In three previous posts (March 25, April 15, April 28) on “Go!”, Gary Roberts has discussed the importance of congregations serving the neighbours around the church building. In the fourth segment of this series on “Neighboring“, Roberts writes,
Missional contexts become listening spaces when we intentionally have learning conversations with our neighbors meant to develop genuine relationships built around our shared community experience with them.
Here are a few important things to remember about learning conversations:
- Connect the dots. Integrate God’s story and our own with our neighbor’s story. This means it is important for us to know how God’s story and our own intersect. When appropriate, learning conversations will connect the dots between all three stories.
- Share the Space. Sometimes as Christians we consume all the oxygen in the room by dominating conversations. This may be due to over zealousness, nervousness, or preformed evangelistic agenda. We can learn not to put these things before relationship if we listen more than we speak, let down our guard to be vulnerable and transparent, and take on the role of a learner.
- Share the Experience. Ground our conversation in shared community experience. If we do, we will find we have much in common with our neighbors because we share the same neighborhood space. We will also learn things about our neighborhood that are new to us and will often hear from a different perspective.
How to Have Learning Conversations
The key to having productive learning conversations is to ask questions pertinent to ours’ and our neighbors’ shared community experience.
Neighborhood workers in community development ministries ask the following questions with excellent relationship-building results. Ninety percent of the time I ask these questions when I meet new people in my neighborhood.
I have provided a few different ways to ask each of the questions (Hat-tip to Community First Association Community Advancement Coaches who have endless creativity in interacting with neighbors).
Each one of these questions meet the criteria for missional. Remember, a missional lifestyle is a listening lifestyle. These questions are focused on discerning where God is already working in your local neighborhood.
A word of caution: Do not grill your neighbors as if these questions are some sort of check off list and you have to check off each one for success. Rather, these questions should be asked in love, with the intent to develop authentic relationships around shared community experience. Let them be starters for conversations that can wander according to the interests of you and your neighbors.
- What do you appreciate most about our neighborhood?
- or, What do you like best about our neighborhood? What makes it a good place to live?
- What are your concerns about life in our neighborhood?
- or, If God was to do a miracle in our neighborhood, what would you want to see changed in the next year?
- or, If you could wave a magic wand and change any one or two things in our neighborhood, what would they be?
- or, What are up to three changes you’d like to see that could make life better in our neighborhood?
- How might our neighborhood become a better place?
- or, If there were other people who were working together in order to make that change happen, would you be interested in helping out?
- or, Are you currently involved in any volunteer work, or are you interested in volunteering? What skills, hobbies or interests do you have that you might like to share for the good of the neighborhood?
This post concludes my series on neighboring. Thanks to Peter Meier for the opportunity to share my thoughts on community listening. There is still much for all of us to learn about authentically following Jesus in our neighborhoods. I pray you will prayerfully integrate the concepts of these four posts into your neighborhood ministry.
You may find my site, glroberts.com, to be an excellent resource for your missional journey. Drop in, browse around and leave your email address so we can stay in touch and you will receive future blog posts directly in your inbox. Until then, happy listening!