A neighborhood gathering brings together more people than a typical small group to engage in a wide range of activities, from summer parties to mission work to midweek worship to midweek fellowship.
During Lent, a congregation of 300 with widely dispersed membership shifts Lenten suppers and studies out into the neighborhoods. Instead of holding a single event at the central location and drawing perhaps 30 people, the congregation gathers in ten discrete neighborhoods. Each gathering offers the same basic study material; in fact, it can be broadcast on-line to each location. Members bring friends. Each gathering averages 20 people, for a total of 200 "touches."
A congregation that is working on its Young Adult Ministry (see Church Wellness Project) identifies five neighborhoods or apartment complexes where pockets of its young adult members live. The congregation creates six events to hold in each location (such as a Super Bowl party, a Final Four party, a resume-writing workshop), and asks current members to invite several dozen neighbors.
Focus on helping participants to connect with each other. Keep the church agenda muted -- not hidden, but also not heavy-handed -- but then suggest the group go together to Christmas Eve worship or a church concert.
These examples illustrate key points:
- Focus on people, not institutional needs
- Focus on "touches," as opposed to solicitations
- Communicate a congregation that is fun, confident, open-minded, people-centered
- Provide a basis for follow up