Overwhelmed. Bored. Fearful. Looking ahead to opportunities in the future. We may feel all over the map when it comes to how we continue to deal with the unprecedented reality of COVID-19.
In the first couple of weeks of the crisis, the challenge primarily was for churches to figure out how to still meet (online) and keep people connected and cared for. Many churches have figured out a response for that in their context.
Serving the community? This one is frustrating. We want to be the church. The hands and feet of Jesus. To be like the early church who steps into the need that no one else is willing to own.
Yet it seems the most loving thing we can do to respond to this crisis is to just stay home. To employ the measures to keep our distance so the spread of the virus can slow. But what do we do about that desire within us to actually do something? What if in this season, God wants us to go smaller in our service to make a bigger impact?
Our sphere to serve now feels painfully small. What if we viewed this time not as a limitation but an opportunity? Here are some thoughts on how to serve small by focusing on your neighborhood:
Nextdoor.com/Nextdoor app: Yes, there are neighbor wars on this site about whose dog is pooping in someone else’s yard and what they are going to do about it. But there may be no better and under-utilized technology for reaching and serving your neighbors than this site. People post needs continually on Nextdoor (for childcare, home repair, and more) and you have the ability to help them meet those needs.
Don’t use it as a place to advertise for yourself, including your church services. Use it to build relationships with your neighbors. Help meet needs however you can. Over time, you will have the ability to share directly with people to invite them to join you (maybe online) for a church service.
In real life conversations with your neighbors: You likely are seeing new neighbors walking dogs, taking breaks on their porch, playing with their kids in their yards. I know I am. What if we simply began engaging in conversations and got to know our neighbors? Start with learning their names. Ask how they are doing and if they need anything.
Please, do this safely and with clear social distancing rules in mind. But what if you made an effort to connect with a neighbor across the block, down the hall, one yard over from you?
Remember that it’s not just your older neighbors who have needs. Parents with kids at home are struggling to figure out how to work from home, help their kids still have some form of education, not have too much screen time, keep some semblance of a normal routine, and maintain a positive attitude the whole day. It’s exhausting.
Single people of any age may have their sole human connections now happening only through a screen, and once a week grocery shopping. That loneliness can be a massive burden to bears and may be growing with the continued confinement. Many are sitting with that right now and don’t know what to do about it.
The greatest need people may have is for someone to verbalize that it’s okay to be struggling in this time. You can be that encouragement. Again, from at least 6 feet away. But is this a unique window and opportunity that we have been given to form some real-life connections with some neighbors that we might otherwise not have the chance to build.
Clean up common shared spaces: Put on some gloves and pick up trash along the road near where you live. Pick any weeds growing up in the front of your apartment building. If there’s a need to clean up something no one has had the chance to get to, jump in and take care of it.
Prayer walking your neighborhood: Simply walk around your neighborhood and begin praying. Pray for spiritual receptivity. Pray for greater community to occur. Pray for peace in your neighbors’ homes. Pray for opportunities for the Gospel to be shared. Prayer isn’t broken. Let’s press into it even more in this season.
These are just some places to start. What would it look like if you took some time to begin thinking about the big impact that might come from looking to serve small in your actual neighborhood?
There will be ongoing opportunities to reach your community beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The world is not going to look the same after this. Neither should our churches and ministries. Hopefully we will continue to seek new ways to engage with our communities.