I love the spring for many reasons, but specifically it's the time of year when my husband and I resume hosting our "Neighbor Nights" in our neighborhood. We started this during the pandemic to make sure our neighbors were safely connecting with each other during a time of isolation. We quickly figured out that our front yard gave us the perfect spot to be outside, allowing people to have some distance, and yet connect in a casual and fun way.
In 2021 and 2022 my busy schedule kept us from hosting as much as we would have liked. So, this year we are making Neighbor Night a priority and being very intentional. This special night allows me and my husband to connect with our neighbors who are going through grief, illness, family transitions, and other life challenges where isolation can be harmful.
Whether you are wanting to transform the atmosphere of your neighborhood to become a closer community or wanting to know about opportunities of ministry right outside your front door, let me encourage you to consider hosting Neighbor Nights. Below are the intentional steps my husband and I have taken to create a community in our front yard.
Make Hosting Simple - Our hosting involves asking people to bring their own personal beverage of choice and their lawn chair. We provide a snack or dessert to share, paper plates, napkins, utensils, and hand sanitizer. You can also ask another neighbor to help you by bringing an additional snack to share.
Keep the Atmosphere Casual - This is a "come as you are" gathering. The chairs are positioned in a big circle or several circles to allow for conversation and face to face interactions. We use a Bluetooth speaker to play music in the background, but not so loud that it interferes with participating in conversations. You may want to put out some yard games, cards or even board games.
Communicate Consistently - By Hosting on a specific weeknight or specific day of the month, you can easily block your family calendar ahead of time. Your neighbors will also get into the rhythm of when your Neighbor Nights will be and block their calendars as well. We have chosen to host on Thursday nights, weather permitting. My daughter and her husband are choosing to host once a month. Her Neighbor Night is called "Second Tuesdays on Toledo" (In reference to the street they live on.)
Invest in Messaging - To make sure all of our neighbors knew about our Neighbor Night, we did a few things to help spread the word.
At the beginning of the hosting season, once a year, I print up invitations on plain copy paper and during my walks, me and my walking neighbors will put them on the front doors of our neighbors' houses.
I made yard signs to put in the entrances of our neighborhood and in our front yard. We place them out on Monday nights to let the neighborhood know we are planning to host this week on Thursday. On Friday morning, we pick up the signs and store them in our garage until the next Neighbor Night. You can create these yard signs on poster boards or online through different software apps like Canva or Vista Print. You may also go to your local sign shop for assistance. You can create these yard signs (18 x 24) for as little as $5 a piece on poster board. Or for printed, full color, 2-sided signs, it may run $30-$40 a piece.
We created a neighborhood social media group page on Facebook to post the announcement of Neighbor Nights. If you choose to do an RSVP on social media, it allows you to know how many people to plan for. Take a few photos of your Neighbor Nights and post them on your group page to encourage other neighbors to join in next time.
I hope you will invest in your neighbors, reconnect your community, and reach out to serve others right in your own front yard. If you would like more information on how to host a Neighbor Night, post your questions or comments below.