The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak

A few weeks ago, the guys from The Art of Neighboring and I exchanged books. The Art of Neighboring moves people into relationships with their neighbors.  Not Like Me helps people engage their neighbors and know how to interact once they they discover how different our neighbors can be from us.

One of the authors, Dave Runyon, spoke to group of Austin pastors brought together by Christ Together Austin. Here are some of the insights he shared:

“What can we do together that we could never do alone?

What if we really tried to live out Christ’s prayer for all believers in John 17:21?

As church leaders, here are some ways to engage your city:

1. Start by making a big city small. The goal is to make the Church tangible in your part of the city.

Too many of us have just tried to keep our churches afloat when we actually got into this to be part of a movement!

2. Discover the needs of the city.
21 Denver pastors asked their mayor and his response: “The smartest thing you could do to help our city is create a way for neighbors to be connected with each other. Relationship trumps programs. Our city programs aren’t nearly as effective as neighbors helping each other.”

Associate mayor: “We cannot tell any difference between how Christians and those not connected to church treat their neighbors.”

Avoid deciding what your city needs without asking. See books by Erik Swanson and Ray Bakke.

3. Start saying “no” to some things so you can be available for neighbors and engage in their lives.

Too many pastors aren’t doing what Jesus said matters the most!

It has been the greatest discipleship strategy and one of the hardest as well. We end up having to disciple people we did not choose!

4. Start with helping your people get to know the names of their neighbors.

Most of our people are bad neighbors. May not be antagonistic but they are more than likely apathetic. For example, they don’t know their neighbors’ names.

Exercise: “Who Is My Neighbor?” magnet
What are the names of the 8 neighbors nearest you (including kids)?
Only 7% of Christians can fill in names of all 8 families.
About 40% or so can name 5.

Learning neighbors’ names is missional approach for dummies!

Just getting names helps move these neighbors into our minds, into our prayers, and into our hearts.

5. Consider a Sermon Series to change what your people value.

Sermon Series dealt with taking the Great commandment literally, overcoming fear, and time management (creating margin) to help people move into action.

Key: primary communicator started connecting with his neighbors, and he cannot help but tell stories about his neighbors. Also, stories from people in our church about connecting with neighbors. Don’t tell stories that are impossible to accomplish. Instead, set the bar so low that our people cannot help but walk over it. This helps them make progress and gain confidence.

A few weeks later use the “Who is my neighbor?” magnet as a reminder.

Constant messaging from the stage: what you do in your front yard really matters! What you do in your front yard matters as much as what our kids pastor does on Sundays. This validates the importance of neighboring and the call we all have to be on mission and in ministry.

We will get resistance, so validate and keep pointing people back to their neighbors.

Bonus: getting to know our neighbors opens up opportunities to talk to our kids about important issues that come up when our neighbors don’t share our values.

6. Block parties where all are welcome.

Connected the odd and unusual Christ-followers who don’t represent us well with others who do.
See CityMap at
The challenge: Christians from different churches were too scared to reach out to the other Christians on the map.

7. Stop paying others to meet the needs your neighbors can help meet.

Be honest with what you need and learn to ask neighbors to borrow things or even help around the house – especially when they are good at it and love working around their house!

Live at a pace that is interruptable! – Randy Frazee

“It is impossible to love people when they feel you are hurried.” – John Ortberg

“This isn’t hard to understand. Just hard to obey!” – Tim Hawks, Hill Country Bible Church, Austin

A great tool we like to use is

  • Leslie Brogdon

    I’ll add this to my reading list for the year! I can currently name only 1 neighbor. It’s never occurred to me to ask the mayor about the needs in our city. I really liked this post- Thanks!

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