Here in the Midwest springtime means moving time. Many families plan their move to coincide with the warmer weather, when lugging boxes and furniture won’t be done in the middle of a snow storm.
There are plenty of homes available where I live and I expect to have new neighbors in spring. When I see the moving truck pull up I get excited because it means the possibility of new friends, and new ministry opportunities. In the past I was intimidated because I was not sure how to make that first touch count. Here are some ways I have found effective and suggest you try to begin to love your new neighbor and pave the pathway to the gospel.
Take the first step toward friendship. Walk over and say “Hi” when you see them pull up. New home owners are pretty easy to spot, they have that look that says, “This is MY house!” and “Whoa, this is my HOUSE?” at the same time. Your first touch doesn’t have to be lengthy, just your name with a warm smile will let them know you welcome them to the neighborhood. You might also mention you are nearby if they need something on moving day or while settling in. We have done this with every new person within 4 houses of ours on both sides of the street. We have met children and pets, learned we like the same football team (GO PACK GO!), loaned out tools, given eggs and milk, helped fix doors, and put together furniture.
Meet the need. When we open our eyes and take the time to actually look we will see there are people all around us who need love and care. Acts of kindness say more about us than our words every could. Acts of kindness also tend to make people more receptive to listening you talk about Jesus. That old adage, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is true! After our new neighbor introduction, one particular woman became somewhat of a regular person in need. She was a single mom with teenage daughters and she had little understanding of home repair. We met those needs and used it as a way to show her Christ.
Welcome inconvenience. Loving your neighbor is going to be less than convenient at times. You might be tired, crabby, and just want to curl up with a good book when the knock comes at the door. My husband has met the young man from next door who was asking to borrow a tool at 10 pm. I provided the neighbor lady a needed ingredient at 7 am one Saturday! I was glad the kids in the neighborhood knew it was safe to come to our house if their mom wasn’t home when they got there. Philippians 2 reminds that as we consider others and their needs before our own we are imitating Christ.
Be hospitable. Invite your new neighbors over for a cold drink on a warm evening, or a warm meal on a cold winters night. Find common interests by asking them about their jobs, hobbies, and families. You can do this over a game of Mexican Train or Apples to Apples where it will be less like an inquisition and more like casual conversation.
Be inclusive. Welcoming your neighbor into your existing circle of friends might be awkward for everyone at first, but it is also one of the most loving things you can do. Invite them to your small group gathering, or an activity with your friends from church. If it is a casual group or game night invite them to attend! You don’t have to go out of your way to emphasize it is a church group unless you will be studying or worshiping during that time. Even if your new neighbors beg off, they will know they were welcome.
Listen to the needs. If you are given the opportunity to listen, take it. Listen graciously to their story and perhaps they will open up to tell you their problems! Listening is a skill few possess these days. What passes for listening is often just waiting for the other person to stop talking. Before you offer suggestions, be sure to ask if they want them. Offer to pray for them and with them if they will allow it. Their greatest need may be Jesus however, you don’t want to rush into that conversation.
Care like Christ. If you respond this way to your new neighbors you will indeed be caring like Christ. The Lord Jesus demonstrated all of these things as He walked on earth. He met innumerable needs, was an excellent listener, included the worst of people among His closest friends (tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners), was hospitable, and welcomed inconvenience for the sake of others.
I encourage you to begin your own campaign of kindness with the new people in your own neighborhood when they arrive. Let them see Jesus!
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