Neighborhood Barbecue: Open Doors to the Gospel

Community is not static. Busy lives, fences, and transient neighbors often hinder our ability to build close relationships with neighbors next door and down the street. Whether we live in an urban community or a rural setting, we can always benefit from learning about our neighbors. Growing neighbor relationships can aid in times of crisis, help celebrate successes, and encourage efforts to look out for each other’s homes and families. Good neighbor relationships can lead to close friendships as well as lives changed with the gospel.

In a day when a wave is the most contact we may have with neighbors, a neighborhood barbecue is one way to begin. Neighborhood get-togethers also provide opportunities to share the gospel and discover ministry needs.

  • Plan: Decide whom in the group will host a neighborhood barbecue, whom will cohost, and how many neighbors to invite. Cohosts help with food cost and preparation, setup, and cleanup.
  • Pray: Prayerwalk your neighborhood in the days before the event. Pray for your neighbors’ spiritual and physical needs before, during, and after the event. Ask the Lord to increase your love for your neighbors.
  • Prep: Choose a simple menu. Whether serving burgers and hot dogs, steaks, smoked meat, wild game, or fish, be mindful that some neighbors have dietary restrictions. Include child friendly foods as well.
  • Invite: Make invitations and hand-deliver them. Keep in mind that only 50% to 70% of those invited generally attend, so invite more than the neighbors across the street. Offer neighbors an opportunity to invest in the event by bringing a side dish.
  • Implement: Prepare name tags for everyone attending and ask attendees to “interview” others as they mingle. Invite attendees to sign a guest book or neighborhood map to identify faces with homes. Plan a game to break the ice. Scroll to the bottom of this page to find a bingo icebreaker.
  • Enjoy: Mingle with and be genuinely interested in your guests. Devote time to getting to know your guests by asking open-ended questions and practicing active listening. Ask about family, joys, and about their future and discover their hobbies and needs, including spiritual needs. Include a time for sharing a favorite memory or family tradition. Be prepared to share how your favorite memory or family tradition relates to your faith in Christ.

“When love for neighbor is genuine and deeply felt, it changes not only what we feel, but also how we treat others,” said Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham professor of church, mission, and evangelism and executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. Genuine love for others is obvious to those we encounter; it touches them and must be shown before any evangelistic effort. Success in sharing Christ with our neighbors happens when we take the initiative to know them and then leave the results to the Lord.

So will you just smile and wave at your neighbors as you drive to church or will you invite them to know Jesus?

Lynn Durham is a Kentucky pastor’s wife with a heart for teaching women how to increase their faith.

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