I loved Ben’s 10 in 2 post the other day. But I have to admit I’m more a 2 in 10 guy. I find evangelism hard. My courage fails easily. But one of my biggest problems is just not spending time with those outside the kingdom.
In my neck of the woods, the Connect09 campaign last year at least had the impact of making me think about getting to know the people in my own street.
The start of the process there was initiating a Christmas Street party. Before then, I really only knew my direct neighbours either side and over the road. After four years in the street, we’d never been in people’s homes, and only had them in ours once. But after two Christmas parties over the last two Decembers, we’ve connected with many more of our neighbours up and down the street, and we’ve even seen some of them attend evangelistic events of different sorts (not all due to my personal initiative).
It’s one idea people really warm to. They know that the loss of community is real and this is a great way of standing against the tide.
Why am I telling you this now? Because now is the time to be planning a Christmas party for your own street or your block of flats or villas. Then you can be well and truly ready by the time December comes around. Here’s how I organized them.
- See if you can find an ally to help organize the idea (but not essential they be Christian). Someone who has already been friendly in the street.
- Decide on a venue for your event. Is there someone with a big, flat and open front yard? Is there a park or a vacant block of land in or very near your street? Could your apartments’ car park be blocked off for the duration of the party?
- Select a time and date. My suggestion is for Saturday evening very early in December, about 5-8pm. This beats the Christmas rush, and people can still to go out after.
- Doorknock the residents in your street and inform them of the party you are organizing. Do it soon and ask them to think about keeping the date free. Have a printed invitation with the details on it to leave with them.
- Rather than just leaving the printed flyer for those who were not home, go back and try again soon, but at a different time of day for the houses you missed.
- 3-4 days before the party, drop a flyer in their letterboxes reminding all residents of the party’s details. (Remember that community mail like this is not junk mail.)
- Organise 2-3 BBQs (depending on the size of your street), and ask people to BYO meat and drinks, and also a salad or dessert or nibblies to share. BYO seats too!
- If relevant, provide a few things for younger kids to do (e.g. bocce, totem tennis, coits).
- Supply name tag labels and encourage people to fill them out and wear them.
- Make sure you talk to as many as you can, and write their names down for later recall.
Even our local Archbishop Peter Jensen thinks it’s a good idea, as he reported at our last Synod:
Christine and I also had a street party—in our case High Tea at Bishopscourt—in which we were delighted simply to get to know 60 of our neighbours and host a function for them. But I could not stop St Mark’s Darling Point handing out The Essential Jesus as our guests left. I believe that thousands and thousands of people have now had a visit from an Anglican Christian from the local church for the first time. We have begun to show that we are good neighbours.