By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
You've probably heard that Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12). We can easily see that our world needs His light more and more each day. But Jesus strangely chose unlikely torchbearers to convey His light—you and me.
"You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14 NLT). That's what Jesus tells us, His followers. We are to be beacons of light that woo and guide people to Jesus.
Hospitality, an act that invites people into a place of belonging, is a natural tool for sharing the gospel message of Jesus with neighbors and friends. Our unbelieving neighbors live on the outside of relationship with Christ, perhaps not even yet realizing the life, satisfaction, and joy they're missing. The Apostle Paul advised, "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity" (Colossians 4:5).
Can Your Neighbors See the Light?
Your house may not sit on an actual hilltop. But if God has given you new life through Jesus, there's light under your roof. Shouldn't we throw open the curtains and doors to cast the warm invitation of Jesus to our neighbors?
Becoming a beacon of light in your neighborhood does not mean you must have a perfect home or be an accomplished host. Instead, we need to have hearts filled with the love of God toward people. Hearts that, like Jesus, make way for relationship. The purpose of our outreach hospitality is to develop life-sharing connections in which we truly know and understand needs so we can effectively minister to and pray for our neighbors. Within these relationships, God will present opportunities to share the gospel.
As you prepare for outreach hospitality, I offer the following five suggestions:
- Pray daily for God to direct your efforts to the ones who need to see His light.
- Make and carry "business" cards with your name, address, and phone number.
- Be sensitive when interacting with children. Make sure you've connected with parents and have their consent.
- If your neighborhood does not already use a social media app, consider setting up an account such as Nextdoor for easier communication about neighborhood activities.
- Stay away from political differences and focus instead on your goal of sharing your friendship and God's love.
Hospitality in Every Season
I always recommend the more traditional ways of getting to know neighbors, such as sharing meals together, opening your home to your children's friends, and taking cookies to someone who just moved in.
But different seasons of the year open many possibilities that you may not have considered. Some of the ideas are strictly for building relationships. Others are more intentionally evangelical. Choose ones that fit your personality and abilities.
- After a snowfall is a perfect time to connect with neighbors. Go for a walk to pause and talk with those who are outside shoveling their sidewalks and driveways. Take a thermos of hot chocolate and cups to offer to those you meet.
- Shovel a path for an elderly neighbor. If you have kids, arm them with shovels and send them out. This is an excellent opportunity to teach them about serving others with God's kindness.
- Host a four-week winter book club. Plan to offer coffee, tea, and a sweet snack. The book you choose doesn't need to be expressly Christian, but I would choose one with a Christian theme (e.g., grace, redemption, forgiveness, etc.). Divide the book into four reading sections. As you read, note pivotal passages and character development. Jot a list of several discussion questions and think about how to connect the story to spiritual truths.
- Invite your children's friends to a weekly or monthly board game club. Serve easy, kid-friendly refreshments. Choose games that are not too complicated so no one is discouraged from participating.
- Start a yarn craft club. Once every week or month, invite women to your home to crochet or knit whatever project they're working on. If they don't know how, offer to help. You can find many resources on YouTube if you don't feel equipped. Serve light refreshments and facilitate neighbors becoming friends around a shared hobby.
As the weather turns warmer, invite neighbors to take walks around the neighborhood with you.
- Yard sales are a wonderful opportunity to meet neighbors. When one is scheduled, be sure to take a few minutes to visit, even if you don't need to buy anything. If you're planning your own yard sale, invite neighbors to turn it into a multi-family event.
- Organize a spring clean-up of your neighborhood.
- Host an eight-week seeker Bible study that addresses a basic question nonbelievers might have. For example, read through the Gospel of John together and discuss what it says about Jesus.
- Serve a neighbor who can't do yard work. Offer to wash windows, clean out flower beds, or do other manual labor. If you know teens in the neighborhood, enlist their help. As a reward, serve pizza after the work is finished.
- Brighten a neighbor's day by giving fresh-cut spring flowers from your garden.
- Revive the coffee klatch tradition. Set aside an informal hour each week or month when women are invited to drop in at your house for a cup of hot brew with a pastry and conversation. Instead of the usual gossip found at a coffee klatch, use the time to catch up on each other's lives and pray.
- If you're blessed with a pool in your yard, invite the neighbors for a pool party. Offer light refreshments or make it a pot-luck meal. If your community has a pool, get permission from management to organize a neighborhood pool party.
- Set up a few folding chairs in your driveway in the evenings and sit out to invite conversation with neighbors who are out walking. Make it even more inviting with a bowl of popcorn or refreshing lemonade to share.
- Reach out to neighborhood children to share the gospel. If your church has a Vacation Bible School, distribute invitations and offer to transport them. You could also open your home for a backyard outreach event through an organization such as Child Evangelism Fellowship 5-Day Clubs.
- Do you have a green thumb? Grow vegetables not only for yourself but also to generously share with neighbors.
- Install a simple fire pit in your backyard and keep a stock of wood, marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. Make a habit of enjoying a fire with s'mores on the same night every week so neighbors know they can drop in and chat.
- Organize a neighborhood ice cream social to kick off the summer. You could provide the ice cream and ask neighbors to bring toppings, lawn chairs, and BYOB (Bring Your Own Bowl). You'll need a cooler for the ice cream and a couple of tables.
- Invite neighbors to a corn hole tournament or other outdoor games. Encourage those who don't like to play to be the cheering squad.
- Take a walk in the morning before school begins and pause to greet the children and their parents waiting at bus stops.
- At Halloween, sit out on your porch to wait for children and hand out a full-sized candy bar with a gospel tract.
- If you're more ambitious on Halloween, organize a Light the Night party. Set up some tables outside with games for kids to play and win prizes. Ask your church if they would like to partner with you for a neighborhood outreach.
- Make apple dumplings or another favorite fall treat for your neighbors at Thanksgiving. Deliver them with a note that says you are thankful to God for them.
- If you know of neighbor kids struggling with a subject at school, offer to help them with homework once a week.
- If you enjoy crafts, invite women or kids to your house and do a fun project together.
- Go caroling and hand out Christmas cards with hot chocolate packets.
- Host a Christmas cookie exchange where each friend brings several dozen of one kind of cookie. Divide the cookies among all the participants, so everyone takes home a variety. During your time together, read the Christmas story or an Advent devotional.
- Host a Christmas open house with light refreshments for neighbors and friends. Invite people to drop in for a visit anytime over a several-hour time window. Flexible timing allows even people with busy holiday schedules to come. Print out Christmas puzzles that can be found online, or set up a table with a jigsaw puzzle to encourage fellowship. I sometimes make gift ornaments and use them to decorate a small tree in my foyer. As guests leave, I invite them to choose an ornament to take home.
- Organize a New Year's Eve progressive dinner party. Each participating family hosts a portion of the evening at their home. If your party lasts from 7:00 p.m. to midnight and you have five families, spend an hour at each house. Assign each host a part of the meal (e.g., salad, appetizers, main course, desserts). The whole group travels from house to house to enjoy the evening together. At midnight, celebrate the new year with a time of prayer to ask for God's blessing on each family.
Multiply the Light
Imagine if every neighborhood had one Christian whose home was like a neon light flashing, "This way to Jesus!" Think of the warm relationships that could develop among neighbors as we create a place of belonging where no one would be left on the outside looking in.
God never fails to use willing hearts. Commit to using your home for outreach hospitality and see how the light of Jesus spreads throughout your city, around our nation, and across the world.
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.