Brokenhearted Theology, California, Church, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Global, Meaning

Missional Block Party: Take One!

Krissy and I have lived in our house with mostly the same folks for two and a half years now. We’ve gotten used to the sounds (car alarms, loud engines, helicopters, other languages being spoken) and the sights (dogs walking by, trash, some graffiti) and the smells (flowers, smog, fresh-baked bread). We have our favorite Thai places, we know the best coffee shops, and we know the place to go for coconut popsicles.

We’ve gotten to know the neighborhood really well.

But we don’t know the neighbors really well. And we want to. Not primarily to get them to come to our church, or talk about the things we believe, but to develop a sense of community, friendship, and relationship with people we live in proximity to.

So together with our housemates, we decided to throw a block party.

We picked a date. We put up signs. We made fun snacks. We borrowed lawn games and fired up the grill.

In my mind, this is what success looked like: lots of people laughing, dogs chasing each other, neighbors meeting for the first time, kids jumping in the bounce house, and everyone exchanging cell phone numbers and singing Kumbaya as the sun set on the Hollywood cityscape.

That’s not exactly how it turned out. There were no kids in the bounce house (not because they didn’t want to bounce, but because the housemates wouldn’t let me rent one!). We never ended up grilling anything. We had a lot of food left over (and lots of soda…and none of the six of us drink soda!). And the small number of people we invited face-to-face (a few who said they’d definitely come) didn’t show up.

But, looking back, I would still say it was a success. Here’s why:

(1) We met some neighbors we hadn’t met before. They were walking their dog and we struck up a conversation. Their dog was fascinated by our cats, and I was fascinated by their dog. We’re not best friends (yet!), but we know the names and addresses of some people on our street.

(2) With the people who stopped by the block party, and even with the people who didn’t show up, a conversation started/continued on our street about being neighborly. 

And here’s a few things I learned:

(1) Even though there wasn’t a huge crowd at the party, all of our intentional community was present and we had a blast. We played Blongo Ball. We had a mess of food. We chased the cats around the yard. We smiled, waved, and said hello to people walking and driving by. We made a bit of a spectacle of ourselves. We got face time with our neighbors by hanging out in the front (we have a great backyard and usually hang out back there, but no one sees us when we’re back there), and being seen – recognition – is the first step towards relationship.

(2) The best way to meet strangers is not to invite them to an event, but to develop rapport in the everydayness of life. I assume people noticed the fliers all over our block. But that doesn’t get then to a party. Knowing someone’s name (or their dog’s name) or at least their face (or their dog’s face) is the huge and often necessary first step towards relationships. Parties should not precede relationships!

I’m excited to continue the journey towards missional block parties, engaging our neighbors, and playing with all the cute dogs who live on our block.

For those who’ve successfully engaged neighbors and built relationships with people who live around you, any tips?

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5 thoughts on “Missional Block Party: Take One!

  1. Kari Coppinger says:

    The front yard is key! Figure out something to paint or plant or do out there at a time of day when people are typically getting home from work or on the weekend and it puts you out there to wave, say hello, strike up a conversation. From there you might find out if someone could use a meal, a stand-in dog walker, a friend to take out their trash cans on trash day, etc.! I’d say that is how we have come to know our neighbors. And with some background of knowing each other from the front-yard, we have borrowed and lent “cups of sugar,” done favors, taken meals, received meals, played, gone to dinner, talked neighborhood watch kind of stuff, given cards (Christmas,Valentines), offered to pray, etc. I’ve got my neighbors names and cell phone numbers; perhaps I need to take your tips on being missional in those relationships and share the good news of Jesus.

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  2. Leah Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. We have the same desires, to be know our neighbors, not just our neighborhood. I’m anxious to see if any one else comments with their experience. I think it’s awesome that you are investing in the people around you! And for the record, I think the bounce house was a great idea!!

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  3. Leah Beth, I think the bounce house would be great too…though in our neighborhood a Dog Bounce House might be a better idea (lots of dogs, less kids!). I also hope that a bunch of people give some thoughts, experiences, or ideas. It’s like a get-to-know-your-neighbor-brainstorm!

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  4. Thanks for your blog post. I can echo the thoughts of many others. I don’t really know my neighbors despite being in the neighborhood for several years, but I would like to know them. Our age has seemingly replaced a real community with a social network. Even though I have a strong church family, I still miss community with those I live near.

    I have found that being in the front yard really helps. My wife, kids and I will try to take walks in the neighborhood, too. When we had a baby, we put a sign in the front yard with a stork, and we had some people make a point to stop by and congratulate us. Now, we do the same. If we see someone with a newborn, we buy a pack of diapers and drop by with a card of congratulations. At one point, my wife was on a committee to welcome new people into the community, and she would bake them some cookies and stop by and welcome them.

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