. 3 together, and you may leapfrog five years of studying the art of engagement by simply being out there together.

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Innovation means replication. Do what Jesus did today, tomorrow and then the next day, and you’ll see interacting with others comes naturally. You were made to live like this.

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Hugh Halter, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is the U.S. director of Forge America.