NTC Churches Encourage Connections With Those Nearby

Good neighbor logoFirst UMC Dallas, Christ UMC Plano members being intentional in how they relate to their neighbors

One thing the pandemic has amplified is our need for connection. For two North Texas Conference churches, this is the perfect time to be intentional in how we relate to our physical neighbors.

“I believe getting to know our neighbors better opens us to the fullness of who the church is called to be,” said Rev. Holly Bandel, Executive Associate Minister at First UMC Dallas. “It is like John Wesley’s ‘the world is my parish’ idea. Our neighborhoods are full of people who are in need of the love and care of God. Getting to know our neighbors is the first step.”

First UMC Dallas gathered via zoom with people who were interested in participating in the Good Neighbor Experiment and shared specific practices to get to know one’s neighbors. The national Neighboring Movement is built around these six core values:

  • Relationships: Inspires connections and cultivates trust.
  • Simple: Being a good neighbor is not complicated.
  • Abundance: Everyone has gifts that can make their community stronger.
  • Doable: Requires people to take action, and anyone can do it.
  • Joy: Practice of authentic living and celebration in community.
  • Universal: Universally meaningful / resonates in all contexts.

“Some moved quickly and others tentatively. Most of our group appreciated knowing their neighbors better when the pandemic hit,” Rev. Bandel said. “They were able to connect with their neighbors even during the time of quarantine and care for one another.”

For First UMC Dallas members Marie and Philip Durrett, the most impactful part of this process was literally drawing a map of their immediate neighbors and thinking through who they actually knew.

“Did we just know their names? Did we interact with them regularly? Were they someone we could borrow a cup of sugar from?” Marie Durrett said. “It helped us set a goal about meeting certain people on our street.”

While out walking their dog, the Durretts noticed some of their newest neighbors had balloons announcing their new baby so they took the opportunity to meet a new couple by bringing them a few slices of coffee cake after they finished their walk.

“We definitely felt empowered by the responsibility to connect with our neighbors,” the Durretts said.

These neighboring practices help build community by getting us out of our homes and engaging with people who live nearby through simple touchpoints.

The pandemic was a driving force for Rev. Paige Christian and Christ UMC Plano when they launched Christ United NEIGHBORS this summer. She noted that the pandemic brought a lot of people outside more often, but she raised the question of whether actual connections with neighbors were made beyond just seeing their faces more often.

Rev. Christian participated in the Genesis church planting cohort offered by the NTC's Center for Church Development and is always thinking about how the church can reach new faces in new spaces

For Christ United NEIGHBORS, that means gathering in people’s homes or backyards with other church members that the host may or may not know. The pilot group of hosts begins by inviting households in their physical neighborhoods for a time of social connection. They meet once a month for these initial gatherings and cast the net a little bit wider each time.

Rev. Christian invited 12 households to her first gathering. The next time, she will invite 48 Christ UMC people. Then at the next one, she’ll start defining what interest groups there might be in the group and encourage people to invite their friends into those interest groups.

“My initial hope is just providing the space to connect and reconnect,” Rev. Christian said. “But, long term, I hope that we are being the hands of Christ. And they are seeing Christ in their own communities.”

Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2021