Everyone lives somewhere. We all have neighbours. Now, you may or may not know them. I think in our crazy 21st Century world we don’t know our neighbours anywhere near as much as we used to – and that is a shame. But there are some sweet discipleship opportunities we have when it comes to our neighbours. Here are a few:
1) Love your neighbour
Jesus sums up the entire Old Testament law by saying:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Loving your neighbour is a big deal. And it is picked up enough in the New Testament for us to know that it is something that we as Christians ought to do. But I hear you ask in dulcet tones, Who is my neighbour? Well, Jesus answer that question with an emphatic everyone! (Luke 10:29-37). This is concept to just bring up with your kids whenever you ever see anyone. You don’t have to do it every time, but every person you see provides an opportunity for this important conversation. And it is a conversation that can (and arguably should) happen very regularly.
NOTE: the conversation need only be as long as – ‘hey look there’s a person. They are our neighbour here on earth. Jesus tells us to love our neighbours. I wonder how they need to be loved’.
2) Love your next-door neighbour
Yes everyone is our neighbour. But no-one more so than your close neighbours. Your next door neighbours. Those people who live on your street. Your kids know that people live in those houses. They may or may not know their names. They may or may not have a relationship with them. Why not introduce yourselves if you haven’t already? And chat through these 2 questions with your kids:
What do they need?
How could we find out when they need help? How could we discover what we could do to look after them? How can we practically love them this week? What do they actually need? When we care for them in the way they need, they will feel loved, and realise that we are people that actually care. (This may or may not lead to conversations about why we care – but whether this happens or not, Jesus is glorified).
What do they need most?
What is their biggest need? Jesus! How could we find out if they trust in Jesus or not? What could we do to help them trust in Jesus? How could your kids play a part in this? Note: kids tend to have less inhibitions than we do, and can get away with asking blunt questions that are harder for us to ask. So why not play to the advantage you have with kids!
3) Pray for your neighbours
This one is super easy. After you chat to your neighbours over the fence, or walk passed their house, or when they come up in conversation – pray for them with your kids. Pray that they might trust in Jesus. Pray that we might be bold in telling them about him. Pray that God would change their hearts. This will help teach your kids to care about what matters most for all different people in their lives.
4) Chat to your neighbours
Talk through with your kids how you might approach a conversation with them about Jesus. You play devils advocate if your kids are older. And if you know what their faith is in, you might be able to present some of their ideas to your kids for thinking through how to engage with it. This will give your kids confidence for real conversations with neighbours. It will also keep it on their mind in a way that just chatting about your neighbours won’t.
5) Neighbourhood watch
No – this isn’t that old school community crime watch program! Although that was sweet wasn’t it?? Nah this is watching out for opportunities to build the community vibe in your neighbourhood. It might be offering practical help to elderly neighbours, that single mum down the street or the people who have just moved into the country. It might be organising hangs for kids of the neighbourhood. Building a skate ramp out the front of your house to be used by more people than just your family. How do you think about Halloween when the neighbourhood is out and about? What is unique about your street? Chat through with your kids about something that might work for you.
Back when I lived in house full of boys all in our 20’s, not many people on our street knew each other. So my housemates and I started handing out Easter Eggs to everyone on the street. And we tried having a Good Friday street party off the back of that. For 2 years we tried this and it fell flat. Turns out Good Friday wasn’t the day to do this. We literally had 1 person come over the 2 years. So then we tried organising a street Christmas party, and this was a winner! We had around 50 people come and 1 family started coming to church and turned into very dear friends of mine! It all started with some Easter Eggs and friendliness.
How cool would it be if we could teach our kids to love their neighbours by beginning with our literal neighbours? We can teach them what real love looks like. Not sentimentality, but genuine concern for genuine needs. Most of all their need for a Saviour.
I hope these ideas have been helpful! See here more instalments of the 100. Comment below with any ideas you try out with your kids.