Ever so often, I see signs along the roadway that say a section of the road or highway is sponsored by a certain group or organization. This typically means that this organization is responsible for keeping that section clean. So they routinely pick up trash or do other activities to keep the area looking tidy. What would happen if churches participated in a similar type of effort—not simply by volunteering to keep a section of road free of trash, but by volunteering to love, bless, and show mercy to homes and families in a certain section of a neighborhood?
A couple of months ago, we brought a guest speaker to our church to talk about loving children. He closed his lesson by reminding us that in our neighborhood there were little boys and girls who are growing up. They will be taught and mentored by someone, he said. That adult could be a person who loves God or it could be someone who does not love God. But these children are growing; they will be taught; and they will be influenced. He closed the illustration by asking: what are we going to do about these children?
The speaker was describing a hypothetical situation but for many of us in the audience that night, it struck home. Right behind our church building, there are many children—some that we often see as we drive through the neighborhood on our way to worship. He was right. They are growing up and they are being taught and influenced right now. What are we doing about it? Several in our church became convicted by that question.
So in response to that, a small group started up an “adopt-a-street” ministry. They decided that they would adopt the street that is right behind our building. They would use their small group meeting times to visit the homes on this street, get to know the families and children, and to let them know that our church wants to minister to this neighborhood and street. One of the members made a map of the street and every house on it. As they began to greet our church’s neighbors, some were received warmly while others were rejected. But soon the whole street had been contacted, names were learned, and connections were made. The group emphasized as they met the neighbors that they did not want to simply do something for them, but become friends with them.
What if every church started an “adopt-a-street” ministry? What if every church viewed the neighborhood right around her as their neighbors—the sphere God has placed them as an outpost for the kingdom of God? What if every church made a map of streets near them, contacted every house, got to know the names of the families and children, and became friends with them? What if ministers and elders believed that the people they were responsible to care for were not just their congregation but the community surrounding their building? What would happen? The church would be a powerful force for God’s love, grace, and hope in the neighborhood.
One of the first efforts this small group did to bless the street behind our building was organizing a street Easter egg hunt. Every family was invited and about 30 children participated. Not only did they get to find eggs, eat candy, and share food. But the resurrection story was explained to those children. Just one simple way to make sure that these growing children in our neighborhood are being taught by someone about the hope of Christ. What about the children in your neighborhood?
Steve Cloer has been the preaching minister at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX, since 2006. This historic congregation is located two miles south of downtown Fort Worth. Steve is married to Lindsay and together they have three children, Joshua, Bethany, and Lydia. They live in an urban neighborhood near the Southside church building. Steve graduated with his D.Min. in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary in 2015.