We recently met with a group of 9 churches who have been working through our curriculum on neighboring. Back in the fall, they started, at various levels of engagement, introducing neighboring to their congregations. As they worked through the material we realized an important truth....Neighboring is Hard.
It is hard to actually meet neighbors.
It is hard to advocate for neighboring.
It is hard to stay motivated when there aren't any wins.
To start our gathering I wanted to acknowledge this struggle and create space for the reality that neighboring is not a silver bullet which will solve all problems or resurrect dying churches. So we introduced the following infographic.
After explaining the journey we asked people to stand and place themselves on the journey. I'd printed out each of the labels and taped them to the back wall. I was nervous and excited to see where people would go. Luckily, we had a pretty decent spread across the whole journey.
As the folks discussed why the chose to stand there we realized some important truths.
- Having partners is important to bridging the dark swamp of despair.
- Failure has to be re-imagined to make it all the way through the journey.
- It is really tempting to quit at the "at least we learned something spot", but when you do that you miss the kind of transformational change many are seeking.
- Our emotional response to any given spot on the journey is not always a great indicator of whether or not the idea is great.
I really like this infographic. It helps name the reality and gives hope for moving past the tough spots and into a better reality.
The reality is I'm not always the champion of neighboring that I want to be. It is freakin hard to always be chipper about work like this. Sometimes I want to complain about all the obstacles and crap that gets in the way of doing great things. And more than once over the last few years I've dipped a toe into the Dark Swamp of Despair.
It takes lots of diligence to stay grounded and lots of community to bridge the swamp. I am grateful for the folks who are journeying with us and hope they will stick with us even when it gets hard!
If you'd like to start neighboring more here are recommendations.
Sign up for the 52 Weeks of Neighboring and use the tips we've created for inspiration and as ideas for initiating even the most awkward conversations with neighbors.
Find someone to do it with you. Neighboring is so much easier when done with a team or at least a partner. If you are in a church consider gathering a group and going through the Good Neighbor Experiment.
Neighboring is simple, but that doesn't mean it is easy!