I am writing a new book and each month I am sending out an email on one chapter which you can download for free. I did the first chapter in June on Getting to know your Neighbors. This month the chapter is on Transforming a Neighborhood in your city.
Are you interested in transforming a neighborhood in your city?
If so, choosing the appropriate size of neighborhood for your ministry target area is critical.
A neighborhood may be defined as a residential portion of a city that is identified as a geographic place historically by the city. All cities are divided into zones and neighborhoods. A neighborhood might have been recently constructed by a developer, or may be a district which has been around for a hundred years. Neighborhoods can be as large as 15,000 people made up of high density apartment complexes. Many single-family neighborhoods are 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Ministry is most effectively carried out in a small geographic area since the goal is to bring neighbors to meet and identify with each other. Thus, a good way to define a neighborhood is by the elementary school it serves, which is generally 6 to 10 square blocks. This school is in walking distance and can serve as a hub for ministry.
God is Involved in our Neighborhoods
A crucial premise for neighborhood ministry is to realize that God is active in our neighborhoods. Thus, from the beginning it is important to discover what God is up to in the world and what it means to be the church as we move back into the neighborhood. God has imparted gifts to the people of our churches. God has already gifted and called ordinary men and women in each of our churches to participate with the Holy Spirit to do ministry.
As we search for how God wants us to be involved in ministry we are well served by asking new questions. Our insights and habits can begin to be reshaped as we ask questions about God, ourselves, and our neighbors. What does it mean to be God’s people in a community? Does God intend to erase the boundary lines of who my neighbor is? When we ask questions in the light of God’s intent, our perspective goes beyond what is inside the church walls but becomes something entirely different.
A local church is called to be a mission oriented people. The reason churches are called into existence is for their members to become God’s missionaries right where they live. For too long local churches assumed that its mission was about getting people to come to them, joining their church in the process. God has a different plan for His people where a local church is shaped by what He is up to in the neighborhoods and communities outside the church’s walls.
Our communities are changing dramatically. They are changing from those homogenized neighborhoods where everyone looked the same. Our neighbors are now a part of the new pluralized, globalized world forming before our eyes. Neighborhoods are now characterized by multiple, competing value systems living side by side in the same community.
Globalization is creating new kinds of neighborhoods across the street and around the corner from where we live. This is the work of the Spirit. As God’s people, we’re being invited to join with the Spirit by “pitching our tent” beside the varieties of cultures living all around us. Our worlds are no longer separated by national and ethnic boundaries. Jesus’ disciples of today will be shaped by engaging their neighborhoods, asking what God is up to and joining God in these places.