Pick My Brain – The Neighboring Challenge!

     by Marlene Bogard, Minister of Christian Formation

In the Art of Neighboring, author Jay Pathak explains the “map of shame” exercise he uses when encouraging folks to be better neighbors.   Imagine a chart with your house placed  in the middle, and all your neighbor’s houses around the edge of the page. The task is to fill in names, and more information about each household.  This exercise is rightly named the “map of shame,” because many of us really do not know our neighbors, nor really have a clue on how to be more neighborly.  It soon becomes evident that most of us place limitations on who our friends and acquaintances are. Right before Christmas is an excellent time to stop by the neighbors with some holiday cheer and goodies, and even an invitation to attend your church for a special service.

In The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg discusses the allure of the “third place.”  These are public places where people gather and put aside the concerns of home and work (their first and second places), and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company, lively conversation.  Oldenburg puts forth a compelling argument for the settings of these informal places as essential for the health of any community.  What would need to happen for our churches to be considered “third places?”  Or…are we as Anabaptist Christians seeking out third places in our communities to hangout with all kinds of people, wonder together about the tough stuff of the world, and celebrate good coffee and pastries.

Yesterday, I was blessed to attend a home baptism of 75-year old “Joe” who met a couple of our WDC pastors in a local bar and grill.  After several weeks of informal conversation about family, football, and life, Joe asked one of the pastors to baptize him.  Joe’s Christian faith is authentic, and he will be joining a church next week.  This remarkable and very simple story of friendship gives me great hope that more of us can be comfortable in all kinds of community settings, offering friendship, listening, smiles and learning the art of neighboring, in the name of Christ.

The WDC Resource Library has wonderful books on connecting with your community.  Call or email (316-283-6300 / crlib@mennowdc.org)  to request these:

City of God : faith in the streets / Sara Miles.

Dirty faith : becoming the hands and feet of Jesus

Missional Essentials / Brad Brisco and Lance Ford

Celebrating the third place : inspiring stories about the “great good places” at the heart of our communities / edited and with an introduction by Ray Oldenburg.

The art of neighboring : building genuine relationships right outside your door / Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.

Strangers at my door : a true story of finding Jesus in unexpected guests / Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

The abundant community : awakening the power of families and neighborhoods / John McKnight and Peter Block.