Last week, the Evangelical Alliance published research which explored whether evangelicals really love their neighbours. Are we good neighbours? provides an interesting insight into the habits and beliefs of Christians in relation to those around them. Loving your neighbour seems to be something important to Jesus, and with the report showing that two thirds of those interviewed would like to know their neighbours better, we thought it would be helpful to ask someone who knows what they’re talking about. Sam Stephens, founder of the neighbourhood sharing website, Streetbank.com, offers 5 quick ways to get to know our literal neighbours.
After university I moved to London and have lived on the same street for more than 12 years. I’m fortunate to have lived in the same place for so long. One of the biggest benefits is that I’ve got to know quite a few neighbours – at one stage my neighbours were so friendly we took the fence between our tiny gardens down – and they ended up doing most of the gardening. Sadly, they moved out. Anyway, I’m consistently surprised at just how fun and generous my neighbours are. Here are five ways we can connect….
- Knock early – there’s a golden moment when you first move into an area when you’ve got a good reason to say hello – a reason that isn’t about noise or an overgrown hedge. Say hello and you’ll learn about the neighbourhood and you’ll make new friends. Or, if you are established in an area and see people move in, take the initiative, seize the moment and welcome them. Tell them about the best bits of your neighbourhood – it’ll make them feel differently about where they live and they’ll value your friendliness.
- Don’t be too shy to ask – if you need help try asking a neighbour – they just might have a step-ladder or a hedge-cutter when you don’t. Why not try borrowing? You bless them by giving them the opportunity to be helpful and you are also implying that you are happy to be asked too. Occasionally asking for small favours is one of the fastest ways to make friends.
- Spend time on the street – our streets are full of life – but if we only pass through them on the way to our front door we miss out on all that’s going on. Mend your bike outside, set up a few pot plants or stop in the street to chat to a neighbour…. And you’ll be amazed at the conversations you start to have.
- Organise a barbecue – a barbecue or any kind of street get-together has a special quality to it. Face it, if someone gives you food – you’re happy. Everyone is included and those that choose to come enjoy the sense of surprise at how fun it is. I think Jesus talked about food sometimes …
- Do something creative, generous and entirely unnecessary – let’s puncture the spirit of individualism and do something creative, generous and entirely unnecessary for those who live closest to us. If you are baking brownies… make extra and take them round to a neighbour, offer your excess apples, or just make an unexpected visit to an elderly neighbour. If we, the Church, practice this on every street across the country, we will truly be helping to build God’s kingdom in this nation.
Everyone wants to own their own place, to have their own castle and to make it their own – the problem is that we can end up isolated. Let’s make ourselves available and allow ourselves to be surprised at just how fun our neighbours are.