Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nine ways to build community

I've written a few times about how John and I are committed to being part of community here in Atlanta. Today, I want to give you a few practical ways that we've seen community emerge, both from our missional community group at our church, with our neighbors, and with friends in our neighborhood.

We by no means have "community" all figured out. It's been an exciting learning and growing process. Though it takes time to develop relationships with neighbors, with just the short time we've lived in our new home it's already been so rewarding.

We have been so blessed by our neighbors, who have welcomed us into our home by bringing us (delicious) house-warming gifts and intentionally getting to know us. So if anything, this list is mainly what I've learned from them. My hope is that some of these ideas will inspire you to intentionally serve your community and build relationships with neighbors.

  • Bake/Cook: One of the easiest icebreakers is food. Upon moving into our new house, we were showered with fresh farmer's market peaches, brownies, and bottles of wine. To keep the relationship going, I baked Rice Crispy treats and delivered them to our surrounding neighbors. The impromptu conversation that happens at the front door is a great way to get to know your neighbors.
  • Take up a neighbor's trashcans: One of my least favorite chores is taking the trash out and bringing the trashcans back up. John always takes the trash out, but I'm the one working from home all day, so I try to be good about bringing the trashcans back up from the curb. One afternoon, I saw my neighbor bringing mine up for me - He probably had no idea how much this meant to me! So yesterday when our neighbors were gone all day, I brought his trashcans up. (Correction: I noticed it, and had John bring them up when he got home!)
  • Neighborhood potluck: In the past month, we've been invited to 3 potlucks and have been to 2 of them. (We didn't attend one because it was the same time as another.) Although neighborhood potlucks can be kind of awkward, they are worth attending. Why? You not only meet new neighbors and catch up with old ones, which build relationships, but you'll be surprised at some of the connections you make. Case in point, at the last potluck, John met another Wheaton grad. If your neighborhood doesn't have an event like this, I encourage you to organize one!
  • Neighborhood movie night: Recently, our church community group organized a movie night for the neighborhood. We borrowed a big screen to set up outside, made lemonade, and had an ice cream truck stop by. It was such a hit - and a great way to unite neighbors after recent school districting disputes - that we're having another one this Fall!
  • Sit outside: We have a front porch with rocking chairs, and now that the weather is nice, we love sitting outside. John has weekly breakfast dates with friends out on the porch, and just by being present he's built friendships with neighbors who walk their dogs in the morning.
  • Sit at the local bus stop: There is a bus stop across the street from our house, and recently a Marta bus broke down outside. John went to go check on the bus driver, who thought he was coming to yell at him for blocking our driveway. Instead, John brought him Chick-fil-A coupons for a free sandwich and started a conversation with him. Is there a bus stop or local park nearby your house? I encourage you to take the initiative and meet the people who frequent the area.
  • Visit the local police station: There is also a police station across the street from us. I intend to bake something and bring it to the police, just as a friendly gesture and way to thank them for their service.  
  • Weekly running date with a neighbor: Some of my friends in the neighborhood enjoy running, like I do. So every week I set up a day/time to run with them. It's a perfect combination of keeping in touch and getting fit together.
  • Simply remember important things about your neighbors: This is something I am working on. Though it can be the easiest thing to do, it can also make a huge impact. Did a neighbor mention their child's upcoming birthday? Write a quick birthday note. Did a neighbor recently have a baby? Bring over a meal. The list is endless!
What are some creative ideas you have for engaging with your neighbors and building community?


  1. Steph, these are great tips! I'll admit, I haven't done well with fostering relationship with our neighbors since we moved here over two years ago. I'd say we've done the bare minimum. But this post inspires me to do more! We may even shoot for a walk around the neighborhood later this afternoon, just for starters!

    I hope you are enjoying your new space!

    1. Theresa, glad this post helped inspire you toward more community involvement... it's never too late to start!