Fall brings with it more than pumpkin spice lattes and comfy sweaters. It also brings unique opportunities to engage with our neighbors.
When the midst of busy school and extra-curricular activities, connecting with our neighbors can easily be reduced to a wave at our neighbors through the car window. But as believers, we’re called to more than that. In order to “shine like bright lights” in the world (Phil. 2:15), we need to pursue deeper relationships with those around us. Here are a few ways we can make our neighbors a priority in our lives this fall.
Take an Intentional Prayer Walk
Before you start in on any plans to engage with your neighbors, it’s always best to consult with the Lord first. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Let’s face it, we’re all busy people who don’t want to add things to our schedule unless they have a purpose.
With that in mind, consider circling some of your closest blocks on foot, while simultaneously asking the Lord to show you the best way to serve the households you pass. While you’re at it, pray for the people inside each house or apartment. Lift up any individual needs you may be aware of, and trust God with the needs that you’re not.
Help With Yard Work
One of the most helpful ways to engage with neighbors might be to join them in their fall yard work. For much of the United States, the changing colors of oaks and maples are one of the highlights of fall. But the flip side is that they eventually have to be raked up, of course. If you see a neighbor out raking their leaves, grab your own rake and offer to help.
In southern states (like my own home state of Florida), we may not have to deal with leaf raking, but the concept remains the same. Neighbors begin to capitalize on cooler temperatures by catching up on weeding and tree-trimming that got away from them during the hot summer months. Head outside and lend a hand! You never know what conversations might spark up and how your kindness may spread to others.
Do a Reverse Trick-or-Treat
There’s no denying the unique opportunity to connect with neighbors on trick-or-treat day. And while we recognize that some members of our community may opt out of Halloween activities for religious reasons, it could be wise to look for other ways to utilize this natural opportunity for connection.
For example, you could consider a reverse trick-or-treat. When my kids were small, we lived on a street with no other children. I didn’t think my empty-nest neighbors would be expecting trick-or-treaters, but I still wanted to get some face time with our street-mates on the one day when going door-to-door is considered okay.
So, my sons and I baked several batches of pumpkin muffins, packaged them in cute cellophane bags, and loaded up the wagon. Wearing fun costumes, we set out on our treats-only delivery mission down the street. By flipping the tradition around, I think we ignited even more smiles and conversation than if we’d stopped by looking for candy.
Initiate a Block Party
A few years ago, our family moved into a sprawling neighborhood — one that my son called a “Halloween jackpot” the first time our realtor showed us the house. And he was right! Trick-or-treating is now a major community event.
A couple cul-de-sacs from our house, the two families on the dead end have decided to take our neighborhood’s “jackpot” event one step further. They invite all the neighbors on their street to meet in front of their houses for a potluck dinner and s’more roast. While the neighbors enjoy chili and finger foods together, trick-or-treaters stop by to fill their bags at the long table lined with candy buckets from each house.
A block party like this could just as easily be replicated on other days during the fall. What a fun way to engage with your closest neighbors!
Organize a Meal Swap
Fall is a great time to stock the freezer with yummy soups and casseroles. Between homework, practices, and other obligations, hardly anyone has time to cook every night.
A few autumns ago, a group of my local friends and I decided that we would help each other out in the dinner department by creating a meal swap. Over the weekend, we’d each fix a large batch of some home-cooked meal, then divide it up for swapping on Monday morning. I would go to the swap with five disposable pans of enchiladas and leave with five different dinners, either to warm up that week or to freeze for later.
Utilize Your Community Yard Sale
Many neighborhoods promote a large community-wide yard sale every spring and fall. A community yard sale creates a great chance to interact with neighbors, so even if you don’t have anything to sell, you may want to participate in other ways.
For example, in the fall you might consider handing out free apple cider and buttermilk donut holes during your community yard sale. A little snack can go a long way in spreading joy throughout your neighborhood.
Create Front Yard Connections
Let’s face it, in our current society, entering someone’s home or going beyond their fence can feel awkward at best and unsafe at worst. The time of impromptu backyard cookouts has long past for most neighborhoods — at least until a certain amount of trust is built.
But somehow the front yard feels a bit less threatening, doesn’t it? So perhaps this fall you might want to brainstorm a few ways to use your front yard to engage with your neighbors. Maybe you could pull the grill and TV out front and offer up some hot dogs during the big game. Or pass the word down the block that the kids can carve pumpkins together at your place — and you’ll clean up the goo!
Connecting in the front yard keeps your home private and allows people to come and go as they please, making everyone a little more comfortable.
Consider a Cozy Book Club
The structure of school can bring more stability to some people’s routines and create space for scheduled activities. If you notice that some neighbors happen to be home at the same time as you are, you might want to think about starting an ongoing meetup, like a book club. After all, fall is a great time to curl up with a good book, and guided discussions ensure that there’s not likely to be a lull in conversation.
For a while, I hosted a book club in my home. The ladies who came were either strangers or smile-and-wave acquaintances when we started. (Myself included—I met several for the first time at my front door!) But as we talked through chapters, we turned more than pages together. Over time, topics shifted naturally into family worries, health issues, spiritual questions, and much more. And we turned into friends.
Invite Them to Church Activities
Finally, as you’re engaging with your neighbors this fall, keep an eternal perspective in mind. Forming relationships with those on your street is wonderful, but watch for opportunities to help your neighbors develop a relationship with God as well.
One of the easiest ways to tread into spiritual waters could be an invitation to a church activity this autumn. A neighbor who might not come to service on a Sunday may agree to attend a Fall Festival on Saturday. Someone who’s not into Bible study might be into your church’s BBQ tailgate. And you never know when all those non-spiritual church activities might turn into a spiritual conversation.
No doubt about it, fall is a full, busy season. But with some forethought and intentionality, it’s still possible to engage with neighbors on a deep and meaningful level. Have a happy fall, y’all!