Outreach Inc. has tools to help you equip your people to reach out to their neighbors today and beyond.
Jason Daye is VP at Outreach Inc., the parent company of Outreach magazine
Social distancing is our current reality, but that should not keep our churches from embracing the Great Commandment and living on mission. In fact, now is the perfect time to encourage our people to demonstrate compassionate care to their neighbors. Good neighbors doing good works leads to goodwill that opens the door for the good news.
Here are four simple steps to mobilize your church attendees to be good neighbors:
Step 1: Cast the Vision.
In difficult times people can drift toward turning inward. Without a doubt, there are real needs among those who call your church their spiritual home. We do not want to dismiss these needs, so please practice appropriate pastoral care for your people. However we definitely want to help our people move beyond being reactive to this crisis and begin praying for God to show them ways to be proactive. The church has always stepped up during times of crisis and this is an opportunity for your church to be the hands and feet of Jesus right in your community. So cast this vision. Each of us could spend every waking moment reading, listening to or watching another news report on COVID-19. Help your people resist this temptation and begin carving out time to make a difference during this crisis.
A great resource to help you cast the vision is the free Sermon Starter available from the Neighbors Helping Neighbors movement. Churches across the country are encouraged to share this message based on Jesus’ Great Commandment. The Sermon Starter also includes an engagement activity to invite the people in your church to take action right in their own neighborhoods.
A full training video is available to walk you through these steps and give more context and ideas to how you can encourage your church to embrace this opportunity to be good neighbors and extend the love of Jesus.
Step 2: Lead by Example.
As ministry leaders there are times we lead from behind, encouraging our flock as they grow. There are other times when we lead from in front, setting the pace and providing models to follow. In activating our people to be good neighbors, we definitely need to be leading by example. If, based on your current health, you are able then make the time to reach out to your nearest neighbors and check in with them, letting them know you are available to help with whatever needs they might have. There may be some neighbors on your block or in your building that you have not yet met. This is a great time to connect with them and let them know you care.
Share stories with your church, either by live streaming online or via email, about your interactions with your neighbors. Invite them to pray for Greg and Connie next door or Mr. Owens across the street. Demonstrate what it means to be a good neighbor and invite your church to join you. Be safe in your approach—there are ways to be a good neighbor without endangering yourself or your neighbors. In fact, that takes us to the next step: provide ideas, tools and resources.
Step 3: Provide Ideas, Tools and Resources.
To really increase the engagement of your people in serving their neighbors you must provide some ideas and tools to help them take action. The key is to offer ideas that can be implemented from a safe distance, if necessary. A great resource for your church is the Neighbors Helping Neighbors kit, which includes a sermon starter that focuses on the Great Commandment, door hangers that your people can place on their neighbors’ doors when they are out walking the dog or getting some fresh air, a PDF guide with a number of ideas to compassionately care for their neighbors and a engaging exercise that every household can use to reach their neighbors called the Dozen Door Challenge.
The door hangers have space to write your name and contact info so neighbors can reach out if they need assistance, prayer or just someone with whom they can talk. You can even get yard signs that your people can put in their front yard to let their neighbors know they are available to help. Thousands of churches are joining in this neighboring movement. Imagine tens of thousands of homes reaching out to their neighbors all across the country.
Step 4: Pull Together as Needed.
As your people connect with their neighbors new opportunities might arise where your church can step in and serve in a bigger way. Perhaps someone has a neighbor who has a local restaurant that is struggling. You can encourage your church to order meals from that restaurant and bless that business. Maybe there are nurses and doctors who are in your members’ neighborhoods. Families in your church can make up care packages for the healthcare workers and you can organize a way to distribute them. Ask your people to share any larger needs and prayerfully consider how your church might be able to step in and serve.
BONUS: Celebrate Stories.
Don’t forget to invite your people to share stories of being good neighbors so you can celebrate them with your church family. It is always encouraging to hear how others are serving their neighbors and to pray for people across your community. You will likely see more opportunities to lift people up in prayer, people with whom your members have developed a personal relationship. Make the time to celebrate what God is doing and remind your people what it means to be the church.
These are truly challenging times, yet God is at work in the midst of this crisis. Let us resist the temptation to only focus inwardly. May we open our eyes to what God is doing and join him as we seek to make an impact for the kingdom. May we plant seeds for the gospel as we mobilize our people to live out the Great Commandment and connect with neighbors across our communities. This is the time for us to be the church.