How do you get to know your community? And how do they get to know you? Go wakabout is my answer. I’ve discovered more about my community walking about that a thousand surveys would teach me. Here’s what I do;
- Every other day I take a stroll around the community, make eye contact and smile and nod ever so slightly at people going by. At times I stop to chat with someone doing some front of the house work. I will usually complement them on the work being done and ask for advice if I wanted to do such work on my own house. They may not know me but they know I’m some sort of Christian official because of the cross I wear – a small cheap wooden cross from Amazon. Having done this often enough many now connect me to the church and this has led to some very interesting discussions and discovery of the quasi spirituality in my neighbourhood.
- It’s also good to time your wakabout. Best times? When the local schools close. Loads of people to smile at as they pick up their children from the local school (we have a primary school within easy strolling distance of the church) Other good times are peak period bus times.
- Doing a wakabout will usually pick up things community surveys don’t. For instance one of the things I quickly found was the presence of a large East European population. The popular thinking was that our area was white English working class but the reality is that they have mostly been replaced by other Europeans from Eastern Europe. This new population is mainly very young families living in multiple occupancy houses. Many are educated but since they spoke just a little English they had to settle for doing menial jobs. This has prompted our church to explore offering English classes and starting a Russian language service.
- Wakabout with prayer. You’ll be amazed at how God will open your eyes to simple needs in the community. And there are connections to be made everywhere! See a house with bereavement flowers? Get the church to send a card offering comfort with words from the Bible. Sign off the card with ‘From your local church’ See a young mother looking harried and fed up? Slip her a card about your mums and toddlers meetings. Just do it. God is still at work, the harvest remains plentiful.