During this time of the year, I like to remind readers of six excellent opportunities to connect with our neighbors and share the good news. Here is a post I wrote some time ago. I hope it provides you with a plan for the next several months. Happy partying!
Christian holidays are excellent opportunities to connect with our neighbors and share our faith. With fall upon us, I want to give you an idea to try in the future—one that my family and I have used before—if you’re willing to dig into some history and party.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:
- Many people do not know their neighbors
- Many families with kids in your neighborhood like connecting with other families with kids
- Neighborhood parties are excellent opportunities to strengthen community
- Most neighborhoods don’t have a family hosting regular family parties
- The calendar has several “Christian” holidays that can be used as excuses to party with families in your neighborhood
Here are the holiday party dates to keep in mind:
- October, Fall Party (nothing overtly Christian here, just fun so your neighbors will not think you are a religious nut)
- November, Thanksgiving
- December, Christmas
- February, St. Valentine’s Day
- March, St. Patrick’s Day
- April, Easter
Here are the guidelines to keep in mind:
- Visit your neighbors with an invitation in hand
- The invitation must read “family-friendly” to keep things appropriate
- Begin with a party that has no religious aspects (I like starting with an October Fall Party, but you don’t have to do this.)
- The first invitation (Fall Party) is just about fun, candy, games
- Have snacks and punch on hand, but tell guests to bring some dessert (say “dessert,” or you may end up with unwanted potations)
- The other holiday parties are promoted as fun, candy, games, etc., but also a historic story for the kids about St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, etc. and a related biblical reading (e.g., nativity story, what is true love, resurrection story)
My family invited our neighbors to an October Fall Party at our house. It was a blast. We met many people we did not know. Before the party was over, we asked the parents to sign a sheet with their contact information so we could let them know of our next party.
We were unable to host a party that November, but we made certain we did for December and February. On both of these months, the adults stood around and talked, everyone ate, the kids played and then it was story time for the kids (of course, the adults were encouraged to listen).
I invited a friend to tell the historic story of St. Nicolas, using excitement in his voice and actions (we did not talk about Santa Claus)—as the invitation promised. Then—again, as the invitation promised—I read the birth narrative of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel, noting the real reason for Christmas. We then returned to playing games, eating and talking.
We followed up with those who attended to say how delighted we were to have them. Later, with February 14 approaching, we returned to our neighbors’ homes inviting them to the “St. Valentine’s Day Party.” We did the same things as we did for Christmas, but this time, as the invitation promised, story time involved a friend telling the kids about the historic St. Valentine, followed by a reading about true love from 1 Corinthians 13.
This pattern of connection, invitation, celebration, historic story and biblical witness can be followed with St. Patrick’s Day (emphasis on family friendly or you may have unwanted green beer in your house) and Easter.
International students love these parties. Catholic communities love these parties. If you are a U.S. citizen living outside of the country, you are likely to find many people in your community interested in American holiday traditions.
Keep it simple. Be intentional with developing the relationships. Contextualize for your community. Pray like crazy. See what the Spirit does and where future conversations go for opportunities to preach the gospel.