EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine.
When it comes to looking for practical ways for our family to have a spiritual impact in our community, I like to think of the positive aspect of changing things up in our daily paths. As we go through our regular routines, we pray and look for opportunities to guide our conversations to point to Christ. We expectantly look for chances to talk about our faith, to serve others and to be authentic and caring friends.
Our family’s network looks like this: We live on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood in a small town in North Carolina. My husband teaches at a Baptist seminary, and I teach art at a school. Our girls go to three different public schools. They sing in school choruses, take music lessons, and one performs with a color guard team. We like to discover local restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores and outdoor activities. If you add up the number of people we see on a regular basis in all of these places, you realize quickly what an amazing opportunity we have to be involved in loving, serving and sharing our faith with those who are lost.
Think through your own family’s network that includes the neighborhood in which you live, where you work and your kids go to school, the activities you do, the places you frequent and your extended family and friends. God has given you an opportunity to care for these people and point them toward knowing Christ. The great thing about your family’s network is that you are most likely to share your faith with these people you already know well, and the whole family can be involved.
Go for a walk in your neighborhood
First, get out and start prayer walking in your neighborhood and community regularly. As you walk, look for opportunities to pray out loud for the people who live around you. Anything can be a prompt for prayer: a “For Sale” sign in front of a house, a “Welcome New Baby” banner, a “Student Driver” bumper sticker. In our neighborhood, we encounter families walking their dogs, people working in their yard, kids riding bikes, and a neighbor who always smokes a cigar in his driveway after dinner. These are the people we talk to and pray for regularly on our prayer walks.
Be a ‘regular’ at local shops
Second, become a “regular” at several places in your community. This means you establish a grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant and gas station where your family can go often enough that they know you. Being a “regular” allows you to build relationships and establish trust with the people who work there. As you get to know the employees, you can learn about their lives and look for opportunities to encourage them, pray for them and hopefully see the Holy Spirit awaken them to their need for the Gospel. The entire family can be involved. All this requires is an intentional mindset to pray for opportunities, pay attention and focus on others.
Get involved in community events
Third, get involved in your community by going to festivals, parties and other special events with your family. Enjoy some fun together, and challenge each other to meet someone new and have at least one significant conversation with that person. Be friendly. Ask people how you can pray for them. Notice nametags, tattoos and T-shirt slogans, and ask about these things. Listen to peoples’ stories. You’ll get some wonderful insight into who they are and what they love. These observations will often provide open doors to talk about Gospel truths.
You most likely have even more ideas for how to engage spiritually in your community. The important thing is to build relationships and to speak intentionally about your faith. Col. 4:5-6 provides some wisdom on engaging your community:
“Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”
Don’t wait. Develop a plan. Pray for opportunities. Open your eyes to the people God brings across your path. Be a source of light in your community.