By Brandon Lemons
Going into this year’s Neighborhood Party, I had some trepidation because I knew of numerous people who attended last year’s event but would be busy or out of town on Saturday. I was expecting lower numbers, which made me concerned about a lower-quality experience for those who did attend, especially guests. Well, my concerns were unnecessary, and my expectations were exceeded!
Saturday’s Neighborhood Party was wonderful! The weather was gorgeous, details ran smoothly, and best of all, many relational connections were formed and/or strengthened!
Attendance was down about 10% from last year due to the above-mentioned reason. However, we had more guests than last year! At least 80 people from outside the church attended! Most of these guests came because they were invited by someone from Friedens or because they had a prior connection to the church. More than 20 of the guests came without knowing anyone at the party; they received a promotional “door hanger” on their front door or saw the sign in Friedens’ yard, and they walked to the party because they live nearby! (Practically all of the “drop-ins” live within a couple blocks of Friedens.) Among these guests were several people who recently moved to the neighborhood and were looking to connect! In this sense, the event truly did serve and bless the church’s neighborhood!
I view the Neighborhood Party as a “seed-sowing” event. Think of it this way: in farming, there is a time to harvest, but there is a lot that happens to make the harvest possible. The soil must be prepared, seeds must be sown, weeds and pests should be managed. A farmer who focuses only on harvesting will not be harvesting much. For a while, that farmer might be able to reap the benefits of random seed in the field from previous seasons, or seed may drift from another farmer’s field, but the harvest will be meager and shrink over time. Sometimes, churches can focus so much on “harvesting,” in terms of calling people to turn to Jesus, that they neglect the important tasks of preparing the soil, sowing the seed, and pulling weeds that choke the seed. In a fantastic book called Finding Common Ground, Tim Downs wrote: “Seeds sown or weeds pulled are valuable, critical uses of our time, because they make the future harvest possible.” While I could try to distinguish between “preparing the soil” and “sowing seed” in ministry, I usually use some form of “sowing seeds” for shorthand.
The Neighborhood Party is definitely a seed-sowing event because of how it fosters new relationships; how it strengthens existing relationships between Christians and non-Christians; how it provides positive exposure to Friedens; and how some conversations at the party include topics directly related to ministry.
Let’s be praying for those who attended the party from outside Friedens – especially those who don’t have another Gospel-centered church home. Pray that relationships that were initiated or nurtured on Saturday will grow. Pray that those who are not connected with a Gospel-centered church will sense their need for something more and will seek answers from God and Jesus. Pray that they will check out something at Friedens – perhaps iGnite, Midweek, a worship service, or a potluck. Pray that the Friedens Family will be intentional to invest in relationships with newcomers (and be ready to be an answer to this prayer when you see someone you don’t know at Friedens). Pray that God will bear a spiritual harvest of people turning to Jesus as a result of seeds that were sown at this year’s Neighborhood Party.
Thank you to everyone who helped with the party by setting up, serving food, running activities, cleaning up, inviting, coming, praying, and giving financially to Friedens, which funded the event. I’m already excited for next year’s Neighborhood Party!