As we celebrate a new year, we are reminded that building community is an ongoing effort. It involves everyone pitching in, trying new things, and being consistent with what works. After decades of moving into communities as intentional neighbors, we’ve tried more than a few community-building activities. Here are 5 ideas you can try in your neighborhood this year.
#1 - Start a Walking Club
Get together with a group of neighbors and make a healthy start to the new year! Last year, the South Atlanta Striders kicked off a weekly walking group, connecting several neighbors interested in this exercise. Walking is family friendly and accommodates a variety of fitness levels. Choose a time that works for most people, such as early morning before work, afternoons, or as they sun sets. You might even try a Saturday morning walking club. And hey, if you’re walking club decides to walk to the local donut shop as a group, why not?
#2 - Plan a Prayer Walk
Since we’re on the subject of walking, why not gather neighbors and do a prayer walk through your community. In South Atlanta, we have had different seasons where a Friday night prayer walk was joined by many neighbors. We picked a central meeting point, and walked through the neighborhood, praying for specific families, places, and community issues as we felt led. One prayer you could use to start off the walk is “Lord, give us eyes to see our community how you do.”
#3 - Community Dinners
Hospitality is a tried and true way to get to know neighbors. Keep the focus on the people and keep dinner simple. Crockpots of soup, make your own tacos, pancakes and eggs. Whatever works is perfect, and the relationships are the focus. You can also use these meals as an opportunity to foster directed conversations or learning together. Maybe serving something simple like rice and beans could be an intentional lead-in to a conversation about reducing our carbon footprint by eating less meat or sharing about a country where having meat is a privilege, not an expectation. Community dinners can foster lively conversation and deeper relationships.
#4 - Support a Local Classroom
Most teachers always have a wishlist of supplies they like to have for their classroom. Get together with a group of friends or your small group and ask a local school or teacher if there is one classroom that you could support. Pool your money, and go together to an office supply store to get a few items off their wishlist. While you’re shopping, share some of your favorite memories from elementary school.
#5 - Host a Neighborhood Activity
South Atlanta takes socializing seriously. And we’ve had events that require planning and some that have been more impromptu. Here’s a brief sampling to get your creative juices flowing! We’ve had basketball and kickball tournaments. We have an annual Halloween carnival and progressive dinner. Neighbors have hosted karaoke nights, neighborhood-wide sledding, and a Saturday pancake breakfast complete with old school cartoons. Once, someone set out a puzzle in Community Grounds, and everyone was invited to stop by and work on it over a few weeks. Find something fun to do and share it with your neighbors!