In our Member Blog Series, we hear from Midtown members who are working to apply the Bible and what we’ve been teaching on Sundays into their everyday lives. The goal is to provide you real-life, practical insight and inspiration as you work to do the same.
For today’s Member Blog, we’re interviewing Christian and Steph Boehm who have been around Midtown since November, 2016. In response to our recent Home series, Christian and Steph worked with their LifeGroup to throw a neighborhood cookout.
Q: Tell us a bit about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What kind of relationships do you have with your neighbors?
We live in Friarsgate, a very large, established neighborhood in Irmo. We actually just bought our first house here in August, and it just so happens to be three doors down from one of Stephanie’s childhood friends who still lives there. We took Christmas cookies around to a few of our neighbors to meet them, but had not spent much time with them other than saying “hi” when getting the mail or doing yard work. Our relationship with our neighbors echoed the our culture unfortunately— mostly just say hello but keep to yourselves.
Q: Were there any particular scriptures or sermons that specifically motivated you to throw this cookout for your neighbors?
The HOME series really inspired us to reach out to our neighbors and build community, especially the sermon by Brandon Clements - “A Home in the Hands of a Loving God.” He encouraged us that even when it’s awkward and it’s easy to make excuses, God calls us to be hospitable anyways. Neither of us were really close with our neighbors growing up and we decided we wanted to change that. We often host parties for our friends, but have not been really tried it for people we don’t know.
Q: How’d it go?
When we delivered invitations to our neighbors, most of them were very excited about the fact that we were hosting a neighborhood party. Many of them are older couples whose kids grew up here, but once their kids moved away, they haven’t really been hanging out with each other anymore. Some of them have lived here for 15 or 20 years and didn’t even know the name of the neighbor right across the street from them. We were very encouraged with how many people came, and how well everyone got along. It was so cool to not only meet our neighbors, but see them getting to know each other too. We grilled burgers, had a bonfire to roast hot dogs and played yard games like corn hole, giant jenga and croquet. We had great conversation around the bonfire and everyone seemed to have a great time and were very appreciative.
Q: Did you see any specific ways God provided for this party to go well?
Once we had the idea to have this neighborhood cookout, our Life Group gladly jumped in and offered to help. There is a wide range of ages in our Life Group and we felt like that was helpful to be able to relate with our multi-generational neighbors and encouraged more conversation. Because some of our Life Group family were there, it also naturally led to more conversation about Midtown which then transformed into people sharing their own personal church backgrounds and talking about Jesus. Because Christian and I are only two people, it was great having more of our church family there to help welcome those who came.
Q: Any plans to do it again in the future?
Yeah! We’re planning to throw these neighborhood parties once a month or so. Our hope is to invite more and more neighbors every party so that we can extend our reach through more of our neighborhood. The parties will probably not only be cookouts, but will change with the seasons and holidays as we may invite them over to watch football, or have a Christmas cookie exchange, for example.
Q: What advice would you have for members of our church family who want to throw a similar party to connect with their neighbors?
Keep it simple. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef or have a house that looks like Southern Living. The party decorations don’t have to look like they came straight off Pinterest. Just use what you have, borrow things from friends, get a $15 bouquet of flowers from Costco and accept the help when people want to bring food or help you decorate.
When you invite people you don’t know it seems in your mind that it will be super awkward, but it’s really not that bad. People are longing for community, family and friends. Most people probably want to know their neighbors but are scared it will be awkward. Who knows what kind of opportunities we are missing just because we’re afraid of being turned down?
Use what you have, and make it work in your stage of life. Another family in our LifeGroup was inspired by the HOME sermon series to start Saturday Swim days. They have an open invitation to anyone in our Life Group who is getting to know someone (especially those who don’t have a church or are non-Christians) to use their pool on Saturdays during the summer. Another lady in our LifeGroup has a beautiful screened in porch, and has invited many people to use it as a place to pray on Thursdays. People may come and go as they please, and she has Bibles and other books that people can read if they want. My sister-in-law just hosted a baby shower for a friend, but as she has three little kids, it’s hard to prepare a large amount of food by herself, so she asked everyone to bring something to share.
These examples have really helped me to understand that hospitality doesn’t have to look the same for everyone, and it doesn’t have to look the same at different stages in your life. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s most important to 1.) be present in the moment, 2.) to be observant of people’s needs and to 3.) create a safe and loving environment. That’s so much more important than every little detail being perfect. God made each of us with different gifts and I just love seeing how people can be so creative in how they help others feel welcomed and loved.
Thanks to Steph and Christian for their time and insight. We hope it’s encouraging to you as we all continue to pursue offering God’s warmth and hospitality through our homes!