Leaving that meeting, we began to pray about what God was leading us to do next. As we began to talk to other leaders in our city, we found that many of them shared the mayor’s assessment. They saw that our neighborhoods were not as connected as they needed to be.
The next time we gathered, we invited Vicky Reier, the Arvada assistant city manager, to attend our meeting. We had heard her talk about neighboring in the past and we wanted to hear her thoughts on how to begin. As she talked about the reasons neighboring matters, Vicky said, “From the city’s perspective, there isn’t a noticeable difference in how Christians and non-Christians neighbor in our community.”
This was a moment that galvanized us. We realized something was wrong. We thought, This isn’t the way Jesus wanted it to be. We had to do something!
As church leaders, we began to dream about what it would look like to start a neighboring movement among our people and in our city. We decided to come together and, with one voice, create a joint sermon series around the idea of taking the Great Commandment literally.
Each church in our network held a three-week teaching series following Easter Sunday. We developed a few resources for the churches to use, such as video interviews, sermon outlines, and illustrations.
Soon after the sermon series was launched, people responded and began taking steps to get to know their neighbors. Stories about block parties and new relationships began to pour in. City leaders began to talk about the initiative—as well as the value it created in their communities—all from people simply learning their neighbors’ names and working with others to throw a block party. The results were immediate. New friendships evolved, strangers became acquaintances, and acquaintances began moving toward genuine relationships with one another.
By working together as churches, we drastically increased the scope of the initiative and quickly gained traction throughout our city. Such immediate results made us dream about how we could further connect the people in our twenty-plus congregations while encouraging them to continue making positive changes in their neighborhoods. The solution was to create a relatively simple website (www.artofneighboring.com) that connects people with one another and helps them link up with others who are willing to partner in their neighborhood. We realized that by working together in this manner, we were able to do things that we could never do alone.
The mayor was right. More importantly, Jesus was right. Neighboring relationships really do matter.
Pathak, Jay, and Dave Runyon. 2012. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.